Today, thousands of girls and women raped and impregnated in armed conflict are routinely denied critically needed abortions in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma and Sudan, despite hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid made available to victims in conflict. These victims are denied abortions for myriad reasons, but a major reason is the blanket abortion restrictions the US places on all its foreign assistance, including humanitarian aid. These US restrictions contain no exceptions for rape or to save the life of the woman and have the effect of preventing all foreign governments, NGOs and humanitarian aid providers receiving US funds from providing the option of abortions to girls and women raped in armed conflict.
In the context of armed conflict, this policy is at odds with the rights of girls and women raped in armed conflict to non-discriminatory medical care as guaranteed by international humanitarian law, in particular the Geneva Conventions. The legal basis for this argument can be found in the GJC legal brief “The right to an abortion for girls and women raped in armed conflict – States’ positive obligations to provide non-discriminatory medical care under the Geneva Conventions” available at http://globaljusticecenter.net/publications/Reports/GJCbrief-final.pdf
These overly-broad constraints and the effect they have on the distribution of humanitarian aid from other countries than the US has not gone unnoticed amidst the global community. On November 5, 2011 during the Universal Periodic Review of the United States by the UN Human Rights Council, Norway recommended that the US “remove its blanket abortion restrictions on humanitarian aid covering medical care given to women and girls raped and impregnated in situations of armed conflict.” Furthermore, on March 4, 2011 the Association of the Bar of New York City, on behalf of approximately 22,000 members, wrote to President Obama urging the Administration to lift the abortion prohibitions put on all US humanitarian aid for women and girls survivors of rape in conflict (attached).
This August 12, 2011, the GJC wishes to mark the 62nd anniversary of the Geneva Conventions by delivering to President Obama letters from key organizations and individuals around the world, asking that he lift these restrictions via an Executive Order.
Please see the attached document for more information on these restrictions and the August 12th Campaign.