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Nancy Northup
Nancy Northup is the President of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global human rights organization that uses constitutional and international law to secure women’s reproductive freedom. The Center has brought groundbreaking cases before national courts, U.N. committees and regional human rights bodies and has built the legal capacity of women’s rights advocates in over 45 countries.

Ms. Northup joined the Center in 2003 with a rich mix of experience as a constitutional litigator, federal prosecutor and women’s rights advocate, plus a reputation for intelligence, passion and creativity. “I look forward to a time when a woman’s right to control her reproductive life is secured as a fundamental human right, which cannot be denied in the name of religion, culture or politics,” Ms. Northup declared at the time.

Since then, Ms. Northup has pursued that vision at the Center with bold, new strategies. Under her leadership, the Center has aggressively expanded its international program, including the launch of an international litigation campaign that has included the first abortion case decided by the U.N. Human Rights Committee and the first case to frame preventable maternal deaths as a human rights violation. Building on its established reputation as first-rate litigators, the Center has also taken the human rights framework into its work in the U.S. It is now documenting U.S. rights violations through fact-finding reports and holding the U.S. accountable before U.N. bodies that monitor compliance with international treaty obligations. In 2008, Ms. Northup led the Center to establish the Law School Initiative to promote legal scholarship and teaching on reproductive health and human rights, an emerging body of transnational law not yet widely taught in U.S. law schools. This ground-breaking effort will shape the thinking of the next generation of lawyers, judges and policymakers through fellowships for recent law school graduates, a visiting scholars’ program, curriculum development, conferences and publications.

Before coming to the Center, Ms. Northup was the founding director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. From 1989 to 1996, she served as a prosecutor and Deputy Chief of Appeals in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Ms. Northup graduated from Brown University and Columbia Law School, where she was a Kent Scholar and Managing Editor of the Columbia Law Review. She served as a law clerk to the Honorable Alvin B. Rubin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans. Ms. Northup holds adjunct appointments at NYU Law School and Columbia Law School where she has taught courses in constitutional and human rights law. She recently joined the Council on Foreign Relations.

A frequent public speaker, Ms. Northup is quoted widely in the national press and has appeared on ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, CNN, FOX News, PBS, MSNBC and NPR.

Ms. Northup was born in Kokomo, Indiana and grew up in New York, Texas and California. She serves on the Board of Trustees of All Souls Church, where she has also taught Sunday school. Ms. Northup lives in New York City with her teenage daughter and son.

Entries by Nancy Northup

Dropping the Pretext: North Dakota Takes a Frontal Attack on Roe v. Wade

(0) Comments | Posted June 5, 2014 | 6:01 PM

Last March, North Dakota enacted a blatantly unconstitutional and downright archaic law completely banning abortions very early in the first trimester, before many women will even know they are pregnant.

This criminal abortion ban flies directly in the face of women's fundamental and constitutionally-protected right to control their bodies...

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An Open Letter to President Obama

(1) Comments | Posted May 22, 2013 | 5:06 PM

Dear President Obama:

You made a promise to the women of the United States last year on the campaign trail -- and just a few weeks ago, you said it again:

"As long as we've got to fight to make sure women have access to quality, affordable health...
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The Fight for Women's Reproductive Rights Can't Just Be About Winning or Losing the Abortion War

(9) Comments | Posted January 17, 2013 | 10:28 AM

With the 40th anniversary this month of the historic Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade has come a steady stream of op-eds, features, and debates in the media -- with many, like a recent cover story in TIME, taking the position that abortion rights supporters have been losing in terms...

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Getting Reproductive Rights out of Politics

(3) Comments | Posted November 5, 2012 | 1:36 PM

When I tell people that I work on reproductive rights, most immediately assume I'm engaged in partisan election battles. "Nope," I respond, "I'm working to get reproductive rights out of politics."

The idea that this issue could ever be extricated from the heated political debates currently on display strikes most...

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The Abortion Battle: Is the Pro-Choice Movement Gun-Shy?

(123) Comments | Posted May 7, 2011 | 3:08 PM

There's no question that the anti-choice takeover of state capitols has emboldened zealots to aggressively push through as many abortion restrictions as possible. It seems like every day there's news about the hundreds of bills percolating in state legislatures across the country. Bill sponsors keep upping the ante...

