Reset or revolution: Biden’s first 100 days

Excerpt of International Bar Association article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

Another cause for concern is gender inequality. Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center, says that on some issues Biden has said the right things and taken the right initial steps, but on abortion the administration has been ‘profoundly disappointing’.

Radhakrishnan notes that the Biden administration has shown its comfort and ability to stand up against white supremacy, and to stand up for LGBTQ+ rights, at least in rhetoric and initial gestures. She asks, ‘so when it comes to abortion, why are we seeing them not utilise the terminology of abortion? Why have we seen nothing on broader commitments beyond repealing the gag rule?’

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Community Letter to President and Vice President on Global Gender Equality

Dear Mr. President and Madam Vice President, We, the undersigned organizations, care deeply about advancing gender equity and equality around the world and are writing to express our appreciation for the steps your administration has taken in your first 50 days to signal the United States’ renewed leadership on this issue. In particular, we are pleased to see early action on announcing the co-chairs of the new White House Gender Policy Council and were excited to see its official establishment by Executive Order on International Women’s Day. We also applaud the U.S. decision to re-engage immediately with the UN Human Rights Council and to seek a seat on the Council at the first opportunity, as well as the announcement that Vice President Harris will provide remarks during the UN Commission on the Status of Women next week.

Advancing gender equity and equality for all women and girls, as well as those in the LGBTQI+ community and individuals with disabilities, is first and foremost a matter of human rights and should be a goal in and of itself. It is also a necessary precondition for achieving key U.S. foreign policy objectives. We urge your Administration to ensure gender equity and equality are key tenets of U.S. foreign policy and assistance efforts through urgently taking the below critical actions:

  1. Announce unprecedented strong support in your first budget proposal to Congress with robust funding for gender equity and equality programs around the world, including significantly increasing funds to directly support women’s and LGBTQIA+ rights organizations;
  2. Announce your plan to appoint a Senior Gender Coordinator to the National Security Council to ensure that gender equity and equality issues are addressed at our nation’s most critical foreign policy making table; and,
  3. Announce your intention to appoint a foreign policy task force and staff lead for the new White House Gender Policy Council to ensure that the power of your office is brought to bear on gender issues everywhere, not just within the United States.

Read the Full Letter

Biden’s New Gendered Approach to Domestic and Foreign Policy

President Biden and Vice President Harris recently announced the formation of a White House Gender Policy Council, which will protect and uplift the rights of people of all genders both here in the U.S. and abroad. This panel of experts discussed the creation of this new Council, its significance to U.S. domestic and foreign affairs, and which issues it should tackle first.

Speakers:

  • Emily Prey, Senior Analyst, Newlines Institute
  • Akila Radhakrishnan, President, Global Justice Center
  • Latanya Mapp Frett, President, Global Fund for Women
  • Kimberly Inez McGuire, Executive Director, URGE

The Biden Administration’s Moves to Protect Abortion are Good, Just Not Good Enough

Excerpt of Women's Media Center op-ed by GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello.

On January 28, the Biden administration issued a much-anticipated Presidential Memorandum “protecting women’s health at home and abroad” that reversed four anti-abortion policies adopted under the Trump administration. While this move undoes some of the harm done to reproductive rights over the last four years, it falls far short of being the “bold and proactive” policy package demanded by reproductive rights activists.

This failure will be felt as more conservative state legislatures pursue anti-abortion measures and the Supreme Court — made significantly more conservative by President Trump — is likely to hear cases in the near future that could provide an opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade. It also highlights a sense of urgency — we may have only two years of a Democratically-controlled White House and Congress to secure lasting progress on abortion rights.

During the 2020 election, then-candidate Biden issued a detailed Agenda for Womenthat recognized a “woman’s constitutional right under Roe v. Wade” and pledged to take action against attempts to violate this right.

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Biden Administration Repeals Global Gag Rule

NEW YORK — The Biden administration today rescindedthe Global Gag Rule (also known as the “Mexico City Policy”'). It also ordered a review of the Trump administration’s “domestic gag rule,” which bars organizations participating in the Title X family planning program from providing abortion services.

