The Health of Haitian Women


Posted on October 31st, 2011 by Vina Tran
 9 comments  

Sepperphoto Elizabeth Sepper is the 2010-2012 Center for Reproductive Rights fellow at Columbia Law School.  Her research focuses on health, medical ethics, and human rights.  Her current paper Whose Conscience Counts?, critiques the conventional account of morality in medicine, which limits conscience to doctors and nurses who refuse to deliver controversial treatments, such as end-of-life care, abortion, and sterilization.  Cross posted from HealthLaw Prof blog:

Thanks again to Health Law Profs for the opportunity to blog.  With October at its end, I thought I’d take the opportunity to touch on subject I care about deeply – women’s health and human rights in Haiti.

Haitian women experienced the highest maternal mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere prior to the January 2010 earthquake.  Rates of contraceptive use were low and had leveled off.  Almost 40 percent of family planning needs went unmet—in large part because of lack of donor funding and interest.

Today, women and girls experience even greater challenges.  Nearly 600,000 people displaced by the earthquake still live in camps, protected only by tents and tarps.  Human Rights Watch reports that access to family planning information in the camps is rare, contributing to high rates of unplanned pregnancies, including among teenage girls.  According to a UN survey, the pregnancy rate in the camps is 3 times the average urban rate before the earthquake.

Two-thirds of these pregnancies are unplanned and unwanted.  Some are linked to gender-based violence.  According to grassroots groups, a number of women and girls they treated for rape became pregnant (in one case, a full 20 percent of those they saw in the months immediately following the earthquake).  In a survey by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, 14% of respondents in camps said that, since the earthquake, one or more members of their household had been victimized by either rape or unwanted touching or both.

So what does law have to do with this crisis?  First, governments have obligations under human rights law with regard women’s rights to health, autonomy, and information.  Although until recently maternal mortality and access to safe abortion were not considered a legal issue by main-line human rights groups and international organizations, these views have changed relatively quickly.  Just last week, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to health issued a report compiling the international legal support for decriminalization of abortion and elimination of laws that reduce access to contraception.  The report, which is well worth a read and avoids the usual UN-speak, links a wide array of laws limiting abortion and contraception to the public health.

Much of what the report says is true of Haiti.  Abortion is illegal in Haiti, and unintended pregnancies are tied to lack of information, inadequate access to contraception, violence, and widespread gender inequality.  Since the earthquake, medical providers have seen increased numbers of complications from unsafe abortions, with women suffering dangerous infections.  These unsafe abortions are a significant cause of maternal mortality, accounting for 13 percent of maternal deaths.

Second, the continuing crisis in Haiti suggests the effects of U.S. domestic law and policy on its neighbor.  From the Global Gag rule to prohibitions on delivering aid through government bodies to the use of international development funds to push economic liberalization, laws passed in the United States have undermined the enjoyment of human rights in Haiti.  At the same time, U.S. legislation and policy could have positive effects on health in Haiti.  Funding of women’s health and family planning needs could be made a priority.  USAID could require recipients to actively engage in cooperation and capacity-building with government agencies, including the Ministry of Health.  More immediately, granting humanitarian parole would allow the 105,000 Haitians who had been already been approved U.S. immigrant visas prior the earthquake to join their families and deliver remittances back to Haiti.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and should not be attributed to the Center for Reproductive Rights or the Health Law Prof Blog.

9 comments

  1. Check out new blog post from Center for Reproductive Rights fellow, Elizabeth Sepper on "The Health of Haitian Women" http://t.co/13L1FyNP

  2. #Haiti: The Health of Haitian Women http://t.co/d4Luntkh

  3. Gender & Sexuality Law Blog » Blog Archive » The Health of Haitian …: Her current paper Whose Conscience Count… http://t.co/5MNF6EA8

  4. […] –Elizabeth Sepper, 2010-2012 Center for Reproductive Rights fellow at Columbia Law School […]

  5. There’s definately a lot to find out about this topic. I love all the points you have made.

    my web page :: paul smithポールスミス ●シリーズで選ぶ ■レディースライン

  6. Great website you have here but I was curious if you knew of any message boards that cover the same topics discussed in this article? I’d really love to be a part of online community where I can get feedback from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thanks a lot!

