The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) was established in 1992 as the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy. Its founder was the late Janet Benshoof (1947-2017), an attorney who also served as director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, and as founder/president of the Global Justice Center. CRR’s mission is to “us[e] the power of law to advance reproductive rights as fundamental human rights around the world.” Since 2003, the organization’s president has been Nancy Northup, who was previously the founding director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.
On a variety of seminal issues related to abortion rights, CRR:
- argues that a ban on the procedure commonly known as “partial-birth abortion” would be an “unconstitutional assault on the right to choose”;
- seeks to promote acceptance of abortion-on-demand in other countries across the globe, and pushes the U.S. to support worldwide abortion rights through the United Nations;
- maintains that adolescent girls should be free to undergo abortion procedures without parental notification, on the premise that notification requirements are nothing more than schemes by which “anti-choice forces” aim to “make abortion inaccessible to as many women as possible”;
- opposes any mandatory pre-abortion counseling or education programs in abortion clinics, depicting such initiatives – and their use of “descriptions of fetal development, adoption programs, and state laws requiring fathers to pay child support” – as “biased” attempts to “persuade women to carry their pregnancies to term”;
- has frankly acknowledged its intent to use abortion as a “litmus test” issue governing its decisions to support or oppose federal judge nominees, including Supreme Court Justices;
- endorses RU-486 (Mifepristone, the so-called “abortion pill”), and has encouraged the FDA to make that product available without a prescription; and
- opposes the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, legislation that would make it a federal crime for an adult to transport a pregnant minor across state lines in order to help her avoid whatever abortion-restriction laws may exist in her home state.
Rejecting any attempts to grant the legal status of “person” to the unborn, CRR opposed the 2004 Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which made it an added criminal offense for a perpetrator to injure or kill a fetus while carrying out a crime against a pregnant woman.
Seeking to ensure that abortion centers are allowed to operate unimpeded, CRR has filed state and federal lawsuits demanding access to taxpayer-funded abortions (through Medicaid) for low-income women. Other noteworthy legal actions taken by CRR include the following:
- In 2011, CRR joined Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina and the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation in filing a lawsuit challenging the Women’s Right to Know Act, a state law requiring women to undergo an ultrasound examination four hours before having an abortion, and also requiring a doctor to place the ultrasound image in the woman’s view while describing it to her.
- In 2013 in North Dakota, CRR filed a lawsuit aimed at blocking a newly enacted state ban on abortions in all cases where a fetal heartbeat was medically “detectable,” which could be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The suit also challenged the constitutionality of two additional measures adopted by the North Dakota legislature earlier that year: one barring abortions because of genetic defects detected in the fetus, and another outlawing abortions for the purpose of sex selection. CRR president Nancy Northrup asserted that these measures “seek to interfere directly in personal, private medical decisions that the Constitution and more than 40 years of U.S. Supreme Court precedent guarantee to women as a fundamental right.”
- In 2013 as well, CRR filed a lawsuit forcing the Obama administration to drop its effort to restrict over-the-counter access to Plan B One-Step—an abortifacient popularly known as the “morning-after” pill.
- That same year, CRR led the legal fight against laws banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which 12 states had passed since 2010.
- In June 2013 in Kansas, CRR filed a lawsuit aiming to block HB 2253, a state law that placed a number of restrictions on access to abortion – restrictions that, by CRR’s calculus, were unconstitutional.
- In 2015, CRR went before the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge a Republican-backed Texas law requiring that abortion clinics be housed in hospital-grade facilities, and that they be staffed by physicians who had admitting privileges at a hospital located within 30 miles of the clinic.
For a listing and description of all the major cases which CRR has brought before national courts, United Nations committees, and regional human rights bodies, click here.
CRR’s overriding objective is to guarantee abortion-on-demand as a basic, worldwide human right. By extension, those opposing abortion-on-demand would be in violation of human rights legislation and therefore liable for arrest and punishment at the hands of an international tribunal.
CRR is an “ally” of the Abortion Care Network (ACN), a coalition whose mission is to “ensur[e] meaningful access to abortion care in this country” and to “challenge … social norms that bully, shame and marginalize people seeking and providing care.” The ACN has received funding from George Soros‘s Open Society Foundations.
CRR is a member organization of the National Council of Women’s Organizations.
Among the major philanthropies that support CRR are the Compton Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Scherman Foundation, the Turner Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.