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U.S. commits to advancing sexual and reproductive health, ending domestic and global gag rules

WASHINGTON — Today, the Biden-Harris administration formally notified the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council that it supports access to sexual and reproductive health care as a human right, and also committed to take steps to protect and advance that access in the U.S. and around the world. This commitment comes in response to the 2020 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, during which representatives from UN member states offered recommendations to the U.S. on how to improve human rights. Many representatives focused on regressive policies championed by the Trump administration, and its allies across the U.S. government, that attacked sexual and reproductive health and rights. 

Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president & CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America: 

“Today, the Biden-Harris administration proudly declared to the international community that sexual and reproductive health care — including abortion — is a human right. This is a deeply meaningful statement from the administration, as our nation works to undo the harm of the last four years, rejoin the international community, and work with partners around the globe to advance health care access and rights for all people. Planned Parenthood proudly stands ready to work with the Biden-Harris administration to implement the changes it has promised and move forward together toward a world where sexual and reproductive health and rights are guaranteed for all.”

Among the recommendations it supported today, the administration pledged to work to end policies that inhibit access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. This is an important signal of support as congressional health care champions work to end the Hyde and Helms amendments, which respectively block coverage for abortion in federal insurance programs and block foreign aid programs from supporting abortion, even in countries where it is legal. 

The Biden-Harris administration also reiterated its commitment to end the Title X gag rule and its opposition to the global gag rule. In January, the administration initiated a review process as an important first step to ending the domestic gag rule and repealed the global gag rule — for now. These rules silence health care providers and undermine access to affordable care for people who have long faced systemic barriers, including people of color, people with low incomes, LGBTQ+ communities, and women. 

The administration must now turn today’s words — and promises made during the presidential campaign — into policy. They must complete the work necessary to end the domestic gag rule, and work with Congress to pass the Global HER Act and end the Hyde and Helms amendments.

The UPR process involves a review of the human rights records of all UN member states every five years, with the aim of improving the human rights situation on the ground. Last year, Planned Parenthood Federation of America submitted a report for the UPR on the U.S.’s human rights record, including recommendations to overturn the Title X and global gag rules and to repeal the Hyde and Helms amendments. In response to their review of U.S. policies, 14 countries offered recommendations to the U.S. to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health, and address policies that limit access to family planning and funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights, including abortion, in the U.S. and around the world.

Earlier today, Jennifer Vanyur, Associate Director of Global Advocacy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, delivered remarks to the Human Rights Council applauding the administration’s commitment to taking these critical steps. Vanyur’s remarks are available as Chapter 21 on the U.S. UPR consideration webpage. 

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Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.

For more than 45 years, Planned Parenthood Global has supported access to sexual and reproductive health care and advocated for reproductive rights around the world. In partnership with more than 100 organizations across nine focus countries in Africa and Latin America, we advance the health and rights of young people, women and families, with an emphasis on the most vulnerable and underserved. Last year, our partners provided over 1.8 million people with sexual and reproductive health information and services. Our unique sustainability model sets us apart, as we empower partners to stand on their own. We help grassroots organizations develop solid reproductive health programs, identify other sources of funding, build their communications and advocacy skills, and develop strategic plans. Planned Parenthood Global is the international arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.