Monday, December 9, 2019

Human Rights and Reproductive Rights at the Supreme Court

Briefing is ongoing in June Medical Services v. Gee, the challenge to Lousiana's restrictive regulation of abortion clinics.  Amicus briefs filed last week in support of the plaintiffs challenging the clinics included several that address human rights issues.   The amicus brief filed by Women with a Vision and others addresses human rights norms most directly, citing supportive decisions of the Human Rights Committee, statements by the CEDAW committee, and other international human rights materials.  The brief concludes that "Act 620 will effectively cut off access to abortion services and related health services in Louisiana for marginalized populations in violation of their human rights."   

While not relying directly on human rights materials, several other amicus briefs filed in the case put into practice the international human rights principle of participation of those most affected.  In particular, two amicus briefs were filed by women who had abortions.  One, with Holly Alvarado as the lead signatory, sets out the personal stories of several women who had abortions.  A second brief, with Michelle Coleman Mayes as the lead signatory, brings to the Court the experiences of 368 of their female peers -- women lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals who had abortions. 

In appellate litigation, courts are often presented with legal issues stripped of their human consequences.  When human rights are at stake, however, serious consideration of the impacts on those most affected, as expressed by the affected individuals themselves, is critical to a legitimate outcome.  Far from being surplusage, these briefs provide a perspective that is critical to the merits of the case.

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