New bill demands Department of State stop neglecting vital data on reproductive health care from its annual report on global human rights
The Trump administration has made no secret of its commitment to erasing women from the global human rights conversation—going so far as to literally remove important reproductive rights data from the U.S. Department of State’s annual report on human rights. To put a stop to this deletion, Congress introduced a bill on March 7, the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act, that requires the reinstatement of this information.
The Reports, which are released each spring, are a key resource for policymakers, advocates, immigration judges, refugee and asylum officers, journalists, academics, and human rights bodies. They inform policy and decision-making on a broad range of issues and are used to hold governments accountable for abuses. The sections that were removed included vital reporting on rates of unsafe abortions; denial of family planning information; rates and causes of maternal mortality; and discrimination, coercion, and violence against women in health care settings.
Access to reproductive care – which includes family planning information, contraception, pre-and post-natal care, and safe abortion – is an internationally recognized and fundamental human right. By eliminating this information, the Department of State is intentionally hindering the ability of researchers, healthcare workers, and activists to measure the negative impacts of the Trump administration’s regressive international policies—most notably the expanded Global Gag Rule, which prevents U.S.-supported international family planning groups abroad from using their own funds to provide safe and legal abortion services, or even information or referrals for safe abortion.
Allowing international governments to look the other way and potentially weaken their commitment to providing comprehensive reproductive rights will have especially grave consequences for vulnerable communities, including young people, LGBT individuals, people living in poverty and rural communities.
“We are introducing this legislation because it is not up to the Trump administration to pick and choose which rights matter to the health and well-being of billions of women worldwide,” Senator Bob Menendez said in a statement. “We must be unequivocal: Women’s rights are human rights – and human rights include reproductive rights.”
“The Trump administration is literally erasing women and girls from the global debate on public health, while implicitly sanctioning human rights abuses by allowing such violations to go unreported and unchecked,” said Stephanie Schmid, U.S. Foreign Policy Counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “There is no legitimate policy reason for omitting this information, and this Administration’s insistence on hiding vital human rights data is a testament to its extreme contempt for women and girls around the world.”
The administration’s efforts to undermine reproductive rights are likely to deepen under Robert A. Destro, President Trump’s nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor – a role tasked with overseeing the annual Reports. As a long-time opponent of women’s reproductive rights and LGBT rights, Destro would not advance the mission of a role responsible for promoting and protecting human rights around the world.
Our congressional representatives must act to protect women and girls by supporting the Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act, opposing the nomination of Robert Destro, and putting an end to disastrous policies like the Global Gag Rule.
In the Senate, the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act was introduced by Senator Bob Menendez, Ranking Member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined by co-leads Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Richard Blumenthal. Representative Katherine Clark, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, is leading efforts to pass the Act in the House, joined by co-leads Representatives Eliot Engel, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Nita Lowey, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Barbara Lee, and Lois Frankel.