Reproductive Rights and Defense of Pregnant People in the U.S., Asia and Latin America
This project focuses on reproductive rights issues in the United States, South Asia and Latin America. Students work with if/when/how, Pregnancy Justice (formerly National Advocates for Pregnant Women), the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and UN Human Rights Experts. Past projects include: documenting state laws that can be used to criminalize self-managed abortion and pregnancy loss, researching the impact of conscientious objection by health care providers on the provision of sexual and reproductive health services, and reports to UN human rights bodies documenting criminalization of pregnancy outcomes, obstetric violence, maternal mortality, separation of families and racial disparities in sexual and reproductive health and child removal policies in the United States. The Clinic also files human rights amicus briefs to federal and state courts in cases challenging abortion restrictions, criminal prosecution of pregnant people following miscarriages, discrimination against parents with disabilities by ACS and detention of pregnant people for forced drug treatment. In 2019, the Clinic worked with the NYC Human Rights Commission to draft a report on Pregnancy and Caregiver discrimination.
Internationally, we are involved in research and advocacy to stop forced marriage in South Asia and litigation pending before the Inter-American Commission brought on behalf of a woman in Chile who was forcibly sterilized because she is HIV positive. In 2013, students drafted a brief for the Commission on international standards prohibiting forced sterilization. In past years, we have worked to reform laws criminalizing abortion and access to contraceptives in the Philippines.
Ending Collateral Consequences of Sex Trafficking
This project addresses the collateral consequences of the criminal prosecution of survivors of sex trafficking in the United States. Students work with the Legal Aid Society’s Exploitation Intervention Project to represent individuals seeking post-conviction relief for criminal convictions under the START Act. Students also have been involved in international advocacy before the U.N. and law reform efforts in the U.S. to challenge the criminalization of trafficked persons in the first place, and to ensure that when they have incurred criminal convictions that they have access to effective remedies to vacate convictions and redress the harms of criminalization.
Individual client representation involves interviewing clients, legal research, drafting legal briefs and affidavits. The advocacy work has involved researching both international and U.S. laws, interviewing, report drafting, and engaging with U.N. human rights experts.
Since 1997, HRGJ has focused significant resources to its “Bringing Human Rights Home” program, which applies international human rights standards to laws, policies and cases in the United States.
Children in Adult Prisons
In partnership with the Juvenile Life Without Parole Initiative, HRGJ has been involved in advocacy before the U.N. and the Inter-American Commission to challenge the incarceration of children in adult prisons.
Learn more about the Clinic’s work representing trafficking victims.
Reproductive Rights and Defense of Pregnant People
Learn more about our work on reproductive rights and defense of pregnant people.
HRGJ has filed human rights amicus briefs in major Supreme Court cases concerning domestic violence (Brzonkala v. Morrison and City of Castle Rock v. Gonzales). We have also prepared briefs and made oral presentations to the Inter-American Commission concerning the police failure to enforce an order of protection in the Jessica Gonzales case. The Clinic has also submitted a critique of the U.S.’s ineffective enforcement against domestic violence to the U.N. Committee Against Torture.
Gender and the “War on Terror”
The Clinic has submitted a shadow report to the U.N. Committee Against Torture critiquing the U.S. for the gender violence and abuse at Abu Graib prison in Iraq and has submitted proposed draft legislation for the U.S. Congress to revise the 2006 Military Commission Act.
Economic and Social Rights
HRGJ has been at the forefront of challenging U.S. social and economic rights violations before the U.N. and regional human rights bodies. In l999, on behalf of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign and others, we prepared the first petition challenging violations of economic and social rights in the U.S. in regard to cutbacks on access to welfare, housing and health. HRGJ has also submitted a report on intersection of poverty and gender-based violence to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women. In 2009, Clinic prepared and presented a report to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Housing, illuminating the gender dimensions of the housing and foreclosure crisis in the U.S. In 2017, HRGJ submitted a report to the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty on prohibitions on public benefits and health care coverage and criminalization of self-induced abortion.
In 2022, HRGJ and partners authored a shadow report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on Racial Coercion and Control Over Reproductive Decision-Making and Families. In 2001, HRGJ helped prepare a shadow report on women of color and health which was submitted to the CERD as part of a report, organized by the Urban Justice Center, on the intersectional impact of race discrimination on women in New York.
Gender-Based Violence and LGBTQ+ Issues
HRGJ has helped to prepare shadow reports on gender-based violence and LGBTQ+ human rights violations for the U.S. reviews by the Human Rights Committee (2005), Committee Against Torture (2006) and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (2007).
Professor Copelon and the IWHR Clinic helped to develop theory and proposed language supporting reproductive rights as human rights adopted in the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo Conference 1994) and the Fourth Conference on Women (Beijing 1995) conference documents. IWHR helped to spearhead and organize the “Roundtable on Human Rights Dimensions of Women’s Health, with Particular Attention to Sexual and Reproductive Rights,” sponsored by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in 1998. This meeting laid the foundation for continuing work around reproductive rights and health in many sectors.
Defending Pregnant People
HRGJ authored two human rights briefs to challenge the prosecution of pregnant women for the death of a fetus following a miscarriage. In each case, the women were either prosecuted for murder (Gibbs v. Mississippi) or manslaughter (Mississippi v. Buckhalter) of their fetus following a miscarriage. HRGJ worked with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to recognize the forcing pregnant people into inpatient drug rehabilitation violates the human right to be free from arbitrary detention and discriminates against women. HRGJ works closely with if/when/how and Pregnancy Justice to document laws and prosecution policies that lead to criminalization of pregnant people for self-managed abortion and pregnancy outcomes.
Challenges to Criminal Abortion Restrictions
HRGJ has worked to challenge criminal abortion laws and restrictions in UN forums. In addition to its work on the U.S. the Clinic has exposed the practice of coercing confession from women suffering complications from clandestine abortions by withholding treatment in public hospitals in Chile, the complete abortion ban in Nicaragua, the compete abortion ban, lack of post-abortion care and ban on contraceptives in the Philippines. In Colombia, we had advocated for women’s right to have a legal abortion against illegal obstructions and the government’s failure to ensure this right and authored an amicus brief to the Colombian Constitutional Court in a case that resulted in the decriminalization of abortion up to 24 weeks.
The Clinic assisted the Center for Reproductive Rights on the case F.S. v. Chile, a case pending before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which challenges the forced sterilization of a 20-year old woman because she was HIV positive. The Clinic also worked in collaboration with Colombian service providers documenting to the UN Human Rights Bodies the forced sterilization of girl-child soldiers.
Fetal “Right to Life”
Working with partners, the Clinic has documented state criminal laws that support the concept of fetal personhood in the United States. In 2007, the Clinic submitted an international law amicus brief to the Constitutional Court of Slovak Republic in support of legislation providing increased access to abortion services. In response to fetal “right to life” arguments, the brief summarizes the reject of the claim of a fetal right to life in the foundational and subsequent interpretative human rights documents.