Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

For Immediate Release

Press Release

Global NGOs Urge U.N. Human Rights Committee to Reaffirm the Right to Life Begins at Birth


More than 50 NGOs are calling upon the U.N. Human Rights Committee (U.N. HRC) to reinforce and elaborate on the measures states must take to guarantee women’s right to life on the basis of equality and nondiscrimination, including by eradicating preventable maternal mortalities and morbidities and guaranteeing access to safe and legal abortion.

A broad coalition of human rights organizations, spearheaded by the Center for Reproductive Rights, submitted a joint statement during the U.N. HRC’s consultation on the right to life urging the committee to continue to protect women’s health and lives by calling on states to eradicate preventable maternal deaths, ensure access to modern contraceptives and expand access to safe and legal abortion.    

During the consultation, groups seeking to undermine women’s reproductive rights urged the U.N. HRC to contradict well-established international human rights law recognizing that the right to life begins at birth and expand the scope of when life begins. This could compel women to carry to term pregnancies that jeopardize their health and lives, and undermine women’s reproductive autonomy and equality. 

Said Rebecca Brown, director of Global Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Close to 300,000 women around the world needlessly die each year because of governments’ failure to provide quality, comprehensive reproductive health care.

“Efforts to undermine women’s rights and access to essential services are an outright attack on their lives.

“The U.N. Human Rights Committee is a champion for women’s fundamental human rights, and we are confident the committee will do everything in its power to protect the well-being of women worldwide by rejecting efforts to deny access to critical health services.”

In the joint statement to the U.N. HRC, the Center and coalition partners address the ways that women’s health and lives continue to be jeopardized as a result of persistent discrimination which manifests in preventable maternal mortalities and morbidities, lack of reproductive health information, inadequate access to modern contraception and restrictive abortion laws. Specifically, the statement calls on the committee to reaffirm that the right to life provision in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights begins at birth and must not be invoked to jeopardize women’s fundamental human rights.  

International human rights law has long-established that the right to life begins at birth, and any other approach would be in direct contradiction and violation of reproductive rights. However, states continue to violate their human rights obligations and put women’s lives and health in grave danger in the name of protecting a fetus. El Salvador denied a 22-year-old pregnant woman from accessing abortion services even though she was pregnant with a non-viable fetus and suffering from complications related to lupus and kidney disease.

The Center has led some of the most important advances in reproductive rights worldwide. In 2008, the U.N. HRC ruled in the Center’s case of KL v. Peru that the denial of abortion services to an adolescent carrying a non-viable fetus constituted a violation of her rights to privacy and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, among other rights. At the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Center secured a historic victory stemming from the preventable maternal death of a young Brazilian woman who was denied quality maternal health services—the first time an international human rights decision named a maternal death a human rights violation.


The Center for Reproductive Rights is a global human rights organization of lawyers and advocates who ensure reproductive rights are protected in law as fundamental human rights for the dignity, equality, health, and well-being of every person.

House Democrats Request 'Damage Assessment' Following Recovery of Classified Docs

"Former President Trump's conduct has potentially put our national security at grave risk," Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Adam Schiff wrote to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

Kenny Stancil ·

Violent Threats Against FBI Soar as Trump Lies About Mar-a-Lago Search

Menacing messages posted online "include a threat to place a so-called dirty bomb in front of FBI Headquarters" and "general calls for 'civil war' and 'armed rebellion,'" officials warned.

Kenny Stancil ·

'Biggest Win for Tax Fairness' in Decades: Progressives Cheer Reforms in IRA, Demand More

"While this bill establishes desperately needed changes to our tax laws and IRS funding, it is still a far cry from the systemic changes that we need in our society to rectify the hold the rich still have on every level of our economy."

Kenny Stancil ·

'Care Can't Wait': IRA a Good Start, Progressives Say, But More Is Needed

"Americans deserve a full loaf of bread," said health justice advocate Ady Barkan.

Kenny Stancil ·

'I'm Back': Fetterman Returns to Campaign Trail Following May Stroke

"I'm not only grateful to be alive, but also for the campaign we're building together," said the Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania's open U.S. Senate seat.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo