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Rebuking Trump State Dept, Democrats Unveil Proposals Asserting Reproductive Rights Equal Human Rights

"It's time to stop playing politics with women's lives."

The Democratic-controlled House on Thursday passed a bill formally recognizing that reproductive rights are human rights—a step the Trump State Department has not taken. (Photo: Marc Nozell/flickr/cc)

House Democrats introduced a bill Thursday rebuking the Trump administration's position that reproductive freedom should not be considered a fundamental human right.

The legislation condemns the State Department for omitting the status of reproductive rights from its annual report on international human rights, and would require the department to analyze women's access to healthcare including abortion care; contraception, and comprehensive sex education; maternal mortality; and other liberties regarding their control over their bodies.

Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) proposed the Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act (H.R. 7228) in the House alongside 127 co-sponsors Thursday, while Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) urged passage in the Senate with 31 co-sponsors.

"The way that we are able to protect human rights internationally is through shining a light on the violations," Clark told Rewire.News. "I think what this administration is saying is that we are no longer interested in finding out what is happening with women's health and monitoring, assessing and protecting women across the globe."

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Women's rights groups applauded the legislation while decrying the Trump administration for making it necessary for the House to assert that the fight for reproductive freedom must be taken seriously by the United States.

"By passing the Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act, Congress would signal to the world that the U.S. commitment to women's human rights transcends politics and the regressive, sexist policies of the Trump administration." —Françoise Girard, IWHC

"Our reproductive rights are NOT a political bargaining chip," said NARAL Pro-Choice America, one of the 88 organizations supporting the legislation, in a tweeted statement. "We need the Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act to ensure that the Trump-Pence administration's State Department actually does its job and reports on ALL human rights around the world."

The release of the State Department's annual report on human rights violations around the world is expected next month. Last year, the Trump administration's report contained what Human Rights Watch called "critical gaps" in its coverage of women's rights.

The report left out information that had previously been addressed in the department's annual accounting of human rights, including maternal mortality, abortion rights, access to contraception, and the practice in some countries of banishing women and girls from their communities during menstruation.

"There's no greater right for women than to be in charge of their own bodies," Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) said on social media. "By omitting reproductive rights from the State Department's annual human rights report, we turn a blind eye to the needs of women and girls everywhere." 

"The removal of reproductive rights from the Human Rights Reports is an egregious display of the administration's contempt for women," said Françoise Girard, president of the International Women's Health Coalition (IWHC). "By passing the Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act, Congress would signal to the world that the U.S. commitment to women's human rights transcends politics and the regressive, sexist policies of the Trump administration." 

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