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The Budget Resolution Is a Blow to Women in D.C.

(11) Comments | Posted April 11, 2011 | 11:43 AM

Too often in Washington, women's health is used as the bargaining chip in political skirmishes and too often, low-income women pay the price.

While last week, the White House and Congressional leaders managed to head off a government shutdown and reject House proposals to strip funding from family planning...

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New Bill Would Allow Religious Hospitals to Deny Life-Saving Emergency Care

(91) Comments | Posted February 14, 2011 | 3:58 PM

Would you ask someone else to die for your religious beliefs? A new proposal moving through Congress makes clear that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops apparently expects everyone to die for theirs. The same members of Congress who last week attempted to dial back the definition of rape to...

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Center for Reproductive Rights' Letter to CBS: Tebow Story Raises Serious Accuracy Questions

(47) Comments | Posted January 28, 2010 | 1:34 PM

Matthew Margo
Senior Vice President of Program Practices, East Coast
CBS Corporation
51 W. 52 St.
New York, NY 10019

Dear Mr. Margo,

We are writing to request that CBS reconsider its decision to air an advertisement by the anti-choice group Focus...

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An Open Letter To Secretary Clinton About The Gross Neglect Of Women's Reproductive Rights In India

(2) Comments | Posted November 24, 2009 | 8:01 PM

Dear Secretary Clinton,

As advocates for women's health and human rights, we write to request your support on a matter of utmost importance for Indian women. We hope that this week when you meet with the Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, you underscore the dire state of...

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Misremembering Dr. Tiller: How Law & Order Got It Wrong

(24) Comments | Posted October 29, 2009 | 6:45 PM

It's never a good idea to look to primetime television for a fair and accurate depiction of the abortion debate. Without fail, TV writers stretch the facts for dramatic effect, oversimplifying choices. Last Friday's Law & Order episode was no exception. The show's "balanced and thought-provoking" take on abortion...

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The Tiller Murder and Its Ramifications: Violence Against Doctors Harms Women Seeking Services

(0) Comments | Posted June 3, 2009 | 9:43 AM

This piece was originally published on

In 2007, 38-year-old Sarah Coe* and her husband were finally having their first child, after trying to get pregnant for three years. In her twenty-second week of pregnancy, Sarah's doctors diagnosed a severe condition which denies oxygen to the brain and leads to...

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Obama Budget Ignores Healthcare Needs of Millions of Women

(6) Comments | Posted May 7, 2009 | 6:03 PM

I am deeply disappointed with President Obama's failure to strike government funding restrictions on abortion, particularly the Hyde Amendment, from his proposed budget for 2010. The budget does, however, propose defunding abstinence-only sex education and creating programs aimed at reducing teen pregnancy.

The Hyde Amendment bans federal funding for...

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Rewriting Science Fiction: Editing Politics from Plan B

(1) Comments | Posted March 19, 2009 | 12:46 PM

Science was glaringly absent the past eight years in policies created by the Bush administration's federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services. Increased emissions of the most significant forms of air pollution were touted as "clear skies." The birth...

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Bush Just Couldn't Leave Quietly

(1) Comments | Posted December 18, 2008 | 3:44 PM

Just over a month before President George W. Bush's departure from office, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today issued a new regulation that will drastically hinder women's ability to get reproductive health services--including basic care such as contraception, counseling and information necessary to make decisions about their...

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Women's Human Rights and the Hope of Hillary Clinton

(0) Comments | Posted December 10, 2008 | 10:12 AM

Millions of women heaved a collective sigh of relief with the election of Barack Obama, looking forward to an end to the Bush administration's relentless assault on women's reproductive health and rights. Now, as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we've been given more...

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A Quick Sigh of Relief, Now Let's Get to Work Rebuilding Reproductive Rights

(13) Comments | Posted November 12, 2008 | 11:55 PM

The election of Barack Obama heralds at long last a season of promise and opportunity: the chance to improve the lives of millions of Americans and people throughout the world by ending the Bush administration's horrific war on women and making reproductive health a priority for U.S. law and policy....

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