Reproductive Autonomy of Women and Girls under the Disabilities Convention

March 30, 2018

Congratulations to Prof. Charles Ngwena of the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, South Africa, whose valuable article has recently been published in the Ethical and Legal Issues section of the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics. We are pleased to circulate the following abstract:

Reproductive Autonomy of Women and Girls under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,”  by Prof. Charles Ngwena, International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 140.1 (Jan. 2018):128-133PDF online for 12 months.          Submitted text at SSRN

Women and girls with disabilities have historically been denied the freedom to make their own choices in matters relating to their reproduction. In the healthcare sector they experience multiple discriminatory practices. Women and girls with intellectual disabilities are particularly vulnerable to coerced or forced medical interventions. The present article considers the contribution the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities makes towards affirming the rights of women and girls with disabilities to enjoy reproductive autonomy, including autonomy related to reproductivehealth, on an equal basis with individuals without disabilities. The Convention is paradigm-setting in its maximal approach to affirming the rights of  individuals with disabilities to make autonomous choices under conditions of equality and non-discrimination.  The Convention is the first human rights treaty to clearly affirm that impairment of decision-making skills is not a justification for depriving a person with cognitive or intellectual disability of legal capacity.

Full text available:   PDF online for 12 months.   or   Submitted text at SSRN

Canada: “Autonomy, Equality, and Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Care”

April 25, 2017


Congratulations and thanks to Prof. Erin Nelson of the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law, whose article on social disparities of sexual and reproductive health care access in Canada has just been published:

Erin Nelson,  “Autonomy, Equality and Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Care.”  Alberta Law Review (2017) 54:3 (2017): 707-26  Full text PDF.

The focus of this article is on access to sexual and reproductive health care, an essential aspect of reproductive justice. Although the scope of the problem is unknown, there are reasons to question whether Canadian women are able to access reproductive and sexual health services such as contraception and abortion. The author discusses these issues, and the significance of additional barriers that Canada’s First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women face in obtaining access to reproductive health care services. The author argues that providing meaningful access to sexual and reproductive health care is essential to ensuring women’s reproductive autonomy, and must be part of any political endeavour aimed at ensuring equal status for women.

The full text of this article  is online here in PDF.

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Peru: Rights-based Governance of Reproductive Health Services

May 12, 2016

Congratulations to Jeannie Samuel, Ph.D., who recently defended her doctoral thesis at the University of Toronto, Canada.

Struggling With the State: Rights-Based Governance of Reproductive Health Services in Puno, Peru by Jeannie Samuel, Ph.D. dissertation, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Canada, 2015.

This dissertation explores the complex process of how socially excluded women carry out rights-based governance in state-operated health facilities. It addresses a central tension: how can marginalized actors exercise a governance influence over institutions that have systemically excluded them? The study examines the efforts of a group of Quechua-speaking indigenous women in the southern Peruvian Andes who act as citizen monitors of their reproductive health services. In a country where profound inequalities are embedded in the health care system, the monitors (aided by a network of strategic allies) seek to combat abuse and strengthen health service provision. Key to their governance strategy is the use of a human rights-based approach to health, intended to influence monitors’ power by repositioning them as rights holders.

Theoretically, the dissertation draws on feminist political economy to examine the emergence of reproductive health care as a site of struggle between civil society and the state in Puno, Peru since the 1990s. It examines the monitoring initiative in Puno as an example of ongoing struggles with the state for the provision of quality reproductive health care. Methodologically, it uses institutional ethnography to link the work of citizen monitors with broader social, political and economic forces that shape their governance efforts.

The study’s findings suggest that human rights-based approaches can help monitors to exercise power in governance struggles. Citizen monitoring in Puno has produced some important gains, including curbing everyday injustices such as discriminatory treatment and illegal fees in health facilities. Monitors have been less effective at influencing other types of systemic problems, such as understaffing. The initiative has created opportunities for hands-on learning and the creation of new kinds of alliances. More broadly, the study suggests that rights-based governance can contribute to the democratization of reproductive health service delivery and the promotion of inclusive citizenship.


Abstracts of theses by Graduates of our International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program are online here.




REPROHEALTHLAW Updates: Publications, News and Jobs

November 26, 2015

November 26, 2015

SUBSCRIBE TO REPROHEALTHLAW:  To receive these updates monthly by email, enter your address in upper right corner of this webpage, then check your email to confirm the subscription.


Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective:  Cases and Controversies, ed. Rebecca J. Cook, Joanna N. Erdman and Bernard M. Dickens, 16 chapters.  University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014, 482 pages. Introduction by the editors. Table of Cases online  Table of ContentsPurchase from U Penn PressAhora disponible en español.

[abortion, South Africa]  Abortion Under Apartheid: Nationalism, Sexuality, and Women’s Reproductive Rights in South Africa, by Susanne Klausen,  (Oxford University Press, 2015) the first full-length scholarly study of the history of abortion in an African context.    Table of Contents and overview from OUP.   Abstract from OUP Canada    Review in The Daily Maverick.

[abortion rights] “How to talk about abortion: A guide to rights based messaging” by IPPF. 32-page guide.

[Africa]  Litigating the Right to Health in Africa  Challenges and Prospects,  ed.  Ebenezer Durojaye  (Ashgate: London 2015).  Abstract, Table of Contents and Introduction (“Look Inside”)   50% discount code:  50CZP15N

Colombia – plan to decriminalize abortion within 12 weeks’ gestation.  Article Nov 11, 2015.

[conscience] Drawing the Line:  Tackling tensions between religion and equality, by INCLO.  56-page report

Spanish resources available online:
—Estereotipos de Género:  Perspectivas Legales Transnacionales, por Rebecca J. Cook y Simone Cusack  (Bogota: Profamilia, 2010)   Libro Espanol en PDF.     Tabla  de Contenido     [English:] Gender Stereotyping: Transnational Legal Perspectives

Salud reproductiva y derechos humanos: Integración de la medicina, la ética y el derecho, por Rebecca J. Cook, Bernard M. Dickens y Mahmoud F. Fathalla (Bogota, Profamilia, 2004) Libro Espanol en PDF[English:] Reproductive Health and Human Rights: Integrating Medicine, Ethics and Law  (Oxford, 2003).

Other Spanish publications from the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law programme.

[sterilization] Robbed of Choice:   Forced and coerced sterilization experiences of women living with HIV in Kenya, by F. Kasiva
48-page report.  10 minute video.

[violence against women] ‘Bridging the Divide’: An Interview with Professor Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women – Springer.  Abstract and interview text: Temporary open access.


Australian home-based medical abortion now available  Tabbot website.

China ends one-child policy after 35 years.  Guardian newspaper.

Ireland:  Labour to seek cross-party consensus on abortion legislation — Proposal to repeal eighth amendment (equal rights for fetus) to be key demand for party after general election.  Irish Times article.

US-focused news, resources, and legal developments are available on Repro Rights Prof Blog. View or subscribe.


Guttmacher Institute (Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights  through research, policy analysis and public education) is hiring:  State Issues Assistant, Research Assistant, and Communications Associates.  Guttmacher jobs

Links to other employers in the field of Reproductive and Sexual Health Law are online here

Compiled by the Coordinator of the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, reprohealth*law at   For Program publications and resources, see our website, online here.
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