First ordered by President Reagan in 1984, the Global Gag Rule blocks foreign organizations from receiving certain US funds if they provide abortion services, referrals, or information or if they advocate for changes to abortion laws in their country. Initially restricted to “family planning” funds, President Trump expanded the rule to apply to organizations receiving nearly any global health assistance funds.

Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“We welcome the repeal of the disastrous Global Gag Rule. Now begins the critical work of communicating the new policy to the world. But let’s be clear — repealing Gag is the bare minimum. 

“The Biden administration should have also included in this executive order a provision allowing congressionally permitted exceptions for rape, life endangerment, and incest to the Helms Amendment, which is the legal foundation for Gag and has prohibited any U.S. foreign aid from going to abortion services since 1973. Reproductive rights activists should be worried that, like his predecessor, he will ultimately choose political expediency over survivors’ rights to access safe abortion services.

“We are also disappointed with the administration’s failure to consistently and explicitly use the word ‘abortion’ since taking office. The global and domestic rules directly target abortion services and by tiptoing around this fact, the Biden administration is stigmatizing abortion — a human right.

“The Biden administration can’t call itself a champion of women if it repeals Gag but leaves in place the patriarchal structure around it. The reproductive rights community has compiled a comprehensive agenda for sexual and reproductive health that details what is necessary. If we want to truly “build back better,” we must go beyond simply rolling back Trump’s policies and embrace a bold, feminist agenda for global health and human rights.”

Silencing Progress: The Siljander Amendment and Global Censorship of Abortion Speech

For the last four years, the Trump administration has waged a war on sexual and reproductive health and rights around the world. Some of the tools in its arsenal are US foreign assistance restrictions on family planning and abortion. To be sure, many of these restrictions pre-date Trump, but this administration had a laser focus on weaponizing them to undermine and attack the fundamental human rights of women.

The change in US leadership with the Biden administration offers a chance for renewed attention and pressure on the need to repeal these odious restrictions, some of which are better known and understood than others.

Much has been said on the Global Gag Ruleand to a lesser extent the Helms Amendment(“Helms”). However, little has been written or is understood about the Siljander Amendment (“Siljander”), which prohibits lobbying for or against abortion with US foreign assistance funds.

Even so, the Siljander Amendment has appeared in recent news: In August 2020, 60 US Senators and Representatives signed a letter to John Barsa, Acting Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (“USAID”) urging enforcement of Siljander by reducing “US contributions to UN Secretary-General and to UN organizations that lobby for abortion…in amounts proportional to their abortion-related lobbying,” also referring to “a fictitious international right to abortion.” This flawed assessment comes, unsurprisingly, on the heels of the US government cutting assistance to the Organization of American States (“OAS”) in 2019 based on erroneous claims that its agencies engaged in lobbying for abortion in violation of the Siljander Amendment.

In light of these concerning developments, and with the new Biden administration taking office, this factsheet is intended to provide background information regarding the Siljander Amendment, how it has been applied – namely, to censor constitutional and legal reform and fundamental human rights – and why it should ultimately be repealed, along with all other US abortion restrictions on foreign assistance.

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First 100 Days Agenda for Abortion Justice

This election came amid an inflection point for our country – the stakes could not be higher.

We’re still in the midst of the worsening COVID-19 pandemic, an economic crisis, and a national reckoning on systemic racism. All* Above All believes that systemic racism, economic insecurity, and immigration status can multiply the already-massive barriers to abortion care--and that true abortion justice must incorporate racial, economic, and immigrant justice.

Our constituency is at the center of the public health and economic crises, while the number of people of color working to make ends meet is only growing. This year reminds us that restrictions that deny people abortion care are not separate issues from police violence, wage gaps, and deep inequities in our health care system -- they’re all rooted in systemic racism that denies all people the ability to thrive and live their lives with dignity and economic security.

