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Abortion, Conscience & Health: A Global Polemic?


The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and Women’s Link Worldwide proudly announce the official launch of their joint publication Conscientious Objection and Abortion: A Global Perspective on the Colombian Experience.

Download publication: English | Español

In 2009, the Colombian Constitutional Court issued a landmark Decision T-388/09 that sets important standards on the use of conscientious objection in the context of abortion services.The publication features comparative regional analyses by experts across the globe on reproductive health and rights. In addition to analyzing the standard set by the Colombian Constitutional Court in the context of abortion, the publication also examines how this standard has been used with regard to LGBT issues and how conscientious objection can be used positively to increase access to health care services by marginalized populations.


shot from the stage of the six panelists discussing the issues

On October 27, 2014, Women’s Link Worldwide, International Planned Parenthood Federation, and the O’Neill Institute held an event at Georgetown Law tocommemorate the launching of this publication.

The event featured two panels consisting of contributors to the publication and other special speakers. To watch a video recording of the event, please click here or view event photos here.

shot from the audience of the six panelists discussing the issues


Agustina Ramón Michel (Argentina) Agustina Ramón Michel’s areas of work include public health and reproductive rights. She has also written on abortion, health rights and pharmaceutical patents. Agustina Ramón Michel is a professor at Palermo University and San Andrés University in Argentina as well as a researcher at the Department on Health, Economics and Society of Centro de Estudios de Estado y Sociedad (CEDES). Agustina Ramón Michel holds an LL.B. from the Universidad de Tucumán, was a Fulbright scholar and LLM student at the University of Texas at Austin and is a PH.D. student (currently on leave) in the School of Law at Universidad de Palermo.

Carmen Barroso (Brazil) Since 2003, Carmen has served as the Regional Director of International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region. A native of Brazil, Carmen was a professor at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and a senior researcher with the Carlos Chagas Foundation, where she created Brazil’s first and foremost women’s studies center.  She was also the Director of the MacArthur Foundation’s Population and Reproductive Health program which, under her leadership, funded hundreds of local organizations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and helped bring the voices and experiences of women from the Global South to international policy forum. Carmen holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University in Social Psychology.

Charles Ngwena (South Africa) Currently a Professor of Law at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa, Charles Ngwena has taught at various law schools internationally including those in the United Kingdom, Swaziland, South Africa, United States and Canada. He has published widely on issues at the intersection between human rights and health care, including HIV/AIDS and reproductive and sexual health with a focus on the African region. He is also a disability rights expert. Prof. Ngwena serves on editorial committees and editorial boards of a number of international journals. He holds an LLB, LLM (Wales University), LLD (Free State University), and Barrister-at-Law.

Louise Melling (United States of America) As Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Director of its Center for Liberty, Louise Melling works an array of issues including reproductive freedom; women’s rights; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights; and AIDs, and freedom of religion and belief. Melling was Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, where she oversaw nationwide litigation, communications research, public education campaigns, and advocacy efforts in state legislatures. She has been with the ACLU since 1992, serving in several roles before becoming the Director of its Reproductive Freedom Project in 2003 and Deputy Legal Director in 2010. She is a graduate of Yale Law School and Oberlin College.

Miryam García (Spain) She is a graduate of medicine with a specialty in pediatrics in progress. Though originally from Spain, Miryam has also worked in Kenya on campaigns related to maternal and child nutrition to aid people with HIV as well as for water purification in labor camps in rural areas. She worked on immunization and maternal health campaigns in the Chapare Jungle and in La Paz, Bolivia. One of her areas of interest includes accessibility to healthcare. Since 2012, she has been connected to the civil disobedience movement, “Yo Sí, Sanidad Universal” [I Support Universal Healthcare] which protests, through an active use of conscientious objection, the exclusion of hundreds of thousands of people from the right to health care in Spain’s National Health System. She participates in national and local movements which discuss issues of civil disobedience and conscientious objection.

Roundtable “Moving the Debate Forward”

Tracy Robinson (Jamaica) She is currently the Chair of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, as well as the Commission’s Rapporteur on the Rights of Women and the Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI Persons. She is a citizen of Jamaica. She was elected at the 41st OAS General Assembly in June 2011 for the standard four-year term, which began on January 1, 2012. She was elected Chair of the Commission during the 150th Period of Sessions, in March 2014. She is a lawyer and teaches Gender and the Law, Constitutional Law and Commonwealth Caribbean Human Rights, among other law subjects, at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. She has been a consultant for international agencies such as the United Nations Fund for Women and UNICEF, and she has advised Caribbean governments on topics related to legislation on gender and children rights, among others. Commissioner Robinson has been editor of the Caribbean Law Bulletin and she has written and published reports on a range of topics, including gender, the rights of LGTBI persons, sexual harassment, sexual rights, sex work and the law, and the rights of the child. She has a Bachelor of Law from University of the West Indies and an LLM from the University of Yale, as well as a Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) from Oxford University.

Janet Benshoof (United States of America) She is internationally recognized for her human rights and constitutional law expertise. She established landmark legal precedents in the U.S. Supreme Court and international forums. Ms. Benshoof spearheaded several successful legal efforts from the approval of emergency contraception for women by the FDA, to the application of international rape law to ensure the rights of women in the Iraq High Tribunal prosecutions of Saddam-era war crimes. Ms. Benshoof is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the National Law Journal as one of the “100 Most Influential Lawyers in America,” the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award” in recognition of her legal work, the Gloria Steinem Women of Vision Award, the Edith Spivack Award for Outstanding New York Women Lawyers, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Margaret Sanger Award. Ms. Benshoof previously served as Director of the American Civil Liberties Reproductive Freedom Project where she spearheaded national litigation shaping Supreme Court law on gender equality, free speech, and reproductive choice. In 1992, Ms. Benshoof founded the first international human rights organization focused on women’s rights to reproductive choice and equality, now the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), and served as its first President. Ms. Benshoof received her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School and taught at Harvard Law School and Bard College.

Thematic Areas: Health and Human Rights, Healthcare

Status: Completed

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