U.N. Women's Group Visits Ala. Advocates To Discuss Abortion, Women's Health

December 8, 2015 — On Friday, three members of a United Nations working group on discrimination against women visited with women's health providers and supporters in Montgomery, Ala., the Alabama Media Group reports.

When they return to the District, the group will announce their findings and recommendations at a press conference and prepare a final report for the UN Human Rights Council to be presented in summer 2016.

According to the Alabama Media Group, the working group already visited Chile, China, Iceland, Moldova, Morocco, Peru, Senegal, Spain and Tunisia.

Details on Meeting

During the briefing Friday, working group members Hannah Wu, Frances Raday and Eleonora Zielinska met with representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, Healthy & Free Tennessee and the Reproductive Health Services of Montgomery. Abortion provider Willie Parker, who operates in Montgomery and Mississippi, also joined the meeting by phone.

According to Alabama Media Group, briefing participants discussed abortion restrictions, contraceptive access and state laws that penalize pregnant women who use drugs.

Raday said, "America looks as though it is joining the regional plague" of countries prohibiting abortion, "by making abortion not accessible instead of illegal." She noted that of all the countries they have visited, the U.S. is the only one that has not signed the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. She said there are gaps in women's rights in the U.S. that "are quite astounding."

Lucia Hermo of ACLU of Alabama discussed, as an example of abortion restrictions in the U.S., a law (Act 2014-445) being reviewed in federal court that would appoint attorneys to represent the fetuses of pregnant teenagers who seek abortion without consent from a parent.

Separately, Parker criticized state lawmakers' efforts to restrict the procedure, noting, "We have these anti-intellectual and non-evidence based restrictions on abortion, which we know is vital healthcare for women."

In addition, Healthy & Free Tennessee's Dana Asbury discussed how states are using fetal assault and chemical endangerment laws to criminalize pregnant women who use drugs. Asbury dismissed claims made by lawmakers that they are targeting such women because of an increase in the number of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, noting, "What we know is that these laws are not the best way to reduce cases of [NAS]" (Yurkanin, Alabama Media Group, 12/4).