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140+ Organizations Demand Biden Administration Implement International Recommendations on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

More than 140 organizations signed onto a letter sent to President Biden today urging him to implement recommendations on sexual and reproductive rights issued by United Nations member states. The recommendations came as part of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a process that reviews the human rights records of all UN Member States.

Signing organizations represent a diverse cross-section of issues and expertise, including in human rights, reproductive rights, racial justice, and global health. The full letter and list of signees can be found here: http://bit.ly/BidenUPRletter

The US received numerous UPR recommendations, and several countries called for the US to take action on its abortion restrictions on foreign assistance, in particular the Helms AmendmentThe Biden administration responded to these recommendations, but did not mention Helms and instead referred to their recent repeal of the Global Gag Rule.

To implement these recommendations, the letter outlines several executive and administrative actions the administration can take now:

  • Take executive action and issue guidance to immediately clarify US foreign assistance can be used to provide abortion care in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment of the pregnant person
  • Issue guidance from relevant agencies to proactively clarify that US foreign assistance may be used for abortion information and counseling under the Leahy Amendment
  • Prioritize the removal of abortion funding restrictions like the Helms Amendment through the White House Gender Policy Council, in addition to addressing many other important sexual and reproductive health and rights priorities and considering the role of racial and other forms of discrimination on recipients of sexual and reproductive healthcare in the US and globally
  • Consult with stakeholders and agencies to issue policies to combat systemic racism and ensure implementation of these policies at the state, federal and local levels, recognizing domestic US policy influences the values exported through US foreign assistance 
  • Eliminate Helms Amendment and similar abortion funding restrictions from FY 2022 budget

Four of the signing organizations issued the following statements:

“The Biden administration says it is committed to advancing sexual and reproductive rights around the world. Now, they have an opportunity to prove it,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center. “A failure to implement these recommendations would make the US commitment to the human rights system be mere rhetoric, and worse yet, rhetoric that is directly undermined by the failure to act.”

“It is time for the U.S. to join the global community to support and defend reproductive justice,” said Dr. Anu Kumar, president and CEO of Ipas. “Ending abortion funding restrictions like the Helms Amendment will protect people seeking abortion, will help countries expand access to health services, and will bring us closer to achieving reproductive and economic freedom and equity for millions worldwide. This policy has harmed Black and brown communities in low-to-middle income countries for far too long.”

“It is not enough to remove the Global Gag Rule and maintain the pre-Trump status quo,” said Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, Founder & President of the National Birth Equity Collaborative. “The Biden administration must go further to advance reproductive justice by supporting repeal of the Helms Amendment and advancing racial justice in the United States. The last year demonstrated how much further the US has to go to achieve racial justice and eliminate white supremacy from our domestic and foreign policy. This cannot wait.”

“This is an opportunity for Biden’s administration to fulfill its commitment to reproductive health care by completely removing abortion funding restrictions from US foreign assistance, ensuring that no woman, girl, or young person dies from an unsafe abortion as a result of stigma, lack of information, and lack of life-saving services,” said Nelly Munyasia, Executive Director of Reproductive Health Network Kenya. “One death as a result of unsafe abortion is far too many deaths.”

 

April News Update: Women Lead the Resistance in Myanmar

Dear Friend,

In its decades-long campaign of persecution against ethnic groups, Myanmar's military has often reserved its most brutal acts of violence for women. Now that the military is in sole control once again, women in Myanmar are doing what they've always done: fight back.

Social and news media are flooded with images of women leading and filling the massive protests against military rule. Yet, the international community is failing to center the human rights of women and other historically oppressed groups in its response to the crisis.

Thank you for standing with us as we demand justice and human rights lead the global response to the coup.

Read the Full Newsletter

Russia, the Current Big Spoiler in Advancing Global Gender Rights

Excerpt of Pass Blue article that quotes GJC Legal Director Grant Shubin.

At issue is not only violence — rape and other forms of sexual assault — but also a revival of attempts by Russia, China and their allies to downgrade human rights, reproductive and otherwise, and to push those topics out of the Council’s purview into economic and social branches of the UN, where they can fall into an abyss.

Grant Shubin is a human-rights lawyer who is the legal director of the Global Justice Center, a civil society organization based in New York. He is dubious about American leadership in the long term.

“Throughout the Trump years,” he said in an interview with PassBlue, “it was proven that the international human rights movement and the international human rights system do not rely on the United States to keep functioning.”

In government terms, he added, “The US is just not a functioning model,” marked as it is by making the enjoyment of people’s human rights “conditioned on the whipsaw nature of American foreign policy and of American politics.”

Read the Article

Open Letter to Secretary of State Blinken on the Public Health and Human Rights Crisis in Myanmar

To: Antony Blinken, Secretary of State

CC: Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor; Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Jeff Zients, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator; Samantha Power, USAID Administrator Nominee

Secretary Blinken:

We write as concerned human rights organizations, humanitarian organizations, medical professional associations, labor organizations, and refugee rights organizations to urge you to take immediate additional actions to address the public health and human rights crisis in Myanmar.

It has now been two months since the Myanmar military executed a coup d’état to overthrow the country’s democratically elected government, prompting widespread peaceful protests demanding a return to democracy. The military’s security forces have responded with an increasingly brutal crackdown defined by some of the worst human rights violations imaginable: unlawful and arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, and extrajudicial killings. This includes the bloodiest crackdown yet: more than 110 civilians reportedly killed in just a few days by security forces, among them children as young as five years old.

Myanmar’s health care workers, in particular, have been systematically targeted by the military for participating in the civil disobedience movement and providing care to injured protestors. Many health care workers have been forced into hiding, kidnapped in night raids, or detained arbitrarily pursuant to spurious charges. More than 100 medical students and health care workers have reportedly been arrested since the start of the coup.

Read the Full Letter

The Right to Vote Is a Reproductive Health, Rights, & Justice Issue

Dear State Legislator:

We, the undersigned organizations, state legislators, and leaders in the reproductive health, rights, and justice movement, join together to call out the racist and anti-democratic attacks on voting rights and access happening in state legislatures across the United States.

Conservative state legislators have ramped up their efforts to make it harder to vote. Voter restrictions have long been part of the conservative platform; however, their attempts to push anti-democracy bills have recently spiked, in response to record voter turnout, revealing they will stop at nothing to disenfranchise Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC). In the 2021 state legislative session alone, 253 anti-voter bills have been introduced in 43 states with this number expected to grow. The bills institute new barriers to voting and target people of color and by reducing hours of polling locations, cutting back on early voting options, requiring new, unnecessary identification requirements and curtailing or eliminating absentee voting.

Conservatives are trying to destroy our democracy. The 2020 Presidential election put the issue of voting rights and access front-and-center. As conservatives tried to restrict access to polling stations, mail in ballots, and contested ballot validity, progressive groups and legislators--often aligning with principles of reproductive health, rights, and justice--sought to ensure the United States democracy stood firm, recognizing that the overwhelming majority of votes that were in question were largely Black and Brown voters.

The reproductive health, rights, and justice movement cannot stay silent in this moment. We know that reproductive freedom and voting rights and access are intrinsically linked. Equitable access to the vote means better representation of our communities and responsiveness to our basic needs like comprehensive healthcare, including contraception, maternal care, abortion care, and comprehensive sex education. Moreover, equitable access to the ballot box allows us to focus on justice and liberation, which increases bodily autonomy and integrity for many marginalized communities especially Black and Brown people, young people, and queer, transgender, and nonbinary people.

Read the Full Letter