Two Years On From A “Landmark” Abortion Decision in Kenya

Two years ago, the Kenyan High Court in Malindi decided PAK and Salim Mohammed v. Attorney General et al., affirming that the constitutional right to abortion is “fundamental.”

Approximately 2,600 people lose their lives to unsafe abortion in Kenya each year, with an additional 21,000 people requiring hospitalization. While the Kenyan Constitution, adopted in 2010, allows for abortion when the pregnant person’s life or health is at risk under Article 26(4), the Kenyan Penal Code still criminalizes it—a legal grey area creating “ambiguity, confusion, and stigma.

This article will describe the PAK decision and analyze it in line with trends in transnational abortion law.

Read More

Stethoscope on Ghana flag.

Dr. Eunice Brookman-Amissah: A Pioneer in Safe Abortion Law Reform

By Joelle Boxer

Late last year, Dr. Eunice Brookman-Amissah won the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” for her pioneering efforts to improve safe abortion access in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to Dr. Brookman-Amissah, of the 36,000 deaths that occur globally due to unsafe abortion, almost 24,000 are in sub-Saharan Africa. “That was a totally unacceptable state of affairs,” she said, “given the fact that nobody, absolutely no woman has to die from a totally treatable and manageable cause.” Her advocacy work is credited with contributing to a 40% reduction in deaths from unsafe abortion in the region since 2000.

Read More

View on Namche Bazar, Khumbu district, Himalayas, Nepal.

Intersectionality, Indigeneity, and Disability Climate Justice in Nepal

By Pratima Gurung, Penelope J.S. Stein, and Michael Ashley Stein

The climate crisis disproportionately impacts marginalized populations experiencing multilayered   and intersecting oppression, such as Indigenous Peoples with disabilities. To achieve climate justice, it is imperative to understand how multiple layers of oppression — arising from forces that include ableism, colonialism, patriarchy, and capitalism — interact and cause distinctive forms of multiple and intersectional discrimination. Only by understanding these forces can we develop effective, inclusive climate solutions.

Read More

Photo of Alicia Ely Yamin doing fieldwork courtesy of Marion Brown.

Q&A with PFC Director of Global Health and Rights Project, Alicia Ely Yamin

Alicia Ely Yamin J.D. (1991), M.P.H. (1996), Ph.D. is a Lecturer on Law and the Director of the Global Health and Rights Project at the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics (PFC) at Harvard Law School; Adjunct Senior Lecturer on Health Policy and Management at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health; and Senior Adviser on Human Rights and Health Policy at the global health justice organization, Partners In Health.

Frequently labelled a scholar-activist, she combines academic research and scholarship that bridges law, development, and public health with grassroots work and policy advocacy. She has lived in seven countries on four continents, and worked with and for local advocacy organizations, including co-founding a program on health and human rights in the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (Lima, Peru; 1999).

In the interview below, she shares more about her career and life.

Read More

scales on blue background.

Conclusion to the Symposium: From Principles to Practice: Human Rights and Public Health Emergencies

By Timothy Fish Hodgson, Roojin Habibi, and Alicia Ely Yamin

In developing the digital symposium, From Principles to Practice: Human Rights and Public Health Emergencies (which ran from October – December 2023), as editors we endeavored to get scholars, human rights advocates, judges, and policy makers to engage critically with the expert Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Public Health Emergencies (the PHE Principles), published by the International Commission of Jurists and the Global Health Law Consortium in May 2023. In doing so, we encouraged contributors to comment on the Principles’ potential usefulness as guidance in addressing real emergency situations, as well as any possible gaps and weaknesses.

While summarizing the entire content of the 13 blogs comprising this symposium in any depth is not possible here, this concluding post will attempt to synthesize some of the major inputs from the contributions. We also provide some of our own observations, as participants in the drafting of the Principles, with the aim of pushing the discussion prompted by the posts forward.

Read More

Clockwise from top left: Daniela Cepeda Cuadrado, Lucía Berro Pizzarossa, Natalia Pires de Vasconcelos, Thalia Viveros Uehara

Introducing the Global Health and Rights Project’s New Affiliated Researchers

(Clockwise from top left: Daniela Cepeda Cuadrado, Lucía Berro Pizzarossa, Natalia Pires de Vasconcelos, Thalia Viveros Uehara)

The Petrie-Flom Center is excited to welcome four new affiliated researchers to the Global Health and Rights Project (GHRP).

