Dean of School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine signs letter for reproductive rights

Recent patterns of political polarization have sparked debate about reproductive health both in the United States and around the world. Pierre Buekens, dean of the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, spoke out for reproductive rights and justice by signing a letter with his fellow members of the United Nations’ Human Reproductive Programme subgroups, the Scientific and Technical Advisory Group and the Gender and Rights Advisory Panel.

The letter, titled “Statement on the promotion, protection and fulfillment of sexual and reproductive health and rights,” calls for a continued movement forward on reproductive rights.

“We call on the international community, individual governments, private sector and others to protect everyone’s right to the highest attainable standards of sexual and reproductive health, safeguard the progress made to date, and take all necessary steps to sustain and expand national sexual and reproductive health programmes, as well as to protect and promote the independent research, evidence and implementation,” the letter reads.

Members of the group signed the letter as independent scientists. Buekens joined HRP six years ago as an American member of STAG. 

HRP, which mainly reviews and advises research, has never before written a public letter.  

“[HRP], which is a nonpolitical group, it’s really more a scientific and technical group, decided to write a letter and express its concern,” Buekens said.  “The letter had a lot of echo, especially after it was published, especially because it was coming from a group which is not suspicious of any political preferences.”

While the letter may have broader international focus and was signed by an international group of scientists, its main concerns address President Donald Trump’s actions relating to reproductive rights in the United States.

“We were very concerned to see that support for reproductive rights from the U.S. was questioned or in jeopardy,” Buekens said. “… So we wanted to express that concern by writing together a letter that we believe in a world without border, in a world in which woman and man have the right to decide what they want to do and where reproductive rights are guaranteed.”

With this domestically-directed concern, Buekens said he believed he had a different role as a signatory than those of other nations.

“I felt that it was especially important to sign as an American, being on that group to respectfully tell my president that the policy that he is proposing in terms of reproductive rights is probably not the best way to protect the interests of the U.S.,” Buekens said.

Buekens said he wishes that his opinion and those of his colleagues will reach the ears of those in charge of the United States government.

“I hope that all [of these] expressions of concern will encourage our legislators and our president to rethink policies and rear-end them,” Buekens said. “This is democracy. We always hope that by expressing our opinions we can contribute in a small way to this debate.”

Leave a Comment