CLACAI – Framework document on reproductive healthcare as an essential health service: submission to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

The Latin American Consortium against Unsafe Abortion (CLACAI) has produced a framework document in Spanish entitled “Reproductive Health as an Essential Health Service: An Analysis of Recommendation 54 of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Resolution 01/2020”. The document has been signed by more than 90 organizations in the region, and will be presented to representatives of the IACHR’s Rapid and Integrated Response Coordination Unit (SACROI Covid-19).

Excerpts from the document:

“Sexual and reproductive health services are among the essential health services that need to be maintained during a pandemic, which has been expressed by various national, international and multilateral health authorities. In particular, services associated with care during pregnancy, childbirth and the puerperium, as well as prevention of unwanted pregnancy and termination of pregnancy. For this reason, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has called on States parties to maintain existing reproductive health services in their countries through, among others, its Resolution 1/2020 on “Pandemics and Human Rights in the Americas”. This resolution urges States to guarantee the availability and continuity of sexual and reproductive health services during the pandemic in Para. 54.

“For these reasons, the signatory organizations believe that it is necessary for the IACHR to provide greater detail on the obligations of States in the area of ​​sexual and reproductive health care, to avoid the targeting of those health services during the Covid-19 pandemic, or any reduction in or stopping of the provision of those services, which are essential and urgent services.

“More than 50 years have passed since the process of international recognition of sexual and reproductive rights began…. For its part, the IACHR, since its first report on women’s rights, issued in 1997, has presented reproductive rights as an integral part of human rights.

“It is worrying that, contrary to what is recommended by both the WHO and global technical and academic organizations, the suspension, delay or modification of quality and access standards for the provision of reproductive health services has occurred in some countries of the region. The global health crisis caused by the outbreak of the new coronavirus may worsen or reverse the few advances in sexual and reproductive rights in many countries.

“The progressive fulfillment of human rights consists of two obligations: the first, to advance and expand the scope of realization of the law, the principle of progressivity; and the second, not to decrease the level of satisfaction previously achieved, the principle of non-regressivity.

“In compliance with these principles, States parties cannot ignore their commitments for the provision of timely and appropriate healthcare, as well as the essential and inter-related elements of availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of health services, goods and facilities, including medicines and the benefits of scientific progress in this area, under conditions of equality and non-discrimination for its inhabitants, including within the framework of the responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

CLACAI is also engaged in the following regional activities:

  • A regional advocacy strategy has been developed by two specialists in the field of human rights and sexual and reproductive health, who are members of the CLACAI Legal Group: Agustina Ramón Michel and Sonia Ariza Navarrete, with the support of an advisory committee. 
  • Monitoring of national reproductive health policies in the responses to the Covid-19 pandemic in nine Latin American countries.
  • Advocacy for strengthening of access to essential reproductive health services at the national level, and
  • A communications campaign to disseminate the results of this work and our recommendations.

Lastly, CLACAI has translated into Spanish the statement in support of the United Nations and the World Health Organization, published by the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion on 10 May 2020. More than 40 organizations in the region have signed the letter. CLACAI’s national representative organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean are sending it to USAID’s mission directors in their respective countries. The letter in Spanish is on CLACAI’s website.