Coalition of Human Rights, Legal, Medical & Religious Groups Call on Obama to Lift Abortion Ban on Aid to War Rape Victims

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An international coalition of over 50 human rights, legal, medical and religious groups - including the Global Justice Center - have signed a letter to President Obama urging he issue an executive order lifting the ban and affirm the rights of female war rape victims to comprehensive medical care, including abortion under the Geneva Conventions.

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“As he looks to cement his presidential legacy, what will it take for President Obama to prioritize upholding the rights of girls and women raped in war?”

Pressure is mounting on the White House to lift the abortion ban on US foreign aid for girls and women raped in armed conflicts. An international coalition of over 50 human rights, legal, medical and religious groups have signed a letter to President Obama urging him to issue an executive order lifting the ban and affirm the rights of female war rape victims to comprehensive medical care, including abortion, under the Geneva Conventions.

Organizations signing include the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, the Global Justice Center, Amnesty International, the World Organization Against Torture, and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, as well as groups from conflict countries where the US abortion ban has the greatest impact including the West African Bar Association, the Nigerian Women’s Medical Association, the Iraq Women’s Network, the Syrian Women’s League, the South Sudan Women Lawyers Association and SOFEPADI, an organization based in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

SOFEPADI president Julienne Lusenge states, "The United States should ensure that aid provides rape victims with access to safe abortions in cases of an unwanted pregnancy. A majority of rape victims in conflict are children under 18 – they should not be forced to carry out an unwanted pregnancy which causes further trauma and stigmatizes them."

Global Justice Center president Janet Benshoof agrees, adding that the US violates international law by hindering abortion access for war rape victims. “President Obama must stop turning a blind eye to how US policy endangers the lives of girls and women raped in war every day, and is a continuing violation of the Geneva Conventions," she states. "Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions guarantees comprehensive and non-discriminatory medical care to all persons “wounded and sick” in armed conflict, in all circumstances, including survivors of sexual violence.”

Worldwide, support for abortion access for girls and women raped in war continues to grow. On July 1, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, called on the Nigerian government to ensure abortion access easier for impregnated war rape victims, including those rescued from Boko Haram.

In May, several countries challenged the US abortion ban at the periodic review of the US’ human rights record before the UN Human Rights Council. Five countries made formal recommendations to the US to lift the abortion ban. The Obama Administration has until September to respond to the recommendations.

Meanwhile, the White House has remained silent. Ms. Benshoof asks, “As he looks to cement his presidential legacy, what will it take for President Obama to prioritize upholding the rights of girls and women raped in war?”

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Sarah Vaughan
Global Justice Center
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