Reproductive rights

Speaking of women

Congressional Democrats introduced legislation on Thursday that would classify reproductive rights as human rights and require the U.S. State Department to include access to reproductive health care in its annual human rights report, a practice that ended when President Trump took office.

The “Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act” was introduced by Democratic caucus vice chair Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and announced at a press conference Thursday along with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and U.S. Senate co-sponsors Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). The bill is similar to a bill by the same name introduced by Clark last year in response to the State Department’s sudden decision to drop the sections on reproductive rights from the 2017 human rights report it released last spring.

Now why would they do that? To please Trump’s “base,” no doubt.

Amanda Klasing, acting co-director of the women’s rights division at Human Rights Watch, said the State Department’s annual human rights report has critical government uses. “A lot of people think that it just sits on the website and it’s something that foreign service officers have to do once a year, but actually it’s a really important tool for Congress because it helps in appropriations matters about foreign assistance,” she said in an interview with Rewire.News. “It’s important for immigration judges and for immigration lawyers trying to determine whether asylum claims are founded.”

The report’s use by immigration judges is critical for Stephanie Schmid, U.S. foreign policy council at the Center for Reproductive Rights, who used an example from Central America to demonstrate the harm of excluding reproductive rights from the report. “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,” she told Rewire.News. “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 won’t pass the Senate, and if it did Trump would veto it, but it’s important to get it out there all the same.

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