Friday, September 24

UN experts speak out against ‘regressive’ Texas abortion law

A “regressive” abortion ban in Texas has left the United States in violation of international law, and the Supreme Court, the final guardian of the historic 1973 ruling that legalizes it, is complicit, a United Nations panel of experts said Tuesday. .

President Joe Biden’s administration has vowed to challenge the law in court, and Democrats are already aggressively fundraising on the issue, nervously eyeing their tenuous grip on Congress as the 2022 midterm elections unfold. looming.

With Canada in the middle of a federal campaign featuring a resurgent conservative party and the spectacle of American-style anti-vaccination rallies, some also fear the long-term erosion of abortion rights north of the border.

“I wonder what it means in terms of the public getting used to the idea of ​​abortion restrictions, and that’s really scary,” said Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.

Texas law, which went into effect Sept. 1, prohibits abortions after embryonic heart activity is detected, which is usually at the six-week mark. That’s a very short time for many women to realize they are pregnant, critics say.

It also avoids constitutional problems by expanding the ability of virtually anyone to file a civil lawsuit against abortion providers, physicians, or anyone else who “aids or incites” a patient seeking to undergo a procedure beyond the legal threshold.

Just minutes before the law took effect on Sept. 1, the Supreme Court quietly voted 5-4 against blocking it, evoking fears that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established the constitutional right to abortion, may be pending. the balance.

The UN panel, an independent group of special rapporteurs and task force leaders operating with the support of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, accused Texas of circumventing the US Constitution.

The law also disproportionately targets women who cannot afford to travel out of state, a proportion of the Texas population that is dominated by people of color, experts said in a statement.

The law “delegates” to ordinary citizens by offering financial incentives to enforce it in civil courts, which the panel called a clear violation of human rights that will foster stigma and fear among women and run the risk of inciting to violence against anyone who tries to help them.

“By passing the Texas law, the United States violates international law,” the panel said in a statement.

‘Blatant Attack’: UN Expert Panel Attacks Texas ‘Regressive’ Abortion Law. #USPoli

Several other US states, including Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky and Ohio, have also passed similar so-called “heartbeat” laws, but remain in legal limbo as a result of legal challenges.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, an outspoken opponent of abortion rights, has also reflected on following Texas’ lead, but Texas officials have tried to distance his administration from the idea of ​​financial incentives.

What happens in the United States can have a huge impact on what happens in other parts of the world, said Melissa Upreti, a panel member and chair of the UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls.

“We see this as a serious setback in the United States,” Upreti said in an interview.

“What has happened in the United States is not good for other countries. And it is a concern that now others feel emboldened because I believe that those who oppose women’s rights to abortion see this as a great victory.”

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, whose party has long been a lightning rod for the abortion debate, tried to defend herself from a campaign shock from the start of the campaign by coming out in favor of abortion.

O’Toole has also said that he will not prevent members of his conservative group from proposing their own private member bills to restrict abortion, and would allow them to vote in conscience on such legislation.

Arthur, for his part, said he is not overly concerned about a similar challenge to abortion rights in Canada, “a very different place to the United States.”

But like many Canadians who followed the campaign, he has noticed some decidedly American flourishes, notably the legions of protesters who show up at hospitals and liberal rallies to denounce Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to impose mandatory COVID-19 vaccination rules. for travelers.

Trudeau, who was dumped with gravel at a campaign stop, and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh have proposed tougher criminal penalties for anyone who blocks access to hospitals, vaccine clinics, testing centers, pharmacies and clinics. abortion, or intimidate or harass healthcare workers. .

“This behavior of going to the whole Trudeau campaign stops and yells at him and yells obscenities and throws rocks at him, I mean, it’s just disgusting,” Arthur said.

“I have hope and faith that progressives in the world are still generally a majority of people, hopefully, and a lot of good things are still happening in the world.”

Both Arthur and Upreti pointed to the example of Mexico, where that country’s Supreme Court issued a radical decision last week that declared punishing abortion unconstitutional.

“At the end of the day, it really depends on what people choose to be inspired or influenced by,” Upreti said, citing Canada as a model for their advocacy for human rights and gender equality around the world.

“You’d expect that in Canada, people would be more inspired by those things, rather than a pushback south of the border.”

This Canadian Press report was first published on September 14, 2021.

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