Assistant Speaker Clark Introduces Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act

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The following is a press release from Congresswoman Katherine Clark’s office submitted to SOURCE media. Assistant Speaker Clark is a Democrat.

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Washington, D.C. – Today, May 26, Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (D-MA-5) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act to direct the State Department to permanently include reviews on the status of reproductive rights in its annual human rights reports. Clark was joined by 122 House Members in reintroducing this legislation, and the Senate legislation has 22 cosponsors.

“Reproductive rights are human rights. The ability to access reproductive care is a key part of the survival and success of women, girls, and LGBTQI+ people around the world,” said Assistant Speaker Clark. “The State Department’s human rights reports empower lawmakers to take action against bad actors, enact policy, and advocate for the fair treatment of all people. We have to permanently include reproductive rights in that reporting to maintain current human rights standards and meet the real needs of our international partners.”

“As reproductive rights are under daily assault across the world, the United States must lead the collective commitment to advance fundamental rights and freedoms for all rather than undermine the rights of some. With this bicameral bill, we are doing our part to stand in solidarity with women, girls, and LGBTQI+ people the world over whose access to vital sexual and reproductive health care has been severely obstructed or entirely suspended,” said Chair Menendez. “This legislation makes it abundantly clear: Reproductive rights are human rights. By requiring the State Department to include reproductive rights assessments in its annual reporting, we are making sure lawmakers get the full, unvarnished picture of a nation’s human rights record when formulating U.S. foreign policy.”

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. The Department’s reports are critical to helping human rights bodies, lawmakers, and civil society address violations with direct interventions, sanctions, and other corrective means. Congress and the private sector rely upon them when considering appropriations requests and making advocacy, planning, and policy decisions.

In 2017, the Trump administration deleted all subsections on reproductive rights from the reports as part of a coordinated effort to undermine the legitimacy of sexual and reproductive rights as human rights. The Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act would ensure that this reporting continues into the future, regardless of who is president. 

For the 117th Congress, the bill has been updated to reflect current human rights standards, and now requires reporting on:

  • Equitable access to abortion, contraception, quality maternal health care, and the rates and causes of maternal deaths.
  • Disaggregated maternal health data to better understand disparities in pregnancy-related outcomes, especially for low-income and marginalized communities.
  • Data on other forms of reproductive coercion, in addition to coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization.

The text of the legislation can be found HERE

The House coleads on the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act are Representatives Barbara Lee (CA-13), Norma Torres (CA-35), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Gregory Meeks (NY-5), Grace Meng (NY-6), and Sara Jacobs (CA-53).

“It’s time for the US to make it clear: any violation of reproductive rights is a violation of basic human rights,” Lee said. “It’s past time for protections for reproductive rights to be placed front and center in our diplomacy, and this starts with comprehensively reporting and documenting human rights violations. As co-chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus and a longtime champion for global sexual and reproductive health and rights, I’m proud to support the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act, to protect the health and well-being people around the globe.”

“Reproductive freedom shouldn’t be a luxury afforded to a select few—it’s a human right,” Torres said.“The United States must stand up for freedom across the world, and that includes ensuring women have autonomy over their own reproductive decisions. With reproductive freedom, women are healthier, safer, and freer to build a life of opportunity without oppression. I’m proud to co-lead the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act because it holds our foreign partners accountable for violating reproductive rights, as we would with any other human right, and ensures U.S. engagements reflect our longstanding belief in human rights for all.”

“If women are to have healthy lives they must have access to quality reproductive healthcare including safe legal abortion, contraception and pre-natal care as well as accurate information. Reproductive freedom is basic to dignity, self-determination, and equality and should be included in the State Department’s annual human rights report in order to facilitate US leadership on the advancement of women and girls around the world,” Frankel said. 

“The United States must stand strongly in support of reproductive rights around the world, especially as we continue to see these basic human rights violated. By requiring the State Department to provide a comprehensive report on reproductive rights globally, this legislation will help us and others use the report to expand access to reproductive and sexual health, improve the quality of life for families and communities, break down barriers, and increase autonomy and empowerment for women, girls and LGBTQI+ people globally,” Meeks said.

“Ensuring reproductive rights is critical for women, girls, and LGBTQI+ people across the globe,” said Congresswoman Meng. “We must do all we can to make sure these human rights are protected, and requiring these reviews in annual human rights reports would be a key step to achieving that crucial goal. I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in co-leading this legislation which would go a long way towards ensuring the health and safety of people everywhere and making sure that we hold governments accountable,” Meng said.

