Shaheen, Menendez, Colleagues Reintroduce Bill to Restore Reporting on Reproductive Rights through the State Department

May 26, 2021

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

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today joined Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and 21 Senators in reintroducing their legislation, the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act. The bill would require the U.S. State Department to include reproductive rights in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – including reports on the adoption of national policies to promote access to contraception, maternal health care and family planning services – to help ensure accountability around abuses on these rights. The State Department eliminated this critical component of its report without justification in 2017 under the Trump administration. 

“Women’s health and bodies should not be up for debate. Reproductive care is a basic human right,” said 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.” 

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. Since 2011, these reports have included detailed information on deprivation of women’s access to reproductive rights. Removing women’s right from the annual report in 2017 was a dramatic and dangerous shift in U.S. efforts to protect the international rights of women and sent a message to abusive governments that the U.S. would no longer hold them accountable for violations. 

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 would 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. 

Congress and the private sector rely on this report when considering appropriations requests and making advocacy, planning and policy decisions. Additionally, the report  is used by immigration judges and asylum officers to determine asylum status for women declaring human rights abuses at the U.S. border. By eliminating the reproductive health and rights from the report, women were left without this foundational evidence to support their asylum claim.

Full text of the bill is available here.  

As the only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Shaheen has been a fierce advocate for women and girls in the United States and around the globe. Shaheen has prioritized issues to empower women and support women’s rights, such as opposing efforts to roll back women’s reproductive rights, fighting for the rights of sexual assault survivors, advocating on behalf of family planning and women’s global health, spearheading efforts to end violence against women, securing women leadership roles in conflict resolution and peace negotiations and authoring legislation to address barriers that girls around the world face in accessing education. She led a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce a resolution to recognize March 8, 2021 as International Women’s Day, and she’s the lead sponsor of the Global, Health, Empowerment and Rights (HER) Act. The Global HER Act would permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule. Shaheen previously reintroduced the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA). This bipartisan bill would ensure that combating gender-based violence around the world remains a top diplomatic and development priority for the United States. She also helped reintroduce the bipartisan bill, the Keeping Women and Girls Safe from the Start Authorization Act of 2021, to address gender-based violence perpetrated during humanitarian crises, which disproportionately threaten the well-being of vulnerable women and girls.  

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