March 7, 2019

The International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) applauds the introduction of the Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act in the US House of Representatives and Senate. The bill would force the Trump administration to reinstate reporting on reproductive rights in the annual US State Department Human Rights Reports, which serve as a valuable tool for US diplomats and advocates to hold governments accountable for human rights violations.

“The removal of reproductive rights from the Human Rights Reports is an egregious display of the administration’s contempt for women,” said IWHC President Françoise Girard. “By passing the Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act, Congress would signal to the world that the US commitment to women’s human rights transcends politics and the regressive, sexist policies of the Trump administration.”

Last year, reproductive rights were suddenly removed from the reports in contravention of a well-established process designed to insulate the reports from politicization. Among the topics intentionally omitted were abuses of women’s rights to access critical health services, such as abortion and contraception, as well as information and data on maternal health and mortality. The omission of reproductive rights renders invisible the occurrence of grave human rights abuses, such as the imprisonment of women in El Salvador for miscarriages. It also jeopardizes the integrity of the Human Rights Reports and further undermines US leadership on global human rights.

Introduced by Representatives Katherine Clark, Eliot Engel, Nita Lowey, Barbara Lee, and Lois Frankel; and Senators Robert Menendez, Jeanne Shaheen, and Richard Blumenthal, the legislation would require annual reporting on the full spectrum of reproductive rights. If passed, the reports would have to include information on the adoption and enforcement of national policies to promote access to contraception, maternal health care, and abortion services, as well as information about the rates of maternal death, instances of reproductive coercion, and barriers to contraceptive access. Crucially, it would depoliticize these reports and put them back in line with international human rights agreements, which recognize that reproductive rights are fundamental human rights.

It is time for Congress to pass the Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act and ensure that, no matter which party holds power in Washington, the US recognizes, values, and promotes women’s fundamental right to control their bodies and lives.

Contact: Liza Kane-Hartnett; (+1) 917.498.3346

Photo: Lorie Shaull