Through regular contributions to Bill of Health, as well as workshops and other projects, GHRP affiliated researchers will bring their expertise to bear on both national and global problems, advancing critical socio-legal scholarship both within and beyond Latin America. We look forward to learning from and sharing their insights with a wider audience, and to contributing to enlarging international networks of critical praxis in global health and human rights.

Read More

see saw with earth as fulcrum and a pile of vaccines weighing down one side with nothing on the other side.

The Case for Procurement Transparency

By Tara Davis and Nicola Soekoe

In January 2021, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) observed that the world was on the brink of a “catastrophic moral failure” if wealthier nations did not ensure the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Global health activists and civil society organizations who worked transnationally to curtail what came to be referred to as “vaccine apartheid” faced a pharmaceutical industry that globally relied on secrecy, capital-friendly trade laws, and brute economic force to shirk considerations of human rights. In many ways, pharmaceutical companies and the states that protected them, including by failing to achieve consensus at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for a waiver of intellectual property rights with respect to vaccines, seemed impenetrable.

Unsurprisingly, given the extreme position of power from which pharmaceutical companies were negotiating contracts, there were widespread reports and allegations of inequitable contractual terms and a culture of bullying in the development of contracts. This was an issue of global concern for a long period during the pandemic. In South Africa, the Health Justice Initiative (HJI), a local advocacy organization, joined the global calls for greater procurement transparency.

However, when the South African Department of Health refused to disclose even the names of the entities with which it had entered into vaccine-related agreements, the HJI was forced to turn to the courts for relief.

Read More

Close-up Of An Open Law Book On Wooden Desk In Courtroom.

Can Rights Make Any Difference for Access to Health? Insights from a Scoping Review on Constitutional Rights for the WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All

By Luciano Bottini Filho, Camila Gianella Malca, and Alicia Ely Yamin

The intersection of health financing and the right to health is a common concern in public health advocacy. However, it is challenging to isolate the mechanisms that connect individuals’ rights with increased public investment. As scholars, we grapple with the question of what happens once the right to health is constitutionalized and whether it has a transformative effect on the economy, government funding, and the material reality people face in struggling health care systems. In this article, we shed light on this significant gap between the adoption of the right to health through constitutions or legislation and actual changes in the economy and government funding for health. Our study was commissioned by the WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All, which received the mandate of formulating a new global economic model to achieve health for all.

Read More

Strasbourg, France - April 13, 2018: the Hemicycle of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, PACE.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: Responding to Public Health Emergencies by Upholding Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law

By Anita Gholami

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which brings together parliamentarians from 46 member States, has been a vigilant guardian of respect for the European Convention on Human Rights and other international standards throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The Assembly has adopted a number of resolutions and recommendations seeking to equip parliaments in our European member States and beyond with the relevant tools and expertise to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law. It has been an important forum for enabling States to address the fault lines in national public health systems, bridge gaps in global health security and policy, and strengthen collective efforts to build back better.

In June 2023, the Assembly adopted Resolution 2500 (2023) on “Public health emergency: the need for a holistic approach to multilateralism and health care.” The report supports the ongoing processes taking place at the international level to transform global health governance. It considers that States must build on the principles of equity and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms during public health emergencies, and thus makes specific and productive reference to the Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Public Health Emergencies (“the Principles”).

Read More

hospital equipment

Scarcity Is Not an Excuse to Discriminate: Age and Disability in Health Care Rationing

By Silvia Serrano Guzmán

On July 4, 2023 the Constitutional Court of Colombia handed down a landmark decision on one of the most difficult dilemmas faced during the COVID-19 pandemic: the rationing of intensive care in situations of scarcity. Although the need for prioritization was a reality almost globally, many countries had no such regulation in place, which frequently led to the adoption of fragmented and discriminatory triage protocols.

The Colombian case reinforces that human rights and public health are not mutually exclusive. Importantly, this is reflected in the Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights & Public Health Emergencies (2023). Though the Principles did not exist during the litigation of the case, they will be of use in similar instances going forward, both for States working to develop human rights-compliant public health measures, as well as for courts reviewing such measures.

Read More