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Kate Gilmore, the UN deputy high commissioner for human rights, said Tuesday that increasingly restrictive abortion laws in the U.S. are violating human rights and amount to torture. (Photo: Environmental Change and Security Program/Flickr/cc)

Top UN Human Rights Expert Decries 'Extremist Hate' Campaign Behind Escalated Attack on Reproductive Rights

"We need to stop tolerating the intolerable."

Julia Conley

A top United Nations official on human rights said Tuesday that the recent escalation in attacks on reproductive rights in the U.S. must be categorized in the same way as other many attacks on basic rights—as part of an "extremist hate" campaign.

"We have not called it out in the same way we have other forms of extremist hate, but this is gender-based violence against women, no question," Kate Gilmore, deputy high commissioner for human rights, told The Guardian.

Denying women the right to abortion care is tantamount to "torture," Gilmore added.

"It's a deprivation of a right to health," she said, noting that a panel of nine U.N. human rights experts determined recently that prohibiting abortion amounts to a violation of fundamental rights.

The human rights deputy commissioner is speaking out amid the passage of increasingly extreme anti-abortion restrictions in the U.S. In recent weeks, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, and several other states have passed laws banning the procedure after fetal cardiac activity can be detected—in many cases, before a woman even knows she's pregnant. Louisiana and Alabama legislators refused to include exceptions for victims of rape or incest in their recent bans.

"It's clear it’s torture," Gilmore told The Guardian. "This is a crisis. It's a crisis directed at women."

Gilmore's comments came days after she spoke at an event hosted by The Guardian and the Center for Reproductive Rights, where her demand that "We need to stop tolerating the intolerable" was praised by global reproductive rights advocates.

Gilmore pointed to a well-organized and well-funded coalition of anti-choice groups which have recently managed to frame the national debate about reproductive rights around the notion that viable, healthy fetuses are aborted in the third trimester, decrying so-called "late-term abortion"—a term that is not recognized in medical field—as "infanticide."

In reality, just over one percent of abortions take place after 21 weeks of gestation, and women often obtain abortions at this stage due to fetal abnormalities that weren't detected earlier or because continuing the pregnancy would pose health risks.

"This is a lie that encourages conservatives to regard pregnant women and medical caregivers as potential ruthless killers who should be hemmed in with yet more laws targeting them," Rebecca Solnit wrote in The Guardian on Monday. "While a lot of older abortion lies were distortions and exaggerations, this one is a complete and dangerous fabrication."

Such lies, Gilmore said, have created an urgent need for policymakers and pro-choice advocates to ensure safe abortion care is accessible to women.

"We have to stand with the evidence and facts and in solidarity with women, and in particular young women and minority women who are really under the gun," Gilmore said.


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