For the last four years, the Trump-Pence administration shamed, punished, and targeted people struggling financially, especially women of color, by pushing policies that deny them the ability to make their own decisions about their health and their lives with dignity and economic security. We’ve watched as a Supreme Court nominee was rushed through to tip the balance of our highest court, putting at risk our health care, our voting and worker’s rights, LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, and more. We are not just talking about the legal right to abortion--that is not and was never enough. We must reimagine abortion access beyond Roe.

Read the Full Letter

Rescinding the Global Gag Rule Isn’t Enough

Excerpt of Foreign Policy op-ed by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan and CHANGE President Serra Sippel.

Over the past four years, outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump has abandoned even the pretense of a foreign policy grounded in respect for women’s rights and reproductive rights. Perhaps the clearest example was Trump’s unprecedented expansion of the global gag rule, or the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy (formerly known as the Mexico City policy). The global gag rule blocks U.S. funding for foreign organizations that provide any services, referrals, or even information for legal abortions, or that advocate for changes to abortion laws in their country. First implemented by the Reagan administration in 1984, the policy has been enforced during all subsequent Republican administrations. Before Trump reinstated it, it applied only to family planning funding. But since 2017, it has been extended to all global health funding.

Today, the gag rule places restrictions on $8 billion of U.S. global health funding, and it’s had grave consequences for women worldwide: As a direct result of the policy’s design to cut funding to healthcare providers, it has led to more maternal deaths and unsafe abortions, a rise in HIV and AIDS, and the breakdown of civil society coalitions and partnerships, such as Marie Stopes International.

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A Feminist Vision for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in a Biden Administration

Description:

The Biden-Harris administration has promised to "build back better," but what does that mean for US policy on human rights? Moderated by author Jill Filipovic, this conversation dives deep into the possibilities presented by the incoming administration to advance global reproductive health and rights.

Panelists include:

  • Akila Radhakrishnan, President, Global Justice Center
  • Serra Sippel, President, Center for Health and Gender Equity
  • Anu Kumar, Presdient, Ipas

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Letter to Biden Transition Team on Human Rights

Dear President-Elect Biden,

As organizations committed to reproductive, gender, economic, immigrant, and racial justice, we know that this is a crucial moment for Black and Brown communities, women, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, and young people. Our communities are still trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic and people continue to fight for racial justice all over the country. We are fighting for a future in which we can control our own bodies, safely care for our families, and work with dignity, no matter who we are or where we live. We are reimagining a world in which each of us makes a living wage, has the right to unionize, families live free from violence, and everyone has access to the full-spectrum of reproductive, maternal, and sexual health care, including abortion.

Read the Full Letter

Trump’s last Human Rights Week

Excerpt of Public Radio International segment featuring GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

As he has in years past, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation honoring this week as Human Rights Week. As The World's Rupa Shenoy reports, the proclamation was the final salvo in a four-year campaign by Evangelicals in the Trump administration to narrow the definition of human rights in a way that has angered many human rights activists.

Listen to the Segment

Factsheet — Reproducing Patriarchy: How the Trump Administration has Undermined Women’s Access to Reproductive Health Care

For an in-depth analysis of the new Title X regulations (Final Rule, Domestic Gag Rule, or Domestic Gag), the impact on clinics’ participation in Title X and patients’ access to healthcare, domestic litigation challenging the restrictions, and how the Domestic Gag Rule violates the United States’ international human rights legal obligations, see the Global Justice Center and Leitner Center’s full report.

The Domestic Gag Rule is part of a broader pattern aimed at restricting access and denying women their ability to exercise their fundamental human rights

For the last four years the Trump administration has engaged in a systematic effort to undermine reproductive choice and bodily autonomy. Internationally, the Trump administration has attempted to undermine international law and institutions that protect sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and has cut funding for organizations that promote reproductive rights and services. President Trump reinstated and expanded the Global Gag Rule, limiting funding for foreign non-governmental organizations that provide abortion services as a method of family planning and restricting a wide variety of speech about abortion services, research, and advocacy, with well-documented detrimental impacts on sexual and reproductive health, HIV and AIDS services, and maternal mortality.

