Congressmembers Introduce Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act on Human Rights Day

December 10, 2018
Press Release
Legislation would require the State Department to restore its practice of including reproductive rights in annual report after its exclusion in 2017 by the Trump administration

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, on International Human Rights Day and the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Ranking Member Nita Lowey, Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Katherine Clark, Ranking Member Eliot Engel, Rep. Barbara Lee, and Rep. Lois Frankel introduced the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act. The bill would require the U.S. State Department to include reproductive rights in its annual human rights report after the State Department deleted all subsections without warning or justification in 2017.

“The U.S. cannot turn its back on the countless women around the world who are deprived of basic reproductive rights,” said Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. “I’m proud to support legislation that would restore reproductive rights to the State Department’s annual human rights report, maintaining U.S. leadership on behalf of the world’s women across administrations.”

 “Documenting and reporting human rights violations is a major part of eradicating their existence,” said Congresswoman Katherine Clark. “This bill would ensure that our State Department maintains its vital role as an international watchdog and protector of women’s rights no matter the ideology of our White House.”

“The Trump Administration’s censorship of key elements of the State Department’s annual human rights report is outrageous,” said Ranking Member Eliot L. Engel. The deletion of reproductive rights was a clear step back from the United States’ obligation to address the full range of human rights violations around the globe. This bill will ensure Congress has a clear and complete picture of the challenges women and girls face. Without this information, we cannot hope to overcome those challenges.”

“Regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, the US government should serve as an advocate for women’s fundamental reproductive rights. Protecting and advancing women’s rights should remain front and center in our diplomacy, including documenting and reporting on violations against their human rights,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “If Secretary Pompeo won’t stand up for women around the world, then Congress must. I am proud to support the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act, on behalf of women and girls across the globe.”

“Women’s rights are human rights,” said Rep. Lois Frankel. “There is no greater right for women than to be in charge of their own bodies.”

As required by the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Trade Act of 1974, the Secretary of State reports annually to Congress on the status of human rights in each country receiving U.S. foreign aid, as well as in each United Nations member state. Since 2011, these reports have included detailed information on deprivation of women’s access to reproductive rights. Congress and the private sector rely upon them when considering appropriations requests and making advocacy, planning, and policy decisions.

Removing women’s right from the annual report in 2017 was a dramatic and dangerous shift in U.S. efforts to protect the international rights of women and sent a message to abusive governments that the U.S. would no longer hold them account for violations. In October, Congressmembers Lowey, Clark, Lee, Engel, Frankel and 124 of their colleagues sent a letter to Secretary Pompeo calling on him to reverse this policy. 

“I applaud Representatives Katherine Clark, Eliot Engel, Nita Lowey, Barbara Lee, and Lois Frankel for introducing the Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act of 2018 today. This bill will ensure that the U.S. State Department includes comprehensive reporting on reproductive rights in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Access to reproductive healthcare has been recognized as a protected human right impacting women’s right to life, health, equality, non-discrimination and freedom from cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and governments do not get to pick and choose whose rights will be respected,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “When women’s rights are limited and they are unable to access basic health care like contraception, safe abortion, and maternal health care, their ability to achieve economic, social, and political empowerment is fundamentally hindered.  By requiring annual reporting on these critical issues, the House of Representatives is ensuring that the rights of women and girls will no longer be political spoils that can be erased from global discourse.”

“This erasure puts real lives in danger,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue. “Using backdoor tactics to erase all mention of reproductive rights—including abortion, contraception, and maternal mortality—from vital reports and resources in order to push an extreme, ideological agenda is a true testament to just how dangerous and corrupt this administration is. The Trump administration will stop at nothing to systematically dismantle and deny the fundamental freedoms of women in the U.S. and abroad, and this bill is an important step in fighting back against their attempts to deny that reproductive rights are a human right.”  

“Reproductive health care is health care, and health care is a basic human right. The Trump-Pence administration’s erasure of reproductive rights from the State Department’s human rights report is an attack on women around the world, and the communities that depend on them. We applaud Rep. Clark and other champions of reproductive rights for recognizing that women around the world deserve access to comprehensive health care, which includes reproductive health care, and rely on it to lead healthy, successful lives. We are grateful to have leaders in Congress who stand up for the basic notion that reproductive rights are human rights,” said Dr. Leana Wen, President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10th in recognition of the anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This year  marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document that proclaimed the inalienable rights of every human being, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Forty-five organizations have endorsed the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act including:

1.            Center for Reproductive Rights

2.            Advocates for Youth

3.            American Psychological Association

4.            Athlete Ally

5.            Bangladesh Model Youth Parliament

6.            CARE USA

7.            Center for Biological Diversity

8.            Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)

9.            Clearinghouse on Women's Issues

10.          Global Justice Institute, Metropolitan Community Churches

11.          Guttmacher Institute

12.          Human Rights Campaign

13.          Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center

14.          Ibis Reproductive Health

15.          International Action Network for Gender Equity & Law

16.          International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)

17.          International Federation of Business and Professional Women

18.          International Women’s Health Coalition

19.          Ipas

20.          MADRE

21.          Milaan Foundation

22.          NARAL Pro-Choice America

23.          National Council of Jewish Women

24.          National Institute for Reproductive Health

25.          National Organization for Women

26.          National Women's Health Network

27.          Oxfam America

28.          PAI

29.          People For the American Way

30.          Planned Parenthood Federation of America

31.          Population Connection Action Fund

32.          Population Institute

33.          Promundo-US

34.          Reconstructionist Rabbinical Assembly

35.          Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

36.          Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center

37.          Too Young To Wed

38.          UPIC Health

39.          US National Committee for UN Women

40.          Women Graduates - USA

41.          Women for Afghan Women

42.          Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security and Conflict Transformation

43.          Woodhull Freedom Foundation

44.          ZanaAfrica Foundation

45.          Jewish Labor Committee