Care Denied; Human Rights Committee Reviews US; and New Leadership at the UN

Administration Promotes Refusals of Care

In early May, the US Department of Health and Human Services released a new rule—Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care—expanding protections for health providers that deny care based on personal or religious beliefs—so-called “conscientious objection.” The new rule applies to all health care facilities that receive federal funding, allowing anyone who performs or assists in medical care to refuse to perform their duties. The rule was initially proposed in January 2018. IWHC submitted a comment on the impact of refusals to care globally, illustrating that they restrict access to critical services, damage patients’ health, and place a severe economic and psychological burden on patients.

The rule is just the latest effort of the Trump administration to weaponize religious freedom as a tool for discrimination. The administration has promoted refusals of care both domestically and internationally, and has created a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division with HHS as a means to restrict access to abortion, gender affirmation surgery, and other reproductive health services.

US Actions on Women’s Rights Under Review by UN Human Rights Committee

The Trump administration’s attacks against women’s rights are under review by the UN Human Rights Committee—the group tasked with monitoring implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

While the review process includes a wide-range of human rights issues—from drone strikes to the treatment of asylum seekers—the committee has specifically requested information on a number of Trump administration policies related to sexual and reproductive health and rights. These include protections for health care providers and insures that deny care based on personal beliefs, efforts to restrict access to abortion and other reproductive health services, the mistreatment of pregnant women in prison, the availability of abortion for pregnant migrants and asylum seekers in US custody, and the impacts of the administration’s expanded Global Gag Rule. Taken together, these policies represent an unprecedented assault on women’s rights and health. IWHC welcomes the Human Rights Committee’s review and urges the US to produce a comprehensive report that considers the impact of its policies on  the human rights of  women and girls both in the US and globally.

Crafting a New Policy at the UN? Unlikely Under New Nominee

President Donald Trump has nominated Kelly Knight Craft as US ambassador to the UN. Craft, currently the US ambassador to Canada, is unlikely to hold the cabinet-level rank held by all other recent US ambassadors to the UN, and is not expected to have the authority to set policy.

If confirmed, Craft will fill the role formerly occupied by Nikki Haley. In Haley’s time as ambassador, she oversaw a US assault on women’s rights at the UN. Since her departure in January 2019, the US has only escalated its aggressive behavior. Most recently at the Security Council, where the administration threatened to veto a resolution on support for survivors of gender-based violence if references to sexual and reproductive health services were not removed. Nothing in Craft’s limited experience suggests that she has the necessary skills, temperament, or inclination to challenge the administration’s regressive policies. It is likely that she will continue the administration’s strategy of using the UN system to target the rights of women and girls.

Read IWHC’s full statement here.


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