January 10, 2017

Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions’ long record of hostility towards women’s reproductive rights is crucial to consider as the Senate Judiciary Committee begins hearings today to evaluate his nomination for US Attorney General. The International Women’s Health Coalition believes that the country’s chief implementer of laws in the US must have a record of fairness and respect for the rights of women, which Senator Sessions is severely lacking. In fact, a Sessions confirmation could eviscerate women’s reproductive rights in the United States and signal to the world that hostility to basic rights is a welcome standard for the Trump administration.

Senator Sessions has a long record of taking actions to block or curtail reproductive rights. As Attorney General, Sessions would have the responsibility to protect and uphold the constitutional right to abortion and also to protect without prejudice the rights of patients and providers of reproductive health care. This is critical, because abortion providers are under attack. Since 1977, there have been 11 murders, 26 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 185 arsons, and thousands of incidents of criminal activities directed at abortion providers.

As a senator, Sessions repeatedly voted against provisions to protect abortion providers from violence. For example, in 2015 he opposed an effort to create a “Women’s Health Care and Clinic Security and Safety Fund” that would ensure enhanced safety measures and provisions for reproductive health providers and clinics. He has opposed resolutions in support of Roe v. Wade and is on record saying “I firmly believe that Roe v. Wade and its descendants represent one of the worse [sic] colossally erroneous Supreme Court decisions of all time. It was an activist decision…it was a Court that decided to politically impose their will. Good law should prevail.” He has voted for all manner of anti-abortion measures, including a law to grant separate legal status to embryos and fetuses and a bill to ban medically appropriate abortion care as early as 20 weeks. Sessions has also led attacks on Planned Parenthood, whose federal funding is being targeted for cuts by Congress.

It is the attorney general’s responsibility to uphold the rule of law. Neglecting the victims of such attacks based on politics is not only an injustice, but directly encourages other countries to politicize the rule of law. A confirmation of Senator Sessions would be an unmistakable assault on the hard-won rights of millions of women across the United States, with the potential to reverberate around the world as US rule of law on women’s sexual and reproductive rights is challenged.

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The International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) advances the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and young people, particularly adolescent girls, in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. IWHC furthers this agenda by supporting and strengthening leaders and organizations working at the community, national, regional, and global levels, and by advocating for international and U.S. policies, programs, and funding. Learn more at www.iwhc.org.

Photo: Gage Skidmore