May 26, 2021

Senator Menendez, Congresswoman Clark Lead Colleagues in Bicameral Reintroduction of Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act

Legislation would permanently require the U.S. State Department to include reproductive rights in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Assistant Speaker of the 117th Congress Representative Katherine Clark (MA-5) were joined by 22 of their Senate and 122 of their House colleagues in addition to leading reproductive health and human rights organizations and activists in announcing the bicameral reintroduction of the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act. The legislation directs the State Department to report on the status of reproductive rights in United Nations member states and countries receiving U.S. foreign aid in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (Human Rights Reports).

“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 Chairman 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.”

“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.”

Joining Chairman Menendez and Assistant Speaker Clark in cosponsoring the legislation in the Senate were Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

“Women’s health and bodies should not be up for debate. Reproductive care is a human right,” said Senator Shaheen. “The U.S. plays an important role as an advocate for women’s fundamental rights around the world, but we can’t do so without comprehensive information and reporting on the status of reproductive care. The State Department’s annual human rights report is a key tool for accountability around women’s access to basic health. The Trump administration’s decision to remove this from previous reports had dangerous consequences for women’s health, equality and freedom around the globe. That’s why I’m working with Congress and the Biden administration to stop the politicization of this reporting and restore transparency around the state of reproductive rights throughout the world.”

“This legislation restores reporting on global reproductive rights, resoundingly reaffirming that reproductive rights are human rights,” said Senator Blumenthal. “The Trump administration’s purge of this vital information from the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices was reprehensible and deeply harmful. Congress must pass this bill to right this wrong, and ensure fundamental reproductive rights are respected around the world and at home.”

“It is well known that improved access to family planning services is closely linked to improving health outcomes, addressing poverty, and jumpstarting economic growth,” said Senator Booker. “The lives of millions are put at risk when families are denied access to evidence-based information and quality maternal and child health care. I’m proud to support this this bill, which will not only help ensure comprehensive health care programs are made available to women and children in some of the world’s poorest countries, but also help shed light on the barriers faced by LGBTQI+ persons as they seek the reproductive health services they are too often denied.”

“America’s return to global leadership must include a rededication to reproductive rights abroad,” said Senator Van Hollen. “This bill not only signals to the world that we believe reproductive rights are human rights – it also sends a loud-and-clear message that we stand for the empowerment of women, girls, and the LGBTQI+ community in every corner of the globe. Including this information in the Secretary of State’s annual report will help ensure our nation’s foreign policy is consistent with these principles – and I urge my colleagues to support this crucial measure.”

 

“Women should have the right to make decisions about their own bodies. That is true in the United States as much as it is around the world,” Senator Hirono said. “Internationally, the State Department plays a critical role reporting on reproductive rights around the world—and that work should not be threatened by any administration. We must swiftly pass this bill to affirm that reproductive rights are squarely part of human rights.”

 “We must recommit the United States to the defense of human rights globally,” said Senator Markey. “Reproductive rights are human rights and the United States has an obligation to stand up and ensure that sexual and reproductive health care is available to people around the world. We must permanently include reproductive rights in the State Department’s annual human rights report so that we have the information to uphold our standards for foreign policy and ensure universal access to reproductive care at home and abroad.”

“This proposal would codify into law the steps being taken by the Biden administration to restore a rounded, common sense approach to the annual State Department’s Human Rights Reports. Women’s rights, including reproductive rights, are human rights, and so they should be examined in the annual report to Congress,” said Senator Cardin.

“As we consider ways to support our allies around the world, the State Department’s annual human rights report cannot erase women or the gender, racial, or health inequities they face. Women’s access to health care and the right to make decisions about when and how they will have a family should not be up for debate. It’s an issue of public health and human rights,” said Senator Durbin. “With this legislation, we are sending a message loud and clear – reproductive rights are human rights.”

 

“This legislation reiterates that reproductive rights are fundamental human rights, which everyone should have access to regardless of where they live,” said Senator Brown. “I commend the Biden-Harris administration for reversing the Trump administration’s decision to discontinue monitoring reproductive rights in the State Department’s annual Human Rights Reports. We must now make sure that future administrations will not be able to flout this vital responsibility.”

“Human rights include the right to reproductive choice. Reproductive freedom is fundamental to ensuring gender and LGBTQ+ equity are the norm, not just lofty ideals,” Senator Wyden said. “The United States has an obligation to ensure women and members of the LGBTQ+ community across the globe have access to quality reproductive healthcare in the communities they call home. Achieving that target starts by ensuring the State Department reports accurate, detailed data on the state of reproductive rights everywhere, which this bill would codify into black letter law no matter the inclinations of future administrations.”

“Let’s be clear – women’s rights are human rights. We must be unequivocal in ensuring women are in charge of their own bodies,” said Senator Rosen. “I’m proud to help introduce this important legislation to restore reproductive rights to the State Department’s annual human rights report to protect the rights of women around the world. I will continue fighting in Congress to defend the health, freedom, and well-being of Nevadans and Americans across our nation.”

“For the last four years, the United States has abandoned its role as a global champion for women's rights and access to reproductive care. I'm glad to join my colleagues and the Biden administration in restoring reproductive rights to this critical report and standing up for women, girls, and LGBTQI+ individuals around the world,” said Senator Bennet.

Joining Chairman Menendez and Assistant Speaker Clark in cosponsoring the legislation in the House were Representatives Gregory W. Meeks (NY-5), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Grace Meng (NY-6), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Norma J. Torres (CA-35), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), 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).

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. Congress and the private sector rely upon the reports when considering appropriations requests and making advocacy, planning, and policy decisions.

 The Trump administration’s harmful elimination of reproductive rights from the Human Rights Reports initially prompted the introduction of the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act in the 116th Congress. In response to Congressional and civil society efforts, the Biden administration reinstated reporting in March of 2021. Reintroduced today, the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act will ensure that this reporting continues.

 

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.

Find a copy of the legislation HERE.  

45 outside organizations also endorsed the legislation. They include:

 

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.

Statement from Rori Kramer, Director of US Advocacy, American Jewish World Service:

“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.”

Statement from Lourdes Rivera, Senior Vice President of U.S. Programs at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“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.”

Statement from Amanda Klasing, interim women's rights co-director at Human Rights Watch:

“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.”

Statement from Nabeeha Kazi Hutchins, President and CEO of PAI:

“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.”

Statement from Caitlin Horrigan, director of global advocacy, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

“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.”

Statement of Serra Sippel, President of CHANGE (Center for Health and Gender Equity):

“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.”

Statement of Anu Kumar, President and CEO Anu Kumar of Ipas:

“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.”

Statement from Kathleen Mogelgaard, President and CEO, Population Institute:

“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.”

 

Statement from Gayatri Patel, VP of External Relations at Women’s Refugee Commission:

"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." 

 

Katherine Olivera, assistant program officer, International Women's Health Coalition:

“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.”

 

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