Part 2: Beyond the pandemic: a public health crisis (Human Rights in the United States: 2023 Report)

Source: Alliance for Global Justice


If nothing else has, the Coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the inefficient, inaccessible, discriminatory and overall failed healthcare system of the United States. Regardless of being the most costly in the world, our privatized and for-profit healthcare system continues to fall starkly short of global standards. In addition to its failed outcomes, healthcare in the U.S. remains inaccessible to a significant portion of our population that can’t obtain employment-based insurance, don’t meet the qualifications for Medicaid or Medicare or simply can’t afford the out-of-pocket costs of care under their insurance plans.

Not only is quality healthcare in the U.S. a luxury few can afford and largely ineffective by public health standards, but it’s also utterly discriminatory: today’s treatments and services are founded on the dehumanization and abuse of women, people with disabilities and people of color as test subjects in scientific studies leading to the advancement of modern medicine. While once mass subjects of forced sterilizations and gynecological experiments that shackled them to hospital stretchers without anesthesia, Black and Brown women remain the least likely to have access to abortion and other forms of reproductive healthcare.

In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic and the recession, Black, Brown and Indigenous communities remain disproportionately impacted by public health crises, pressure on the healthcare system: it’s no coincidence that they’re significantly more likely to die of COVID-19 while also more likely to develop underlying health conditions that compromise their immunity and less likely to have access to the care they need to treat illness.

Our uniquely disdainful healthcare system that generates record profits for insurance companies, specialized care services and the pharmaceutical industry while making life-saving care inaccessible to millions isn’t failed per se – it’s by design. One can look to the many examples of successful healthcare systems in non-wealthy countries such as Cuba that, in spite of the life-threatening economic blockade imposed by the U.S., continues to protect the right to health as a universal and inalienable human right by ensuring access to quality care that’s not contingent on the commodification and devaluation of human life. 

This section dives into the public health crisis in the United States beyond the Coronavirus pandemic:

Violations of international human rights law

Violations of the Universal Declaration of Human RightsViolations of international human rights treaties

Identified articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights violated by the United States Federal Government:

  • Article 1: that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights
  • Article 2: that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, class or gender
  • Article 3: that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security
  • Article 5: that no one should be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • Article 16: that everyone has the right to found a family, and that the family is the most fundamental unit of society that is entitled to protection by the state
  • Article 25: that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of themselves and their families, including the right to medical care

Identified core international human rights treaties violated by the United States Federal Government:

  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination requires that countries revise governmental and other public policies and rescind laws and regulations that perpetuate racial discrimination and pass legislation for prohibiting such discrimination; particularly that which pertains to rights necessary for the advancement of social, economic and cultural rights; such healthcare. 
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights establishes a universal framework for the protection and preservation of the most basic economic, social and cultural rights all human beings are entitled to, including the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health. The United States is among a few states that have not ratified this treaty.
  • Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women provides a basis for realizing equality between women and men. It defends women’s equal access to healthcare and affirms their right to reproductive autonomy.
  • Convention on the Rights of Child, the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history not ratified by the United States, establishes a universal framework for the protection and advancement of the rights of children to grow, learn, play, develop and flourish with dignity. It affirms the responsibility of the state to protect children by ensuring that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for their care conform with acceptable standards of safety and health.

Featured articles

Healthcare for human rights, not profits: what the U.S. can learn from Cuba’s Coronavirus response

Source: Sven Creutzmann

By Natalia Burdynska (National Co-Coordinator)

“Perhaps no other country provides a better example of an antithesis to the failed U.S. healthcare system than Cuba, which in its own constitution affirms the right to health as a fundamental and inalienable human right. Whereas no priority is given in the U.S. to the ratification of international treaties regarding the right to health, Cuba’s nationalized healthcare is completely free and accessible to all at a tenth of the cost of GDP per-capita spending in the U.S.” (Read more)

Color of Covid: racial inequities in the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

Source: STAT News

By Camille Landry (National Co-Coordinator)

“The pain, suffering and deaths caused by SARS-Covid 19 in the United States shows the damage that racism and inequality wreak upon this nation. Brown, Indigenous and Black people have been disproportionately harmed, and this unequal burden is rooted in systemic racism. This represents a violation of human rights that affects millions of people in this nation, one that robs the world of the human potential that is lost to systemic racism and creates generational pain and suffering for people whose only ‘crime’ is to have been born non-white.” (Read more)

The criminalization of pregnancy is a miscarriage of justice


By Camille Landry (National Co-Coordinator)

“In this nation, this society, despite years of struggle and incremental progress, a significant portion of the adult population holds the attitude that women exist to be submissive, available, and useful to men, primarily as sexual objects, child-producing vessels, and ‘helpmeets’ – not fully autonomous, fully human beings in their own right. For every inch of progress women make in reaching a position of equity with white males, they are snatched backwards several feet by those who are determined to uphold the misogynistic status quo.” (Read more)

This chapter is part of a series in AFGJ’s Human Rights in the United States: 2023 Report

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