5.26.2021 (PRESS RELEASE) — The Center for Reproductive Rights commends Senators Robert Menendez(D-NJ), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Representatives Katherine Clark (MA-05), Gregory Meeks (NY-05), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Grace Meng (NY-06), Norma Torres (CA-35), and Sara Jacobs (CA-53) on the reintroduction of the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act of 2021. This bill requires the State Department to include the status of reproductive rights in nearly 150 countries as part of its annual human rights assessment and report to Congress and the President.
“The Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act will align the State Department’s reporting requirements with well-established human rights standards. Sexual and reproductive rights are human rights, grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the core human rights treaties, including those ratified by the United States. They are essential to the realization of the rights to life, health, equality and non-discrimination, privacy, information, and freedom from ill-treatment, among other rights,” said Lourdes Rivera, Senior Vice President of U.S. Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “It is imperative that the United States government recognize and consistently report on these human rights and the myriad of ways that governments restrict and violate the rights of women, girls and LGBTQI people around the world.”
Under the Trump administration, the reporting on broader reproductive rights issues, such as access to safe abortion services, contraception, quality maternal health care, and family planning information was cut from the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices or Human Rights Reports as part of a coordinated effort to erase sexual and reproductive rights (SRHR) as human rights. In March 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that reporting on sexual and reproductive rights will be restored in future reports and that the State Department will create an addendum to the 2020 Human Rights Reports–which were prepared and drafted under the Trump administration–to include the status of reproductive rights. The Center applauded this move and the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to protecting and promoting sexual and reproductive rights as human rights. The Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act will mandate this reporting, under every administration.
The State Department’s Human Rights Reports, in addition to being a guidance document for Congress and the administration, are also a powerful accountability tool used by politicians, lawyers, judges, advocates, and civil society. By reporting on the full scope of restrictions and issues that women, girls, transgender, and nonbinary people face when trying to access reproductive health care, the reports can help those communities hold their governments accountable for advancing and upholding their human rights.
The Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act of 2021 is cosponsored by 144 Members of Congress and endorsed by 45 civil society organizations, including the Center:
American Jewish World Service, Amnesty International USA, Catholics for Choice, Center for Biological Diversity, CHANGE (Center for Health and Gender Equity), Council for Global Equality, Global Health Council, Global Justice Center, Guttmacher Institute, Heartland Alliance International, Human Rights Campaign, Ibis Reproductive Health, If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), International Women’s Health Coalition, Ipas, Jewish Women International, John Snow, Inc. (JSI), Management Sciences for Health, MPact: Global Action for Gay Health & Rights, MSI Reproductive Choices, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), National Birth Equity Collaborative, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Organization for Women, National Women’s Health Network, Oxfam America, PAI, Pathfinder International, People For the American Way, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Population Connection Action Fund, Population Institute, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, University of Miami School of Law Human Rights Clinic, Women Deliver, Women’s Refugee Commission, and Woodhull Freedom Foundation.
“As reproductive rights are under daily assault across the world, the United States must lead the collective commitment to advance fundamental rights and freedoms for all rather than undermine the rights of some. With this bicameral bill, we are doing our part to stand in solidarity with women, girls, and LGBTQI+ people the world over whose access to vital sexual and reproductive health care has been severely obstructed or entirely suspended,” said Chairman Menendez. “This legislation makes it abundantly clear: Reproductive rights are human rights. By requiring the State Department to include reproductive rights assessments in its annual reporting, we are making sure lawmakers get the full, unvarnished picture of a nation’s human rights record when formulating U.S. foreign policy.”
“Reproductive rights are human rights. The ability to access reproductive care is a key part of the survival and success of women, girls, and LGBTQ+ people around the world,” said Assistant Speaker Clark. “The State Department’s human rights reports empower lawmakers to take action against bad actors, enact policy, and advocate for the fair treatment of all people. We have to permanently include reproductive rights in that reporting to maintain current human rights standards and meet the real needs of our international partners.”
Women’s health and bodies should not be up for debate. Reproductive care is a human right,” said Senator Shaheen. “The U.S. plays an important role as an advocate for women’s fundamental rights around the world, but we can’t do so without comprehensive information and reporting on the status of reproductive care. The State Department’s annual human rights report is a key tool for accountability around women’s access to basic health. The Trump administration’s decision to remove this from previous reports had dangerous consequences for women’s health, equality and freedom around the globe. That’s why I’m working with Congress and the Biden administration to stop the politicization of this reporting and restore transparency around the state of reproductive rights throughout the world.”
“This legislation restores reporting on global reproductive rights, resoundingly reaffirming that reproductive rights are human rights,” said Senator Blumenthal. “The Trump administration’s purge of this vital information from the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices was reprehensible and deeply harmful. Congress must pass this bill to right this wrong, and ensure fundamental reproductive rights are respected around the world and at home.”
