Reproductive Rights: An International Issue

The issue of women's reproductive rights and health has been defined as a part of basic human rights by the United Nations since 1994 at the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

Reproductive rights were defined as:

'...reproductive rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognized in national laws, international human rights documents and other relevant United Nations consensus documents. These rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. It also includes the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence as expressed in human rights documents. In the exercise of this right, they should take into account the needs of their living and future children and their responsibilities towards the community.' (ICPD Programme of Action 1994, para 7.3) [1].

Even though the issue of reproductive rights was only recently defined at an international level less than 30 years ago, it is not a new issue but one which has existed for thousands of years. As a result, while most of the exhibit focuses on the issue of reproductive rights as a domestic issue in the United States, this section will focus on the issue of reproductive rights at an international level since it is considered a basic human rights issue. This section will provide a comparison of reproductive rights in other countries compared to the US, evaluate how governments and countries view reproductive rights, and how the Roe v. Wade decision affected reproductive rights at an international level.


[1] “United Nations: Reproductive Rights.” United Nations Population Division | Department of Economic and Social Affairs. United Nations.

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