Summary: Peruvian government pays out compensation in historic UN human rights abortion case

Peru, December 2015: Nearly a decade after the original complaint was filed with the UN Human Rights Committee, the Peruvian government has agreed to pay compensation to a woman who had critical abortion access denied and her human rights violated. The case was brought to the Committee by SRT grantee the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defence of Women’s Rights, along with the Centre for Reproductive Rights and the Counselling Centre for the Defence of Women’s Rights.

In 2001, the foetus of a 17-year-old Peruvian girl was diagnosed with anencephaly at the public hospital in Lima. Anencephaly is a fatal birth defect where the foetus lacks most or all of the forebrain. Doctors told her that continuing the pregnancy would put her life and health at risk and she was recommended to have an abortion, which was legal in Peru under such circumstances. However the hospital refused the termination on the grounds that the State had not provided clear regulations for providing the service. The pregnant girl had no choice but to carry the pregnancy to full term and breastfeed the baby for the four days that it lived. It was a decision that went on to have serious mental and physical consequences to her health.

It marked the first time that a UN human rights body held a government accountable for failing to ensure access to legal abortion services. The Committee stated that Peru had violated the victim’s rights under several articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In a press statement in December, Centre for Reproductive Rights Chief Executive Officer Nancy Northrup said that while compensating the victim was important, more still needed to be done regarding access to reproductive health services. “It’s time for Peru to clarify and implement its safe abortion guidelines and continue improving access to critical reproductive health services for all women and girls,” she said.

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