Rhonda Copelon and her Global Family of Friends
by Linda Stein
On May 6, 2010, pioneering human rights attorney, Rhonda Copelon, CUNY School of Law professor and Vice-President of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) died at age 65, after a four-year battle with ovarian cancer.
Copelon was noted for her key role in the landmark human rights case, Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, establishing that victims of gross human rights abuses committed abroad had recourse to U.S. courts. She was a champion of women’s reproductive health and argued to the U.S. Supreme Court, Harris v. McRae, for the overturning of the Hyde Amendment that denied women Medicaid reimbursement for abortion, a position rejected by a narrow margin.
She helped open U.S. courts to victims of international abuses, especially cases involving violence against women, and argued forcefully and creatively for women's reproductive rights.
In the weeks before her death, Copelon announced the establishment of the Copelon Fund for Gender Justice at CCR for which she has provided the seed funding. A contributor to On the Issues Magazine, Copelon, was beloved by her students and clients, helping them personally as well as professionally. Her friends reached across many continents and, in the end, gave back to Copelon the extraordinary love, caring and support she so generously bestowed on others.
Rhonda Copelon was a role model of integrity, strength, intelligence and perseverance.
© Linda Stein, All proceeds from the sale of Copelon portrait (based on a photo by Jim Block) will go directly to the Copelon Fund for Gender Justice, under the auspices of the Center for Constitutional Rights. To purchase a portrait, go to haveartwilltravel.org and scroll down to the Copelon portrait.
Linda Stein is art editor of On The Issues Magazine.