Life

Abortion ban: Why the UN Commissioner has branded US abortion laws a form of ‘torture’

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Christobel Hastings
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As debate around abortion policy intensifies in the US, the United Nations’ High Deputy Commissioner on Human Rights has branded recent laws a “crisis” of gender-based violence against women. 

By now, you will have heard about the restrictive abortion laws that are passing through US federal courts at a frightening rate. 

You will likely feel concerned that the states of Georgia and Ohio have made it illegal to obtain an abortion once a “fetal heartbeat” has been detected, which often occurs even before a woman knows she is pregnant, and probably feel sickened by Alabama’s draconian bill that prohibits abortion after the moment of conception, a law backed almost exclusively by a male-dominated Senate. 

And you doubtless will have been hoping that sometime soon, a clear-headed voice of authority will emerge to condemn the deliberate erosion of women’s reproductive rights.

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Enter Kate Gilmore, the United Nations’ High Deputy Commissioner on Human Rights, who has cut through the exhausting debate around abortion policy in the US and expressed in no uncertain terms that recent abortion laws constitute a “crisis” fuelled by extremist hate against women.

“It’s clear it’s torture—it’s a deprivation of a right to health,” she told the Guardian. “We have not called it out in the same way we have other forms of extremist hate, but this is gender-based violence against women, no question.”

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Pointing to a committee of experts dedicated to monitoring how countries implement the UN’s nine core human rights principles, Gilmore explained that her concerns have been substantiated by the group, who have “independently declared the absolute prohibition of abortion…is against human rights.”

Gilmore, who has served as as Deputy High Commissioner since 2015, also highlighted the need to broaden the conversation around abortion access and focus on how restrictions will disproportionately affect minority, disabled, and less financially secure women.

“We have to stand with the evidence and facts and in solidarity with women, and in particular young women and minority women who are really under the gun. This doesn’t affect well-off women in the same way as women with no resources, or able-bodied women the way it affects disabled women, and urban women the way it affects rural women,” she added.

It’s a salient point that sadly gets lost as the bitter pro-life v pro-choice debate wages on. We can protest, lobby and loudly raise our voices against stringent laws removing sexual and reproductive health, but by that same token, we cannot ignore the potential repercussions on the most vulnerable women in society. Intersectional reproductive justice is the only way we can move forward. 

Image; Getty

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Christobel Hastings

Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.

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