Opinion: There is no middle ground on human rights — including abortion rights

Letter to the Editor from GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan to The Washington Post.

Aaron Tang’s Oct. 28 Thursday Opinion essay, “A view on abortion that originalists should embrace,” outlined a dangerous path forward for the Supreme Court that is in direct conflict with an internationally recognized fact: There is no “middle ground” on a human right.

It is abundantly clear that the six-week and 15-week abortion bans before the court violate human rights outlined in treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the United States has ratified.

In a 2018 “general comment” on the treaty, the U.N. Human Rights Committee made it clear that state parties, including the United States, may not “regulate pregnancy or abortion … in a manner that runs contrary to their duty to ensure that women and girls do not have to undertake unsafe abortions.” A decision to uphold either of these bans would put the United States out of compliance with its international legal obligations.

Human rights, including abortion access, can’t be negotiated away for reasons of political acceptability. It’s time American legal observers of all stripes recognize this, and for judges to take this into account.

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Jackson v. Dobbs - Amicus Brief

SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT

Near-categorical bans on abortions will have a significant, real, and negative impact on the health of pregnant individuals.

The worst such impacts will be borne by marginalized groups, including people living in economic poverty and by Black, Indigenous, and people of color. These are the very groups whose health the law should protect. Banning abortion does the opposite.

In-country after country, abortion bans have not led to a decrease in the number of abortions, but rather an increase in the number of unsafe abortions—especially affecting people of limited means.

These risks are neither theoretical nor conjectural. In countries across the world, including Romania, South Africa, El Salvador, and Ecuador, there is a statistical relationship between the imposition of restrictive abortion legislation and increases in maternal mortality and morbidity. The lesson for this case is clear: If an abortion ban like H.B. 1510 is upheld, more women in Mississippi are likely to die.

Consistent with these findings, countries around the world allow abortion on broad grounds.

Amicus briefs submitted in support of Petitioners claim that most countries ban or severely restrict abortion. That assertion distorts reality. In fact, a strong majority of women of reproductive age—approximately 60%—live in countries where abortion is available upon request or otherwise broadly available on a variety of social, economic, and health grounds.

By contrast, just a handful of countries, representing 5% of women of reproductive age, ban abortion without exception. Mississippi’s H.B. 1510 is an unmistakable step in this latter direction, away from the global norm and towards this small minority position.

Furthermore, where only economically developed or highly developed countries are considered, an even more robust consensus emerges. Of the 36 highly developed countries, 34 offer abortion on broadly available grounds. A significant number of nations offer abortions free of charge to low-income pregnant individuals.

International law coheres with these trends in comparative law. Contrary to amicus briefs submitted supporting Petitioners, international human rights law recognizes the well-known risks created by restrictive abortion legislation and requires states to ensure abortion access.

Access to safe and lawful abortion services is firmly rooted in the rights to life; to non-discrimination; to be free from torture, cruel, and degrading treatment; and to privacy. These rights are recognized in international human rights treaties ratified by the United States, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention Against Torture. The United States cannot, given its international obligations, enact legislation that transgresses these commitments. Banning abortion clearly does so.

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House’s Two Major Spending Bills Omit Long-Standing Abortion Restrictions—But Senate Battle Remains

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine article by GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed two major spending bills—a package of federal appropriations authorizations and a foreign aid appropriations bill—which do not include decades-old discriminatory reproductive rights prohibitions that have prevented women, especially women of color, from exercising their basic sexual and reproductive health rights in the U.S. and abroad.

The two bills, passed largely along party lines, will face a difficult path in the evenly-split Senate and stand in stark contrast to the recent rash of state-level abortion restrictions and the increasing possibility that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade.

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Yazidi Genocide: Slavery, Gender, & Sexual Violence

Description:

The Yezidi Genocide sadly included a number of highly gendered and especially brutal crimes. When ISIS abducted Yezidi women, elderly women were executed. Other women and girls were sorted and selected like animals, trafficked through a highly organized slavery system that included court documents certifying ‘ownership’, and subjected to horrific sexual violence, in some cases for many years. Even today thousands of Yezidis, mostly women, remain unaccounted for and missing. Panelists will discuss the legal and psychological impact of slavery, crimes of sexual violence in the context of a mass atrocity like the Yezidi Genocide, and how to best legally address these crimes.

Participants:

  • Akila Radhakrishnan, President, Global Justice Center (Host)
  • Patricia Visuer Sellers, Special Gender Advisory to the ICC Prosecutor's Office
  • Beth Van Schaack, Visiting Professor of Human Rights, Stanford Law School
  • Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum, Associate Professor of Clinical Law, Cardozo School of Law
  • Alexandra Lily Kather, Visiting Fellow for Global Justice, Goldsmiths University London
  • Mayan Hussein, Psychotherapist, Free Yezidi Foundation

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The US Campaign to Deny Healthcare to War Victims

Description:

The Biden administration has repeatedly asserted itself as a champion of sexual and reproductive rights abroad (albeit without ever having said the word abortion), and yet it continues to impose draconian anti-abortion policies which deny access to abortion to pregnant people around the world without exception. As the largest global health funder in the world, these restrictions have an enormous impact on global health providers. This impact is no more destructive than in conflict zones, where local clinics and providers are routinely forced to turn away victims of war rape seeking abortion care, leaving these pregnant victims with no alternative other than to seek out unsafe alternatives.

