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Reproductive Rights

Women's Reproductive and Sexual Rights

March 9, 2010 for CSW at the United Nations with Frances Kissling

Ana Lita's Opening Remarks:

Good evening!

I am pleased to see so many attendees this evening, among them close friends of our Center and some of my former interns! I welcome you all on behalf of the Appignani Bioethics Center, a project of the American Humanist Association. This panel discussion, Women's reproductive and sexual rights crises: An update, is held under the auspices of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

This first week and a half of March, thousands of advocates for women's rights are meeting at the United Nations here in New York for a historic Global Women's Conference to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing Women's Conference and the 54th Session of the CSW, with the pressing goal of advancing equality for women around the world. The United Nations aptly specifies the importance of reproductive health in achieving all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Our discussion will explore some aspects of human reproduction within the framework of human rights. I am honored to introduce our distinguished speakers who have so kindly come to share their interesting thoughts on this vast and crucial topic.

Our first speaker, Dr. Licciardi, will focus on ethical issues that arise with the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) in relation to patients many of whom would desperately try any means to concieve and become parents. Assisted reproduction is no longer new.

Since the birth of Louise Brown in 1978, the first in vitro baby, more than 4 million infants have been born worldwide using ART. Many who cannot achieve pregnancy without medical assistance choose to use ART. The use of ART in the creation of human life has been ethically contentious.

Dr. Charles Debrovner will present the ethical problems of patients who are pregnant but for various social and economic reasons would like to terminate the pregnancy exploring maternal and children’s rights.

Dr. Borgman will discus the legality of reproductive rights in the US. Despite the fact that in many Western countries for example, abortion is legal, its ethical acceptability continues to be widely debated.

In the US the legality of abortion is a thriving social and political controversy. Dr. Borgman will describe the problem of justifying abortion from a legal point of view.

Francis Kissling will take us away from the U.S. to consider ‘Challenges and Barriers to the Implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development Program of Action in the Global South‘. At the 1994 Cairo Population and development conference, a new paradigm for population and reproductive health policy was established. Her presentation will address persistent problems in implementing Cairo, including the need for health system strengthening, integration of reproductive health services, resource flows and violations of women’s human rights from Ireland to Chile. The heated debates surrounding reproductive rights, revolve around fascinating questions of life and, ironically, the simplest of technologies, the turkey baster. Please welcome them all with a round of applause.

For those of you who do not know, my name is Ana Lita. I am the founding director of the Appignani Bioethics Center, which is located on this building’s 5th Floor. The center was established in 2004 with a grant from the Louis Appignani Foundation. Its main purpose is to bring bioethical concerns to the attention of the international community in order to protect the vulnerable, especially women.

I urge you all to visit our website, HumanistBioethics.org (which you can find in your programs), and learn more about our events and activities.

We also have an internship program for students or others who wish to be involved with our work and bioethics.