Project on Gender, Health and Justice

About the Project

According to the World Health Organization, "the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being." However, for many women and LGBT individuals around the world, the promise of health remains unfulfilled. Gender discrimination, stereotyping and socio-economic vulnerability create barriers to obtaining high quality health services for women, and members of LGBT communities.

International human rights-based frameworks can provide one tool for promoting health. Domestic legal systems also provide opportunities for creating responsive and comprehensive health systems. Too often, however, law makers at both the international and domestic levels fail to take into the gendered dimensions of health policy, such as women’s particular health needs, the importance of pre- and post- natal care as well as sexual and reproductive health services, the special needs of women with disabilities or people living with HIV/AIDS, challenges faced by transgender and intersex individuals in obtaining needed services, the unique situations of indigenous or ethnic minority women, the overrepresentation of female workers in low-wage health care jobs, and caretaking obligations which fall disproportionately on female family members. On the flip side, public health officials often respond to the immediate needs on the ground, but fail to take into account how the structure of a health care system often reflects or even reinforces gender-based biases.

Developing and maintaining strong public health systems that take into account the needs and concerns of women and LGBT community members will require the expertise of legal practitioners who are well versed in international human rights law and domestic legal and policy frameworks, as well as attentive to the gender-based structures which impede enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.

Project Activities

To meet the need for legal practitioners with this expertise, the Women and the Law Program has launched the “Project on Gender, Health and Justice.” Drawing upon the expertise of American University Washington College of Law faculty in the areas of Gender and Law, International Law, Law and Government, and Health Law and Policy, this project will provide a framework for the Women and the Law Program to:

New Resource: Reproductive Justice Lawyering CLE Webinar Series

The Women and the Law Program (WILP) and Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ) have created a brand new “Reproductive Justice Lawyering Webinar Series.” Part of the ongoing collaboration between the Women and Law Program and LSRJ, the purpose of this series is to allow practicing attorneys to engage with the legal implications of current reproductive justice issues while fulfilling their Continuing Legal Education requirements. We know that attorneys across the country are interested in these issues, yet may not practice specifically in this area of the law. By offering this webinar series, we hope to give attorneys the opportunity to learn about emerging issues and to facilitate a sense of community for those attorneys in more isolated areas.

Project Publications


Angie McCarthy, State Obligations to Protect the Lives and Health of Women After Abortion or Miscarriage, Human Rights Brief, Volume 21, Issue 2 (2014).



Angie McCarthy, On Fertile Ground: The Environmental and Reproductive Justice Movements as a Unified Force for Reforming Toxic Chemical Regulation, Sustainable Development Law & Policy Brief, Volume 13, Issue 1 (2012).



Articles and Working Group Recommendations from the Inaugural Conference on Global Health, Gender, and Human Rights, Health Law & Policy Brief, Volume 6, Issue 2 (2012).

The Right to Health of Young People and Gender Identities: Trends and Targets for Public Health Action (2011), Written by American University Washington College of Law alumni Javier Vásquez, LL.M. '96, PAHO Regional Human Rights Law Advisor (GDR), and Cristina Leria, LL.M. '09, PAHO Consultant on Health and Human Rights, the report was reviewed by Daniela Kraiem, Associate Director, Women and the Law Program, American University Washington College of Law, among others.