“It is well known that improved access to family planning services is closely linked to improving health outcomes, addressing poverty, and jumpstarting economic growth,” said Senator Booker. “The lives of millions are put at risk when families are denied access to evidence-based information and quality maternal and child health care. I’m proud to support this this bill, which will not only help ensure comprehensive health care programs are made available to women and children in some of the world’s poorest countries, but also help shed light on the barriers faced by LGBTQI+ persons as they seek the reproductive health services they are too often denied.”
Statement from Rori Kramer, Director of US Advocacy, American Jewish World Service
“We welcome the leadership of Senator Menendez, Representative Clark, and their colleagues in introducing the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act. Over the last four years, the Trump administration unjustly politicized sexual and reproductive health and rights for marginalized individuals, including women, girls, and LGBTQI+ people. This legislation would ensure that the State Department adheres to the international human rights system and reaffirms that the reproductive rights of all people – regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics – are recognized.”
Statement from Amanda Klasing, interim women’s rights co-director at Human Rights Watch:
“Women’s fundamental human rights do not change with US administrations. They are part and parcel of the international human rights system. State Department reporting on violations of reproductive rights should not be subject to whiplash between the policies of the occupants of the White House. Congress has an important role to ensure that the US is consistently and unbiasedly reporting on the rights violations that impact women around the world, without political interference.”
Statement from Katherine Olivera, assistant program officer, International Women’s Health Coalition
“By passing the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act, Congress would ensure that no future administration politicizes or undermines the integrity of the State Department’s Human Rights Reports. Instances of reproductive coercion, criminalization of pregnancy-related outcomes, and barriers to sexual and reproductive health access, especially in marginalized communities, would no longer be willfully ignored.”
Statement from Nabeeha Kazi Hutchins, President and CEO of PAI:
“I welcome the introduction of this legislation which makes critical and long overdue updates to how the United States reports on reproductive rights around the world in its annual human rights reports,” said PAI President and CEO Nabeeha Kazi Hutchins. “While we are pleased that the Biden-Harris Administration is resuming reporting on a full range of reproductive rights issues, this legislation provides a framework that all future administrations can follow. We at PAI look forward to working with Congress to pass the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act.”
Statement from Caitlin Horrigan, director of global advocacy, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“Sexual and reproductive rights are human rights — full stop. Everyone deserves access to comprehensive health care, no matter who they are or where they live. The State Department cannot ever be allowed to censor their reports and ignore reproductive rights. Planned Parenthood is committed to promoting and expanding sexual and reproductive rights in the U.S. and around the globe. We applaud Rep. Clark, Sen. Menendez, and other health care champions in Congress for reaffirming that reproductive rights are human rights and ensuring that is reflected in annual State Department reports. Congress must swiftly pass the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act into law.”
Statement of Serra Sippel, President of CHANGE (Center for Health and Gender Equity):
“Ensuring reproductive rights are included in our foreign policy is a step forward for all human rights,” said Serra Sippel, President of CHANGE (Center for Health and Gender Equity). “This legislation puts the U.S. government on course to fully embrace a global SRHR agenda. As Secretary Blinken has stated, ‘women’s rights – including sexual and reproductive rights – are human rights,’ and without basic human rights for all, there is no gender equality.”
Statement of Anu Kumar, President and CEO Anu Kumar of Ipas:
“We know that restrictive abortion laws and policies threaten the health, well-being and lives of people across the globe. Abortion is health care, health care is a human right, and everyone—no matter where they live—should have access. The Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act is an important part of a crucial legislative effort, along with the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act and the Global HER Act, that will bring us closer to reproductive justice for millions of people.”
Statement from Kathleen Mogelgaard, President and CEO, Population Institute:
When governments restrict people’s ability to plan their families, they are attacking a fundamental human right. The freedom to choose whether and when to become a parent is a vital component of our economic, social, and political rights. Unacceptably, for the last four years, reproductive rights violations were eliminated from the State Department’s human rights reports. By passing the Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act, Congress can ensure that the United States will always shine a light on efforts to take away people’s reproductive freedom around the world.
Statement from Gayatri Patel, VP of External Relations at Women’s Refugee Commission:
“Sexual and reproductive health must be included in annual country reports about human rights practices, reports which look at – among other things – the well-being of marginalized populations,” said Gayatri Patel, VP of External Relations at Women’s Refugee Commission. “Among the most marginalized globally are refugee women and youth. A recent study by the Women’s Refugee Commission shows that refugees, including adolescents and persons with disabilities, face heighted barriers to sexual and reproductive health in humanitarian settings – despite demand. This action would also put the U.S. in line with international efforts to better elevate reproductive health within human rights. It’s pretty straightforward – reproductive rights are human rights. We thank Senator Menendez and Representative Clark for their leadership on this critical issue.”
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