Proposed Law Would Require State Dept. to Consider Reproductive Rights Human Rights

By Emily Ward | December 18, 2018 | 12:46pm EST

( -- Last Monday, Dec. 10, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) introduced a bill into the U.S. House of Representatives that would require the State Department to include a section on “reproductive rights” in its annual human rights reports to Congress.

The bill, entitled the “Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act,” would amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which requires the State Department to produce yearly reports on human rights practices around the world.

The proposed amendment would require reports to include information on the status of reproductive rights in each country, including whether countries expanded or restricted access to “safe abortion” and “post-abortion care.”

U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.)  (Getty Images)

Rep. Clark said the bill would ensure the State Department “maintains its vital role as an international watchdog and protector of women’s rights no matter the ideology of our White House.”

The term “reproductive rights” is sometimes used in reference to issues such as maternal mortality or access to obstetric and prenatal care, but is often used to mean a woman’s “rights” to abortion, contraception, and sterilization.

The National Institute for Reproductive Health makes no mention of maternal mortality or access to obstetric and prenatal care in its mission statement; it focuses on access to abortion and contraception. The Center for Reproductive Rights lists abortion access as one of its top priorities.

Currently, the Foreign Assistance Act requires reports to include information on “practices regarding coercion in population control, including coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization,” but the law does not mention reproductive rights.

During the Obama administration, human rights reports included information on reproductive rights. In the 2017 reports, under the administration of President Donald Trump, these sections were eliminated and replaced with sections on coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization.

(Getty Images) 

Pro-choice organizations such as the Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Institute for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood, and NARAL Pro-Choice America endorsed the proposed legislation.

“Reproductive health care is health care, and health care is a basic human right,” Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen stated in a press release. Wen called the elimination of reproductive rights from the human rights reports an “attack on women around the world.”

Nancy Northup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights said, “When women’s rights are limited and they are unable to access basic health care like contraception, safe abortion, and maternal health care, their ability to achieve economic, social, and political empowerment is fundamentally hindered.”

Pro-life leaders, on the other hand, oppose the legislation.

Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins said the Trump administration was right to remove “reproductive rights” from its reports, a term which she called “deceptive” and which, she said, “really equals abortion.”

“Pregnancy is not a disease cured by abortion,” Hawkins continued. “Women and their pre-born infants need care and assistance rather than abortions, as the Trump administration rightly noted. It is offensive for abortion advocates to push their anti-child viewpoint on other nations by ending a pre-born child’s life as a social necessity.”

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Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, said people should “fight” pro-abortion initiatives.

“The Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act of 2018 is merely a precursor of what is to come in the new Congress,” McClusky told “We can expect to see more bills that attack pregnancy care centers, health care professionals, ethical science and pro-life state laws, as well as the vitally important Appropriations provisions that protect the unborn and taxpayers from being complicit in the destruction of innocent human life.”

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