March 13, 2019

The International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) condemns the absence of reproductive rights in the State Department’s annual Human Rights Reports, released today.

“By omitting reproductive rights from the Human Rights Reports for the second year in a row, the Trump administration signals that it does not believe women’s rights are worth defending,” said IWHC Director of Advocacy and Policy Shannon Kowalski. “US foreign policy should advance the rights of women and girls. Instead, this administration has taken every opportunity to undermine sexual and reproductive rights, whether by restricting access to critical services at home or failing to hold governments accountable for human rights abuses abroad.”

The lack of reporting on reproductive rights obscures numerous violations of women’s fundamental right to bodily autonomy. In Indonesia, a 15-year-old girl who was repeatedly raped by her brother was imprisoned in May 2018 for undergoing an abortion. In Senegal—in a trial that was widely condemned by women’s rights activists—a 14-year-old girl was sentenced to two years in prison in March 2018 for inducing an abortion. And in Argentina, an 11-year-old girl who was raped by a 65-year-old man was denied her request for a legal abortion and eventually forced to undergo a caesarean to deliver the unviable fetus. Yet, these significant abuses are not mentioned in the reports, which address only “coercive population control methods.”

The State Department’s Human Rights Reports have been used by US government officials and human rights defenders to hold governments accountable for protecting the human rights of all people, particularly those who are most marginalized. In the past, changes to the reports have gone through a rigorous process to ensure that they reflect the will of Congress and respond to evolving global human rights standards. Last year, however, the Trump administration removed language on reproductive rights just prior to their release, without consultation or discussion. The continued omission of reproductive rights confirms that the Trump administration does not value women’s rights or health.

IWHC has repeatedly urged the State Department to restore reporting on reproductive rights in the Human Rights Reports. In October 2018, IWHC spearheaded a letter by more than 90 civil society organizations calling on Secretary of State Pompeo to reinstate reporting. IWHC has also supported the Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act, which was recently introduced in both the House and Senate, and, if passed, would require reporting on reproductive rights as part of the annual State Department reports.

The credibility of the State Department Human Rights Reports stems from their unbiased and comprehensive view of human rights worldwide. Removing critical sections, such as those relating to sexual and reproductive health, undermines the validity of the reports and damages US authority on human rights issues. IWHC will continue to fight for the passage of the Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act and policies that further the human rights of women and girls worldwide.

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

Photo: State Department