On the eve of International Women’s Day (March 8), Democrats in the United States House of Representatives and Senate announced a bill that could aid women globally.
Thursday (March 7), Representative Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) introduced the Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act at a press conference with Representative Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). The bill is co-sponsored by 127 House and 31 Senate members.
The legislation is in direct response to a 2017 decision by the Trump administration to delete the sections on reproductive rights from the that year’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The 2018 report is also not expected to contain this information. “It is very true to form for this administration that they are attempting to eradicate the rights of women through willful ignorance,” Clark told Rewire.News.
The bill would require the State Department to analyze the status of effective and affordable modes of contraception in different countries, encourage health care services to help women have healthy and safe pregnancies and focus on access to "safe abortion services" as well as "post-abortion care." It also calls on the State Department to address the issue of maternal mortality in different parts of the world as well as encourage education on preventing sexually-transmitted infections.
According to a spokesperson from global nonprofit Human Rights Watch, the report has many uses, including: helping Congress decide how to appropriate money for foreign assistance and informing immigration judges and immigration lawyers about the validity of conditions described by applicants in their asylum claims.
Stephanie Schmid, U.S. foreign policy council at the Center for Reproductive Rights, told Rewire.News:
Any woman that would be coming to the U.S. border right now…fleeing some condition like in El Salvador where you can be jailed for having a miscarriage, and trying to make a refugee or asylum claim at the border, wouldn’t be safe. Potentially an immigration judge [could say] "I don’t know what you’re talking about, the 2017 human rights reports don’t say anything about women being jailed in El Salvador for miscarriages." They don’t say anything about the high rate of sexual and gender based violence by gangs and in other situations. So what we do is invalidate and erase the experience and stories of women all over the world.
The bill will now go to a vote in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. Clark expects it to pass the House, but is not as assured of its prospects in the Senate. As she told Rewire.News, “We would love it if we’re able to convince the Senate to pass this through, but we have to keep raising this issue and shining the spotlight on what this administration is doing, and the kind of discrimination and coercion and violence against women and girls that this administration is willing to tolerate.”