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U.S. signs international anti-abortion declaration

Excerpt of UPI article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

The Global Justice Center lambasted the Trump administration Thursday, saying despite its rhetoric it has never put the health of women first.

"This administration has consistently [put] both women's bodies, here at home and abroad, last," Akila Radhakrishnan, president of Global Justice Center, said in a statement.

"Just because these regressive governments keep asserting that abortion is not a human right, doesn't make it true; the international human rights framework is clear on this issue," Radhakrishnan said. "There is a reason why none of the U.S.' traditional allies, nor countries with strong records on human rights, joined this declaration -- if flies in the face of decades of hard-fought victories for the rights for women."

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Trump Administration Launches Declaration Attacking Human Right to Abortion Access

NEW YORK — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today signed a declaration opposing the human right to abortion access and elevating notions of the traditional family and motherhood. The “Geneva Consensus Declaration” was initiated by the US and was co-sponsored by Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Uganda, and signed by 32 countries.

Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“This declaration is nothing less than an assault on decades of progress for the health and rights of women around the world. Let's be clear: abortion is healthcare and a human right — no matter what the US or any of the other countries who signed this statement say.

“Despite what Secretaries Azar and Pompeo said, this administration has never ‘put women's health first.’ Rather, this administration has consistently both women's bodies, here at home and abroad, last. For evidence, look no further than its expanded ‘Global Gag Rule,’ which has devastated critical healthcare for women around the world

“Just because these regressive governments keep asserting that abortion is not a human right, doesn't make it true; the international human rights framework is clear on this issue. There is a reason why none of the US’ traditional allies, nor countries with strong records on human rights, joined this declaration — it flies in the face of decades of hard-fought victories for the rights of women.”

Reproducing Patriarchy: How the Trump Administration has Undermined Women’s Access to Reproductive Health Care

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Introduction

Since taking office, the Trump administration has unleashed a blitz of regressive and discriminatory laws and policies. Of the many issues under attack, few have seen similar ire and attention as sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Both internationally and domestically, the Trump administration has engaged in a broad, systematic effort to undermine reproductive choice and bodily autonomy. 

Internationally, the Trump administration has attempted to undermine international law and institutions that protect SRHR and has cut funding for organizations that promote reproductive rights and services. Within days of taking office, President Trump reinstated and expanded the Global Gag Rule, an onerous policy that limits funding for foreign non-governmental organizations that provide abortion services as a method of family planning and restricts a wide variety of speech about abortion services, research, and advocacy, with well-documented detrimental impacts on sexual and reproductive health, HIV and AIDS services, and maternal mortality. The Trump administration has attempted to erase language on SRHR from governmental and inter-governmental documents, such as in the State Department’s annual human rights report, United Nations (UN) negotiated documents, and UN resolutions.  In 2019, the United States (US) cut funding to the Organization of American States (OAS), a quasi-governmental regional body, for allegedly violating restrictions on lobbying for abortion rights by commenting on state practice on reproductive choice. Most recently, the unlawfully formed and operated State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights, created to advise the Secretary of State on human rights and intended to inform US foreign policy, issued a draft report which misrepresents the nature of the international human rights framework and inaccurately frames access to abortion as a “divisive social and political controvers[y]” rather than an established right under international law. 

The Trump administration’s attacks on reproductive rights are not limited to international and foreign-policy related targets. Domestically, the Trump administration has also taken steps to erode protections for SRHR, including by targeting the Title X Family Planning program with new regulations, Compliance with Statutory Program Integrity Requirements (the Final Rule), published on March 4, 2019. The Final Rule imposes a number of new physical, financial, and administrative burdens on clinics receiving Title X funding in an effort to restrict women’s access to particular reproductive health information and services. As this report documents, the Final Rule violates fundamental human rights and the US’ obligations under international human rights law. Although the US has attempted to minimize or ignore its international human rights obligations, as shown in the recent Commission on Unalienable Rights draft document, this report reviews the substantive obligations of the US and the binding nature of these legal obligations. 

Limiting Scientific Research is Another Front in the War on Abortion

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine op-ed from GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello.

The recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg puts reproductive rights guaranteed by Roe v. Wade in grave jeopardy. As part of its war on abortionthe Trump administration has banned scientists from using human fetal tissue (HFT) donated from terminated pregnancies in medical research.

The ban on HFT research is not only another attack on reproductive freedoms; it is limiting crucial medical advances, putting lives in danger and demonstrating the vast collateral damage unleashed by the war on abortion. Reproductive rights advocates must seize upon this dangerous politicization of medical research to forge new allies and further broaden advocacy coalitions.

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The Trump administration's war on abortion rights is worse than you think

Excerpt of The Hill op-ed from GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello.

The Trump administration has been executing a coordinated attack on what it sees as a critical public health issue. Unfortunately, the offensive is not targeting the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected over six million people and claimed almost 200,000 lives in the US. Instead, the campaign has its sights set on women’s sexual health and reproductive rights, especially abortion. With the recent death of Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg threatening the fate of Roe v. Wade, the security of abortion rights has never been more precarious.

The administration’s brazen anti-abortion agenda includes not only well-publicized executive actions such as the expansions of the global and domestic gag rules, “conscience” exemptions to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, and the packing of courts with anti-abortion judges.

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The Blueprint for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice Releases First Priorities for an Incoming Administration

WASHINGTON — Today, the Blueprint for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice released First Priorities, a detailed punch list of executive and agency actions for the opening days of an incoming administration.

First Priorities is based on the Blueprint, a bold, intersectional, and proactive policy agenda to advance sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice released last year and developed by a diverse coalition of more than 90 organizations. 

First Priorities for the Blueprint for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice is a roadmap for an incoming administration’s first days. It lists specific actions centered around six key points and milestones:  

GJC Public Comment - Commission on Unalienable Rights

Dear Members of the US State Department Commission on Unalienable Rights,

This past May, the Global Justice Center sent a submission regarding our concerns with respect to the Commission, its work, and the potential harm that a final report produced by the Commission may have on the international human rights framework, specifically as it pertains to the right to abortion. 

Now, we write to you again as part of the two week public comment period following the release of the Commission’s draft report on July 16, 2020. First, we wish to call attention to the fact this is an inadequate length of time for meaningful engagement, both by the public and by the Commission, before finalization of the report. There is little reason to believe that this report is even viewed as a draft version, since the Commission has already completed all of its meetings and there is no mention of “draft” in the text of the draft report itself. Having reviewed the July 16 “Report of the Commission on Unalienable Rights” (“report”) and listened to Secretary Pompeo’s speech at its unveiling, as well as the following Commission meeting, we write again to express our concerns with the report and any final product that emerges from this Commission. More specifically, we are alarmed by the Commission’s flawed representation of the international human rights framework, its legal requirements, and its framing of abortion.

 
   

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Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Abortion Rights Groups Announce First-Ever Bill to Repeal 47-Year-old Anti-Abortion Policy

Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act would repeal the Helms Amendment, which bars U.S. foreign assistance funding for abortion, expanding abortion access globally

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus Providers and Clinics Task Force, today introduced the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act. The Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act is the first-ever legislation to repeal the Helms Amendment,a 47-year-old policy rooted in racism that bans the use of any U.S. foreign assistance funds for abortion, putting an arbitrary line between abortion and all other global health services. Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Diana DeGette (D- CO), and Norma Torres (D-CA) signed on as original co-sponsors.

Rep. Schakowsky announced the new legislationon a virtual press conference with reporters on Wednesday morning, discussing the Helms Amendment’s harmful history, its burden on global reproductive and economic freedom, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on access to reproductive health care around the world. Joining her on the call were Dr. Ernest Nyamato, a Kenyan doctor and Quality of Care global team lead at Ipas, an international reproductive health and human rights organization, and former director of the Ipas Africa Alliance in Kenya; and Lienna Feleke-Eshete, public policy associate at CHANGE, a U.S. nongovernmental organization that advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls and others who face stigma and discrimination.