UN Official: Abortion bans in America are ‘gender-based violence against women’

Kate Gilmore, the UN deputy high commissioner for human rights, voiced her concern this week over the “deeply distressing” attacks against women’s ability to seek abortions in the United States in the wake of several state bills seeking to undermine that right.

“This is a crisis. It’s a crisis directed at women,” Gilmore said, according to reporting from The Guardian.

“We have not called it out in the same way we have other forms of extremist hate, but this is gender-based violence against women, no question,” she added.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations is charged with the duty to “promote and protect all human rights for all people,” according to the organization’s official website.

The commission doesn’t technically have any authority over other nations’ governments, including the United States’. Still, Gilmore hopes her statements can help influence policy toward protecting the health and livelihoods of women around the world, including in America.

In criticizing U.S. laws aimed at restricting abortions — some at as early as six weeks, others attempting to ban the practice outright — Gilmore equated the state-enacted legislations as a kind of torture.

“It’s clear it’s torture – it’s a deprivation of a right to health,” she added.

Of particular concern for Gilmore was the fact that the bills, while hurting women overall, would deprive women of limited means of their rights at a higher rate than it would women who are considered well-to-do.

“This doesn’t affect well-off women in the same way as women with no resources, or able-bodied women the way it affects disabled women, and urban women the way it affects rural women,” Gilmore added.

The deputy high commissioner’s statement mirrored what the United Nations said in mid-May, when the international organization was again critical of U.S. efforts to curtail abortion rights for women. The UN pointed out at that time that such bans on abortion do little to actually reduce their number, as women simply attempt to perform the procedure through other means.

By going “underground,” the “life, health, and safety” of women is put at great risk, UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said in May, according to reporting from Reuters.

Featured image: Lorie Shaull/Flickr

Chris Walker

Chris Walker is a freelance news and opinion writer based out of Madison, Wisconsin. With more than 15 years of experience, Chris has published work that spans three separate presidencies. In his free time, Chris likes to pretend he can play guitar.