  7. I’m impressed, I need to declare. In truth not often achieve I bump into a weblog that’s equally educative and entertaining, and allow me discern you, you might have success the nail resting on the head. Your idea is outstanding; the problem is one thing that not an adequate amount persons are talking brightly on the subject of. I am very entirely contented that I stumbled crossways this in my explore used for impressive connecting to this.

  8. spotify is the greatest we have ever before made use of in addition to we’ve made use of almost all. problem is difficult accessible for the You. H. in case you have almost any friends residing on beyond your United. T., make them call and make an accounts and give the info. can be a hustle and bustle, nevertheless worthwhile.

  9. Thanks a lot for providing individuals with such a pleasant possiblity to read in detail from this website. It’s always very good and as well , jam-packed with a great time for me personally and my office peers to visit your web site not less than three times in one week to see the latest tips you have got. And of course, I’m so certainly fulfilled with all the powerful secrets you serve. Some 3 areas in this article are without a doubt the most effective I have had.

Add a comment


Comments are subject to moderation and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of
Columbia Law School or Columbia University.

FEATURED POSTS

CATEGORY CLOUD

"Homeland" Security Abortion Rights Activism Adoption adultery Advocacy Affordable Care Act Alien Tort Claims Act Amicus Brief Asylum Bankruptcy BDS Bullying Census Politics Children Citizenship Civil Unions Clinic Columbia Law School Compulsory Marriage Condoms Contraception Contraception Mandate Cordoba House Criminal Law Cures for Homosexuality Defense of Marriage Act Disability Rights Discrimination Divorce Domestic Partnership Domestic Violence Domestic Workers Don't Ask Don't Tell Earth Day Economic Justice Education Egypt Elections Employment Discrimination ENDA Estate Planning Events Family Law Fellowships femininity Feminism Free Speech Gender and Technology Gender Identity Discrimination Gendering the Economy Gender Justice GSL Online Haiti Hate Crimes Health Care Hilary Clinton Hillary Clinton HIV HIV Discrimination Hobby Lobby Homelessness Homophobia Housing Human Rights Identity Politics Illegitimacy (sic) Immigration Reform In-ing Incest India International Law Intersectional Feminism Islamophobia Israel Jobs Justice Sotomayor King & Spalding Labor Trafficking Land Reform Law School Legal Profession Legal Scholarship Lesbian & Gay Parenting LGBT Parenting Marital Status Discrimination Marriage Marriage Equality Masculinity Medicaid Michelle Obama Migration Military National Security Obama Administration Obama Appointments Obergefell Outing OWS Palestine Parenting Pinkwashing Policing Politics of the Veil Polyamory Popular Culture Pornograpy Pregnancy Presidential Politics Prisons Privacy Products Liability Profanity Prop 8 Prosecutorial Discretion Publications Public Rights/Private Conscience Public Rights/Private Conscience Project Queer Theory Queer vs. Gay Rights Race and Racism Racial Stereotyping Rape Religion Religious Accommodation Religious Exemption Religious Exemptions Religious Freedom Restoration Act Religious Fundamentalism Reproductive Rights Reproductive Technology RFRA Romania Rwanda Sartorial Commentary Schools Sex Discrimination Sex Education Sex Stereotyping Sexting Sex Trafficking Sexual Assault Sexual Duplicity Sexual Harassment Sexual Health Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Sexual Orientation Discrimination Sex Work Silencing of voices SMUG Sodomy Law Reform Solidarity Sports Supreme Court Surrogacy Technology Title IX Trafficking Transgender Uganda Uncategorized Violence Women and Poverty Women of Color Work Zimbabwe

Academic Calendar  |  Resources for Employers  |  Campus Map & Directory  |  Columbia University  |  Jobs at Columbia  |  Contact Us

© Copyright 2009, Columbia Law School. For questions or comments, please contact the webmaster.