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US must lead the charge on global reproductive rights — not stand in the way

“[Countries] should take all appropriate measures to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, universal access to health-care services, including those related to reproductive health care, which includes family planning and sexual health.”

— International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (1994)

For women to lead full productive lives, they must have the freedom to make the health care choices that are best for them. And when women and girls are healthy, educated and safe, their countries and the world are more secure and prosperous. 

Alarmingly, the Trump administration is taking us in the wrong direction, amplified by recent activity at an important international conference where the U.S. adopted a counter-productive role, rallying countries to oppose internationally-accepted references to sexual and reproductive health and rights. That is why last week, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and I were joined by 36 members of Congress to introduce a resolution that calls on the U.S. to recognize reproductive rights as human rights and celebrates 25 years since the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

In 1994, the international community gathered for a landmark summit on reproductive health and women’s rights–the ICPD in Cairo, Egypt. One hundred seventy-nine governments, including the United States, adopted the conference’s comprehensive Programme of Action, recognizing that reproductive rights and gender equality are critical to global development.

In the 25 years since the ICPD, major progress has been made toward universal access to sexual and reproductive health, including an increase in voluntary access to modern contraception, increased abortion access, a decline in the number of unsafe abortions, and a drop in maternal death rates.

Still, major challenges remain. More than 800 women die daily from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, 214 million women worldwide have unmet contraceptive needs, and countries are criminalizing and restricting access to safe abortion.

To fulfill the objectives of the ICPD, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, recently convened a high-level conference in Nairobi, Kenya. At the conference, the Trump delegation actively opposed any reference to access to abortion consistent with Trump’s all-out assault on women’s reproductive rights. Our resolution, introduced to coincide with the summit, recognizes that the U.S. must remain committed to achieving the goals of gender equality and reproductive freedom to support sustainable global development.

The Trump administration’s obsession with stopping abortion is harming women’s access to health care at home and abroad. Trump has reinstated and expanded the inhumane Global Gag Rule that prevents foreign organizations receiving U.S. global health assistance from providing information, referrals, or services for legal abortion. This has led to health clinics that provide basic services shutting down around the world, putting countless women’s lives at risk. He has also suspended funding for the UNFPA, which operates in more than 150 countries to provide reproductive and maternal health care and end gender-based violence. He has proposed eliminating or drastically cutting international family planning funding. Adding insult to injury, Trump has removed the reproductive rights section from the State Department’s annual human rights report.

The Trump administration’s dangerous policies must be reversed. That work, as referenced in our resolution, must begin with reinstating funding for UNFPA, repealing the Global Gag Rule, and increasing U.S. funding for family planning programs to ensure that all women can meet their contraceptive needs.

Rep. Lois Frankel represents Florida’s 21st District, which includes Palm Beach County, and was first elected to Congress in 2012. She serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.

Tags Barbara Lee Lois Frankel

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