Human Rights and the Contraceptive Imperative - March 2016

9 March 2016, 13h-14h30, IHSP, Charles Meredith House

10 March 2016, 12h30-14h, NCDH 316, Faculty of Law

Professor Joanna Erdman, MacBain Chair in Health Law and Policy, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University

(Co-sponsored with the IHSP and the Canada Research Chair in Collaborative Culture in Health Law and Policy)


This paper examines the upsurge in global advocacy on and for human rights in family planning, and claims that like so many other fields in human rights, family planning has become depoliticized. Its language of choice and access occludes primary causes of violations, the precarious conditions of the labor market, the sexual division of care work, and the gender dimensions of economic restructuring which structure peoples’ lives and often leave pregnancy as the only source of social and economic security. The human rights agenda turns rather to more manageable projects in health service delivery, protecting the individual from harm versus offering a program of social justice. Human rights in family planning are defined by the guarantee of choice and access within socio-economic constraints, each individual empowered as a responsible agent and accountable for their own well-being. This is the same belief that sustains economic relations of social inequality, including the disparagement and disillusionment of the state and of public health systems as social institutions. Human rights in family planning have become estranged from political empowerment and collective action, delinking reproduction from economic resources, secure livelihoods and participation in public life.


Joanna Erdman is an assistant professor and the inaugural MacBain Chair in Health Law and Policy at the Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University. Her research focuses on sexual and reproductive health law in a transnational context. She has published in leading journals on harm reduction in safe abortion, the regulation of emergency contraception, and human papillomavirus vaccines policy, and she is the co-editor of the recent collection, Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies (UPenn Press, 2014).

Joanna chairs the Global Health Advisory Committee of the Public Health Program, Open Society Foundations and the Gender and Rights Panel of the Human Reproduction Programme, World Health Organization.

Joanna received her BA and JD degrees from the University of Toronto and her LLM from Harvard, and completed a fellowship at Yale Law School.

Challenging state health policies in Europe under the right to private and family life

20 January 2016, 12:30-14:00, NCDH 316

The McGill Research Group on Health and Law (RGHL) was delighted to have Dr. Ivana Isailovic present its second seminar of the 2015-2016 academic year on "Challenging state health policies in Europe under the right to private and family life".​

The presentation discussed how European state health measures have been challenged before the European Court of Human Rights under the right to private and family life, which is enshrined in article 8 of the European Human Rights Convention. It also analyzed how the Court’s decisions have evolved, drawing on recent cases related to women’s access to abortion and transgender individuals’ demands for legal gender change. It highlighted some of the consequences of this interpretation of the Convention, which may have unintended effects on these individuals’ human rights.

Ivana Isailovic est Boursière Boulton à l'Université McGill. Elle a travaillé à la Equality Law Clinic, laquelle est rattachée au Centre Perelman de philosophie du droit et à l’Institut d’Études Européennes (IEE) de l’Université libre de Bruxelles. Ses intérêts de recherche se portent sur les activistes en matière de droit à l'avortement et les communautés transgenres. Elle a un PhD en droit des Sciences Po et un Master’s en droit international de l'Université Paris 1 Sorbonne.

Managing Risks Related to Modern Biotechnologies and their Foods

30 November 2015, 13:00-14:30, NCDH 316

The Research Group on Health and Law, in collaboration with the McGill School of Environment, was delighted to welcome Professor Ludivine Petetin.

The development of modern biotechnologies (including genetic modification of plants and animals, and animal cloning) and their resulting foods has been controversial. They allegedly are underpinned by scientific uncertainty. To regulate such technologies and to ensure information and safety, the European Union has adopted a precautionary approach. More specifically, the EU regulatory frameworks rely on premarket authorization and mandatory labelling. An analysis of the policy and regulatory provisions addressing modern biotechnologies and their derived products in the EU shows that gaps in the law and asymmetric relationships between competing European and national policies pose great risks to the EU food system and the environment.

Dr. Ludivine Petetin is an Assistant Professor at the School of Law of the University of Hull in the United Kingdom. Her research focuses on the policy, law and regulation of food, agriculture and environmental protection. In particular, she is interested in food security, agri-technology, sustainable agriculture, and investigates public participation and governance issues. She is a co-founder of the recently established @FEED (Agriculture, Technology, Food, Environment, Energy and Democracy) Research Centre at the University of Hull. She has been a Visiting Scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Visiting Lecturer at the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies (Italy). Dr. Petetin holds postgraduate degrees from Paris II Panthéon-Assas in France, the University of Glasgow and the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. From September 2015, she serves as the British Deputy National Delegate of the European Council for Agricultural Law (CEDR).

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