Participation in Scientific Research, Access to Reproductive Rights and the Right to Sexual and Reproductive Health: the Approach of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in S.C. and G.P. v. Italy Communication


Abstract: On the 7th of March 2019, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) adopted its views on a communication which was submitted to it by S.C. and G.P., Italian nationals, against Italy. The authors complained that several actions of the Italian authorities – Italy being one of the States Parties to the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP-ICESCR) – interfered with and constituted a breach of theirs rights under article 10 (the right to the widest possible protection of the family), article 12 (right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health – often referred to as the right to health) and article 15 (the right to benefit from scientific progress and its applications) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Being one of the few communications in which, so far, the CESCR adopted views and being also the first one to have a submission under article 15 of the Covenant, the aims of this paper are those of presenting the facts of case, the claims, the submissions and the arguments of the authors, as well as the views of the Committee – which limited its findings to a violation of article 12, alone and in conjunction with article 3 – and to discuss the approach and the concrete solution which was adopted by the Committee in this communication. Thus, the paper will first summarize the facts of the communication (Section II); it will continue with the claims and submission of the authors (Section III); it will then touch upon and briefly analyse the qualification of the communication by the Committee, the admissibility criteria and the views adopted (Section IV) finally, it will conclude by evaluating the communication in the context in which the CESCR is just building up its own jurisprudence under the ICESCR and OP-ICESCR and in light of a work-in-progress new General Comment on the relation between economic, social and cultural rights and science (Section V).

Key-words: reproductive rights, right to health, participation in scientific research, sexual and reproductive health, access to reproductive rights, informed consent, the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, CESCR jurisprudence, scientific research, regulation of in vitro fertilization, research on human embryos, genetic disorders, assisted reproductive technology, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, ESC rights and science.

*Associate Professor of Public International Law at Lucian Blaga University, Faculty of Law, Sibiu, Romania, Member of the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (2017-2020) – currently serving as one of its vice-chairs – and Member of the Council of Europe’s Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (2016-2020), e-mail: The opinions expressed in this paper are solely the author’s and do not engage the institution/s she belongs to.

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