Will Congress Reaffirm the U.S. Commitment to Reproductive Health and Rights Worldwide?

Today, Representatives Lois Frankel (FL-21) and Barbara Lee (CA-13), alongside 36 members of Congress, introduced a resolution recognizing the 25th anniversary of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, Egypt and reaffirming the United States’ commitment to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights.

(Lorie Shaull / Creative Commons)

“Women deserve control over their bodies and their lives,” Frankel said in a statement. “Access to reproductive health services allows women to lead healthier, safer and more productive lives—bettering their communities and the world.”

The progress made under the ICPD Programme—a 25 percent increase in voluntary access to modern contraception, declining numbers of deaths due to unsafe abortions and a decrease in maternal deaths—features prominently in the Resolution. But its authors also call attention to challenges remaining 25 years later. 214,000,000 women around the world still have unmet contraception needs, Frankel, Lee and their co-sponsors remind the nation; 295,000 women every year will die from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. In sub-Saharan Africa, girls account for four out of five new HIV infections among adolescents, and 35,000,000 women and girls of reproductive age remain in need of humanitarian aid.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is also marking the anniversary of the Cairo conference with a high-level convening this week in Nairobi, Kenya to advance the ICPD Programme of Action, which recognizes that reproductive health and gender equality are critical to global sustainable development. It’s a mission that many don’t find remarkable—but which the Trump administration has persistently resisted.

The U.S. is the largest funder of global health programs in the world, but the Trump administration’s policies—including an expanded Global Gag Rule—have shut down critical access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care for women around the world. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. has multiple times criticized the United Nations for doing work that advances gender equality, and has sought to water-down resolutions that affirm and protect sexual and reproductive health care access, even in times of war and other conflict.

Frankel and Lee’s resolution calls for the U.S. government to champion the right to bodily autonomy and self-determination for all.

“Reproductive rights are human rights,” Lee declared in a statement. “As the Democratic Congressional Representative to the United Nations, I will keep working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure that everyone around the world has access to comprehensive reproductive care. That includes stopping the Global Gag Rule, increasing funding for the UNFPA and safeguarding international family planning programs.”


Carmen Rios is a self-proclaimed feminist superstar and the former digital editor at Ms. Her writing on queerness, gender, race and class has been published in print and online by outlets including BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, DAME, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic, the National Women’s History Museum, SIGNS and the Women’s Media Center; and she is a co-founder of Webby-nominated Argot Magazine. @carmenriosss|carmenfuckingrios.com