“Reproductive rights are fundamental to the autonomy and dignity of women, girls, and so many in the LGBTQ+ community. I am proud to work with my colleagues to permanently reverse the dangerous and sexist effort by the Trump Administration to undermine reproductive rights and ensure that they are a key pillar of our human rights assessments, regardless of who sits in the White House,” Jacobs said.

The legislation is cosponsored in the House by Representatives Pete Aguilar (CA-31), Jake Auchincloss (MA-4), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Joyce Beatty (OH-3), Ami Bera (CA-7), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (VA-8), Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Cori Bush (MO-1), André Carson (IN-7), Matt Cartwright (PA-8), Ed Case (HI-1), Sean Casten (IL-6), Judy Chu (CA-27), David N. Cicilline (RI-1), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-9), Steve Cohen (TN-9), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), Jim Cooper (TN-5), Jim Costa (CA-16), Charlie Crist (FL-13), Danny K. Davis (IL-7), Madeleine Dean (PA-4), Peter DeFazio (OR-4), Diana DeGette (CO-1), Rosa DeLauro (CT-3), Suzan DelBene (WA-1), Antonio Delgado (NY-19), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Dwight Evans (PA-3), Lizzie Fletcher (TX-7), Bill Foster (IL-11), Sylvia R. Garcia (TX-29), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-4), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Al Green (TX-9), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-3), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-6), Jared Huffman (CA-2), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Pramila Jayapal (WA-7), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-4), Bill Keating (MA-9), Robin L. Kelly (IL-2), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Dan Kildee (MI-5), Derek Kilmer (WA-6), Ron Kind (WI-3), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-2), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-2), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Andy Levin (MI-9), Ted W. Lieu (CA-33), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Doris Matsui (CA-6), Lucy McBath (GA-6), Betty McCollum (MN-4), A. Donald McEachin (VA-4), James P. McGovern (MA-2), Gwen Moore (WI-4), Joseph D. Morelle (NY-25), Seth Moulton (MA-6), Jerry Nadler (NY-10), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Joe Neguse (CO-2), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Ilhan Omar (MN-5), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Chris Pappas (NH-1), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Chellie Pingree (ME-1), Mark Pocan (WI-2), Ayanna Pressley (MA-7), David Price (NC-4), Mike Quigley (IL-5), Jamie Raskin (MD-8), Kathleen M. Rice (NY-4), Deborah Ross (NC-2), Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2), Tim Ryan (OH-13), Linda T. Sánchez (CA-38), John P. Sarbanes (MD-3), Janice D. Schakowsky (IL-9), Kim Schrier (WA-8), Terri A. Sewell (AL-7), Brad Sherman (CA-30), Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), Albio Sires (NJ-8), Adam Smith (WA-9), Darren Soto (FL-9), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Mark Takano (CA-41), Dina Titus (NV-1), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Paul D. Tonko (NY-20), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Lori Trahan (MA-3), David Trone (MD-6), Lauren Underwood (IL-14), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-7), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Maxine Waters (CA-43), Peter Welch (VT-AL), Nikema Williams (GA-5), Frederica S. Wilson (FL-24), and John Yarmuth (KY-3).

The Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act is endorsed by American Jewish World Service, Amnesty International USA, Catholics for Choice, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Reproductive Rights, CHANGE (Center for Health and Gender Equity), Council for Global Equality, Global Health Council, Global Justice Center, Guttmacher Institute, Heartland Alliance International, Human Rights Campaign, Ibis Reproductive Health, If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), International Women’s Health Coalition, Ipas, Jewish Women International, John Snow, Inc. (JSI), Management Sciences for Health, MPact: Global Action for Gay Health & Rights, MSI Reproductive Choices, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), National Birth Equity Collaborative, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Organization for Women, National Women’s Health Network, Oxfam America, PAI, Pathfinder International, People For the American Way, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Population Connection Action Fund, Population Institute, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, University of Miami School of Law Human Rights Clinic, Women Deliver, Women’s Refugee Commission, and Woodhull Freedom Foundation.

