Reproductive Rights are Still Human Rights—Even if the Trump Administration Won’t Say So

The Country Report on Human Rights Practices (CRHRP), compiled and submitted to Congress every year by the State Department, provides a detailed account of the status of human rights policies around the world. But the 2018 report—the first to be released under the Trump Administration—was missing something. This year, the CRHRP didn’t include coverage of reproductive health and rights.

In 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added to the CRHRP a designated section on reproductive rights, requiring the department to evaluate abortion access, contraception and maternal and child health overseas and include their data in the final report. Under Clinton’s leadership and in the years that followed, the CRHRP provided a well-rounded overview of women’s reproductive rights across the globe—including information on whether the general population is able to freely practice their reproductive rights, existing policies affecting or pertaining to reproductive rights in that country and any barriers, threats, concerns or failures to uphold reproductive rights by state governments.

Now, for the first time in six years, the report doesn’t include any detailed information on the status of global reproductive rights—except for one section titled “coercion in population control,” which harkens back to earlier claims by the administration that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which lost $32.5 million in funding from the U.S. under Trump’s leadership, participates in coercive abortion policies and forced sterilizations in tandem with the Chinese government. That wasn’t true then, and evidently is not true now—seeing as this new section in the report affirms that “there were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization or other coercive population control methods.”

The Trump administration’s disregard for women’s human rights abroad, and in particular their access to reproductive and sexual heath care, is by now par for the course. “Omitting [this] issue,” Amnesty International said in a statement about the CRHRP, “signals the Trump administration’s latest retreat from global leadership on human rights.” It certainly wasn’t Trump’s first—and women in the U.S. and abroad have no reason to believe it will be his last.

During his campaign, Trump claimed that women who obtain abortions should be “punished.” His running mate and now-Vice President, Mike Pence, has called for Roe to find its place “on the ash heap of history.” Trump’s attacks on abortion domestically have persisted, and the dangerous decisions of his administration have also extended that war on women to the global stage. Within days of his inauguration, Trump re-instated and expanded the deadly Global Gag Rule, putting health care providers and facilities around the world at risk of massive funding cuts and millions of women’s lives in danger. At a closed-door meeting in March at the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women, administration officials allegedly referred to the U.S. as a “pro-life nation.” And just last week, Trump’s nominee to head up the State Department, Mike Pompeo, was approved—despite his obvious contempt for abortion rights and women’s rights.

This administration can do their best to erase women’s rights, but women won’t go back. And as Clinton herself famously declared: reproductive rights are (still) human rights, whether federal officials want to admit as much or not.


Tiernan Hebron is a Los Angeles-based activist and writer and an Editorial Intern at Ms. Her work has appeared in LA Magazine, ATTN, Feministing, Galore, Tribe de Mama, LadyClever, Elite Daily and Adolescent. Tiernan is a sexual and reproductive rights peer educator for Amnesty International and manages digital communications for DIGDEEP and the Los Angeles Black Worker Center. You can find her being very opinionated on Instagram.