Book Brief: Reproductive Health and Human Rights

Reproductive Health and Human Rights: The Way Forward
Laura Reichenbach and Mindy Jane Roseman
University of Pennsylvania Press 2009
ISBN 978-0-8122-2160-2
277 pages

By Health and Human Rights Journal intern Antonia Chan

Published July 9, 2015

Reproductive Health and Human Rights: The Way Forward provides an in-depth, multifaceted analysis of reproductive rights through a series of critical essays by leading scholars and practitioners. Collectively, they explain how the 1994 Programme of Action—an agreement among 179 governments, UN agencies, and NGOs—provided guidelines on population and development efforts that still have important implications today. Editors Laura Reichenbach and Mindy Roseman assess arguments for reproductive health and rights, enabling policymakers, scholars, and activists to better understand how reproductive health and rights continue to be instrumental in achieving international population and development goals.

Across 16 chapters, the authors use descriptive analysis to support arguments for the continued relevance of the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, while identifying important pitfalls and suggesting ways to strengthen the Programme’s approach. Each major section—Global Agendas and Population Development Perspectives, Human Rights Realizations, and Challenges to Institutionalizing Reproductive Health and Rights—comes with diagrams that synthesize the complex social, cultural, economic, political, and legal systems related to the ICPD. Although there is both divergence and overlap in the scope/conclusions of these essays, all authors agree that reproductive health is still a primary concern of global health.

The editors conclude that human rights-based approaches (HRBAs) alone are not sufficient to address the issue of reproductive rights, though they do offer powerful long-term applications. In particular, the rise of anti-abortion activism and insufficient integration of HIV/AIDS treatment with patients’ reproductive rights has limited the ICPD’s implementation. Going forward, the editors suggest three actions:

  1. Improve measurement and accountability to better document health problems/outcomes, identifying which ones require improvement and attention.
  2. Create and renew alliances for strengthened advocacy.
  3. Mobilize resources more effectively, aligning relevant reproductive rights issues with vertical funding streams incorporated into sector-wide health budgets.

A diversity of thoughtful perspectives on ICPD’s ramifications for global population development and human rights agendas makes this book a cogent read for policymakers and reproductive health advocates.