Over the past decade, policymakers, advocates and medical providers have sought to change these policies, and ensure that pregnant people are able to access safe abortion care as they are entitled to under international law. In parallel, journalists and others have worked to tell the stories of those whose lives have been impacted by these policies and expose the sweeping brutality of the United States’ actions on abortion access around the world.

Participants:

  • Patrick Adams, Journalist (Host)
  • Jill Filipovic, Attorney and Author
  • Akila Radhakrishnan, President, Global Justice Center
  • Tamara Fetters, Senior Researcher, Ipas
  • Melissa Upreti, Chair, UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls

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Policy Brief: The United States and the Generation Equality Forum

Dear Madam Prosecutor,

After years of debate as to whether or not to host a Fifth World Conference on Women, UN Women and leading progressive nations wishing to mark the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action at the Fourth World Conference on Women have created a champions-only space outside the United Nations (UN) system: the Generation Equality Forum (GEF).

The Generation Equality Forum (GEF), organized by UN Women and the governments of Mexico and France, will create a space for governments to revisit the outcomes from the Fourth World Conference on Women; elevate issues such as climate change that were not a focus in 1995; make new, transformative commitments; and marshal resources and generate will toward achieving the vision of Beijing and beyond.

For the Biden-Harris administration, the GEF offers among its first and best opportunities to demonstrate its renewed and unwavering commitment to these issues on the world stage. By making strong commitments to achieve gender equality and protect women’s human rights across all six of the priority themes—organized in what are known as Action Coalitions—the United States can advance gender equality and women’s rights both globally and domestically, in line with the Biden-Harris administration’s priorities: an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the advancement of racial justice and equity and a robust response to the global climate crisis.

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How US Abortion Politics Distorts Women’s Lives in Conflict Zones

Excerpt of New York Review of Books that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

According to Akila Radhakrishnan, a human rights lawyer and president of the Global Justice Center, international humanitarian law supersedes national abortion laws: doctors in humanitarian settings have an obligation to provide care regardless. This is analogous, she argued, to the doctor’s duty to provide care to any person injured in a conflict even if the laws of country they are working in forbid the provision of care to people affiliated with so-designated terrorist organizations. The International Committee of the Red Cross also has guidelines that tell aid workers that in emergencies, international humanitarian law takes precedence over domestic rules.

“It’s unclear why [abortion would be different],” said Radhakrishnan. “We seem reluctant to make these connections when it comes to women’s bodies…. the denial of abortion, certainly to rape victims, has also been found to be torture. But you don’t see that same kind of outcry from a broad constituency when abortion services are denied.”

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President Biden Releases Budget That Removes Hyde Amendment, Leaves Other Abortion Restrictions in Place

NEW YORK — In his first presidential budget released today, President Biden removed the Hyde Amendment, but left in place several other restrictions on abortion funding, including the Helms Amendment.

The Helms Amendment has prohibited any U.S. foreign aid from going to abortion services since 1973. Among other anti-abortion policies included in the budget, the president also left in place the Siljander Amendment, which prevents the use of US funds to lobby for or against abortion.

Elena Sarver, legal advisor with the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“The president is right to remove the Hyde Amendment from his budget, but the Helms Amendment and Hyde are two sides of the same coin. Both restrict access to abortion care in violation of international law. Both have been recognized by the international community as violations of human rights. There is simply no reason to protect the rights of pregnant people here in the US, but deny them to pregnant people around the world.

“At the United Nations and other international venues, the Biden administration continues to say it is a champion of sexual and reproductive rights. But the inclusion of illegal and destructive abortion funding restrictions like Helms shows this is mere rhetoric rather than a true commitment. Combine this failure with their refusal to utter the word ‘abortion,’ this administration has a lot of work to do before it can truly claim to be a champion of reproductive rights.”

Generation Equality Letter to President Biden

Dear President Biden,

On behalf of the 38 organizations committed to advancing gender equality at home and abroad, we applaud your administration’s decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and to have Vice President Kamala Harris deliver the U.S.’s remarks at the 65th Commission on the Status of Women. Additionally, we welcome your Executive Order formally establishing the White House Gender Policy Council and its mandate to develop the Government-Wide Strategy to Advance Gender Equity and Equality. Coupled with the Presidential Memorandum on Protecting Women’s Health at Home and Abroad and the Presidential Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Persons Around the World, these actions begin to restore the U.S. as an authoritative voice on human rights and gender equality.

