Human Rights Policy and Nonprofit Organizational Development


The decriminalisation of abortion in Mexico City: How did abortion rights become a political priority? Co-authored with  Sánchez Fuentes, María Luisa and Paine, Jennifer

Gender & Development, 16:2, 345 — 360, July 2008.

I co-authored this article while working with the Information Group on Reproductive Choice (GIRE) in Mexico City.  The other authors are GIRE’s Executive Director and Special Projects Coordinator.  The article draws on current international public health policy theory.

Abstract: In the last decade, there has been a clear tendency toward liberalizing abortion laws at the international level. In April 2007, this trend reached the Federal District of Mexico City. Landmark legislation decriminalized abortion on demand up to 12 weeks of gestation. In a region where abortion is still legally proscribed and stigmatized to the detriment of women’s health, lives, and rights. What explains Mexico City’s historic decriminalization of abortion? How and why did this issue become a political priority? To analyse this question, we propose applying a framework (developed by Jeremy Shiffman and Stephanie Smith) on the generation of political priorities for global health initiatives to the case study of the decriminalization of abortion in Mexico City. We find that such an analysis of the Mexico City process, using Shiffman and Smith’s four categories, combined with our perspective as NGO activists, offers a compelling and comprehensive explanation of this historic advance toward the recognition of women’s abortion rights.

Available as a pdf here.

Can be purchased from Routledge via Informaworld.

. . .

Reproductive Justice for Women in Mexico

Theoria: A Journal of Feminist Theories and Practices, Vol. 9, 321 — 331, January 2009.

This article is published in a Korean feminist journal.  The writing draws heavily on institutional analysis of the Information Group on Reproductive Choice (GIRE), an abortion rights policy group in Mexico City that I worked for in the period following the passage of the Mexico City law.

Abstract:  Abortion rights are critical to women’s enjoyment of all other human rights including civil and political rights and participation in democracy. Internationally, reproductive justice has increasingly become recognized as a critical social justice, human rights and public health issue. In Mexico in 2007 this trend played out in the decriminalization of abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation, putting the capital city at the forefront of Latin American reproductive health policy. The law’s passage came at a critical political and social juncture in Mexican society and reflected years of struggle by Mexican activists. The law itself was extremely progressive from a public health standpoint, making its implementation more feasible. It was soon challenged, however, by two national bodies before the Supreme Court. Arguments took place over the course of a year, and in August of 2008 the court decided in favor of the law’s constitutionality. The arguments presented in the Supreme Court case reflected various facets of the law’s significance, including the international character of a woman’s right to choose, the public health consequences of the criminalization of abortion, and the constitutionality of the legal elements of the policy.

Available as a pdf in English here.

. . .

The Human Rights Framework and Abortion

In Voices: The Choice Debate Newsletter, published by Seattle University’s School of Law’s Chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice.

Abstract:  International human rights law makes up a critical legal and theoretical framework for advocacy, and provides NGOs and activists with a tool and a language when addressing national and local governments. Human rights can and should inform legislation and public policies. By conceiving of the individual as an international citizen and the subject of internationally valued rights, the human rights framework also creates an atmosphere of empowerment to demand fulfillment of rights rather than of deficit and weakness.

In recent years, the human rights framework has been increasingly utilized by reproductive rights activists to defend and advance abortion rights. There is a growing body of international jurisprudence that supports states’ recognition of reproductive rights as human rights. This article lays out the basic structure and foundations of human rights law at the international and regional levels. It uses the passage of legislation decriminalizing abortion in Mexico’s capital city as a case study for the use of human rights arguments and tools to advocate for reproductive rights at the local and national levels. In order to illustrate concepts outlined in the article, I will trace the role of human rights frameworks in the legislation decriminalizing abortion in Mexico, and later the law’s defense against unconstitutionality claims at the level of the federal Supreme Court.

Available online as a pdf here.

. . .

An Examination of the Effectiveness of Lessons-Learned Reporting within the Humanitarian Sector, Research Team

Ontko, M. et al. The Journal of Information Technology in Social Change, pages 28–48, April 2007.

I worked on the research team for this article while doing coursework in development and humanitarian relief at the University of Washington.  The research took place through the UW’s Information School.

Abstract: This study provides an analysis of lessons recorded in after-action reports authored within the humanitarian relief sector. From 59 source documents, 685 individual lesson statements were identified and evaluated to assess their likely effectiveness in achieving sector improvement, based on the presence of two key elements: (1) an action describing steps to be taken to improve the situation, and (2) an identified actor or actors responsible for implementing those steps. Of the 685 lesson statements identified, only 12 percent contained both key elements; 58 percent did not identify a related action, and 84 percent did not identify a corresponding actor. These findings support the view that many lessons learned reports merely record observations without providing the information needed to facilitate process change. Authorial intent and writing purpose may not be to actually achieve organizational improvement. Suggestions are made for future efforts that might aid the sector in developing and sharing lessons that can lead to sector change and quality improvement.

Journal available for free download here.

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