“We welcome the leadership of Senator Menendez, Representative Clark, and their colleagues in introducing the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act. Over the last four years, the Trump administration unjustly politicized sexual and reproductive health and rights for marginalized individuals, including women, girls, and LGBTQI+ people. This legislation would ensure that the State Department adheres to the international human rights system and reaffirms that the reproductive rights of all people – regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics – are recognized,” said Rori Kramer, Director of US Advocacy, American Jewish World Service.

“The Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act will align the State Department’s reporting requirements with well-established human rights standards. Sexual and reproductive rights are human rights, grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the core human rights treaties, including those ratified by the United States. They are essential to the realization of the rights to life, health, equality and non-discrimination, privacy, information, and freedom from ill-treatment, among other rights.  It is imperative that the United States government recognize and consistently report on these human rights and the myriad of ways that governments restrict and violate the rights of women, girls and LGBTQI people around the world,” said Lourdes Rivera, Senior Vice President of U.S. Programs at the Center for Reproductive Rights

“Women’s fundamental human rights do not change with US administrations. They are part and parcel of the international human rights system. State Department reporting on violations of reproductive rights should not be subject to whiplash between the policies of the occupants of the White House. Congress has an important role to ensure that the US is consistently and unbiasedly reporting on the rights violations that impact women around the world, without political interference,” said Amanda Klasing, interim women’s rights co-director at Human Rights Watch.

“I welcome the introduction of this legislation which makes critical and long overdue updates to how the United States reports on reproductive rights around the world in its annual human rights reports,” said PAI President and CEO Nabeeha Kazi Hutchins. “While we are pleased that the Biden-Harris Administration is resuming reporting on a full range of reproductive rights issues, this legislation provides a framework that all future administrations can follow. We at PAI look forward to working with Congress to pass the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act.”

“Sexual and reproductive rights are human rights — full stop. Everyone deserves access to comprehensive health care, no matter who they are or where they live. The State Department cannot ever be allowed to censor their reports and ignore reproductive rights. Planned Parenthood is committed to promoting and expanding sexual and reproductive rights in the U.S. and around the globe. We applaud Rep. Clark, Sen. Menendez, and other health care champions in Congress for reaffirming that reproductive rights are human rights and ensuring that is reflected in annual State Department reports. Congress must swiftly pass the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act into law,” said Caitlin Horrigan, director of global advocacy, Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“Ensuring reproductive rights are included in our foreign policy is a step forward for all human rights,” said Serra Sippel, President of CHANGE (Center for Health and Gender Equity). “This legislation puts the U.S. government on course to fully embrace a global SRHR agenda. As Secretary Blinken has stated, ‘women’s rights – including sexual and reproductive rights – are human rights,’ and without basic human rights for all, there is no gender equality.”

“We know that restrictive abortion laws and policies threaten the health, well-being and lives of people across the globe. Abortion is health care, health care is a human right, and everyone—no matter where they live—should have access. The Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act is an important part of a crucial legislative effort, along with the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act and the Global HER Act, that will bring us closer to reproductive justice for millions of people,” said Anu Kumar, President and CEO Anu Kumar of Ipas.

When governments restrict people’s ability to plan their families, they are attacking a fundamental human right. The freedom to choose whether and when to become a parent is a vital component of our economic, social, and political rights. Unacceptably, for the last four years, reproductive rights violations were eliminated from the State Department’s human rights reports. By passing the Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act, Congress can ensure that the United States will always shine a light on efforts to take away people’s reproductive freedom around the world,” said Kathleen Mogelgaard, President and CEO, Population Institute.

“Sexual and reproductive health must be included in annual country reports about human rights practices, reports which look at – among other things – the well-being of marginalized populations,” said Gayatri Patel, VP of External Relations at Women’s Refugee Commission. “Among the most marginalized globally are refugee women and youth. A recent study by the Women’s Refugee Commission shows that refugees, including adolescents and persons with disabilities, face heighted barriers to sexual and reproductive health in humanitarian settings – despite demand. This action would also put the U.S. in line with international efforts to better elevate reproductive health within human rights. It’s pretty straightforward – reproductive rights are human rights. We thank Senator Menendez and Representative Clark for their leadership on this critical issue.”

By passing the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act, Congress would ensure that no future administration politicizes or undermines the integrity of the State Department’s Human Rights Reports. Instances of reproductive coercion, criminalization of pregnancy-related outcomes, and barriers to sexual and reproductive health access, especially in marginalized communities, would no longer be willfully ignored,” said Katherine Olivera, assistant program officer, International Women’s Health Coalition.

editor

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