In light of your administration’s stated commitment to U.S. leadership and partnership on gender equality and human rights on the global stage, we are writing to urge you to personally attend and participate in the Generation Equality Forum taking place in Paris between June 30 - July 2.

The Generation Equality Forum, a partnership between UN Women, the governments of Mexico and France, feminist and youth movements and advocates from every sector of society, are intended to take place outside of the formal intergovernmental process in order to allow bold thinking and ambition - they are a space only for champions of gender equality. As such, they provide an opportunity for the United States to demonstrate its renewed commitment to human rights and make commitments towards the goals of the six Generation Equality Action Coalitions: gender-based violence, economic justice and rights, bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights, feminist action for climate justice, technology and innovation for gender equality, and feminist movements and leadership.

We urge the United States to make strong, cross-cutting, and specific commitments in both domestic and foreign policy, to catalyze progress on all 6 of the Action Coalition themes.

Download the Full Letter 

Biden urged to end US aid ‘abortion ban’

Excerpt of The Guardian article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

The group want clear guidance issued on Helms and another misinterpreted law, the Leahy amendment.

“The US is the largest funder of global health, including family planning, and is the only donor nation to single out abortion in this way,” the letter says. “Many US abortion restrictions, including the Helms amendment, have consistently been in place for decades, causing generations’ worth of harm – and they will continue to do so if action is not taken. This is a matter of utmost urgency as bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom are increasingly under siege.”

During his first 10 days in office, Biden rescinded the Mexico City Policy – known as the “global gag rule” – which stopped overseas groups that received US aid using money from other sources to fund abortion services. Kamala Harris, the US vice-president, co-signed a bill to repeal the policy permanently – currently, it can be reintroduced or rescinded by each president.

Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, said the belief that the Helms amendment banned abortion under all circumstances had become “normalised”.

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Letter to President Biden: Call for Executive Action on United States Abortion Restrictions on Foreign Aid

Dear President Biden,

We, the undersigned organizations, welcome your administration’s reengagement of the United States (US) with the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and recommitment to promoting human rights. We also applaud you for revoking the Global Gag Rule (also known as the Mexico City Policy) within your first ten days in office, and now we ask you to go further to implement “the policy of the US to support women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights in the US, as well as globally.” Therefore, in light of your administration’s response to the recommendations made to the US during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) before the HRC in Geneva last November, we are writing to urge you to take further steps to implement the UPR recommendations made with regard to sexual and reproductive health and rights, including by taking executive and administrative action to ameliorate the harmful impact of US abortion restrictions on foreign aid, particularly the Helms Amendment, a nearly 50-year-old policy that must be congressionally repealed in its entirety. Recognizing the racist and neo-colonial roots of the Helms Amendment, we also urge the implementation of the recommendations made regarding racism and discrimination. These recommendations were made by 23 countries spanning across Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East and, if implemented, would positively impact access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as the livelihood and wellbeing of persons experiencing discrimination.

During the UPR, the US was called on to strengthen its support for sexual and reproductive health and rights at home and abroad. A number of countries made formal recommendations for the US to take action on its restrictions on foreign assistance, and we commend your support of these recommendations. The Netherlands called on the US to “repeal the Helms Amendment...and, in the interim, allow United States foreign assistance to be used, at a minimum, for safe abortion in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment.” During the UPR adoption, the United Kingdom specifically addressed its “hope that the US can go further and clarify its interpretation of the Helms Amendment, and ensure universal access to safe abortion care.” Congress must repeal the Helms Amendment entirely and the Administration must do all that it can to mitigate the harms of this egregious policy in the interim. In order to implement these recommendations, we encourage you to take steps to:

  • Take executive action and issue guidance from relevant agencies and departments to clarify and implement US foreign assistance support for abortion care to the maximum extent allowed under the Helms Amendment, namely by immediately clarifying that funds can be used to support abortion care provided in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment of the pregnant person.
  • Issue guidance from relevant agencies and departments to proactively clarify that US foreign assistance may be used for abortion information and counseling under the Leahy Amendment.
  • Prioritize the removal of abortion funding restrictions like the Helms Amendment, in addition to addressing many other important sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) priorities, through the White House Gender Policy Council, with its focus on promoting SRHR domestically and globally, in order to bring US policy in line with its human rights obligations and the administration’s stated commitment to advancing global health and equity. All actions by the Gender Policy Council must also consider the role of racial and other forms of discrimination on recipients of sexual and reproductive healthcare in the US and elsewhere across the globe.
  • Consult with relevant stakeholders and agencies to issue policies to combat systemic racism and discrimination against marginalized and minoritized populations and ensure implementation of these policies at the state, federal and local levels, recognizing that domestic US policy and practice influence the values exported through US foreign assistance and foreign policy.
  • Ensure robust support for sexual and reproductive health and rights, including eliminating Helms and similar abortion coverage restrictions from the Fiscal Year 2022 budget.

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140+ Organizations Demand Biden Administration Implement International Recommendations on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

More than 140 organizations signed onto a letter sent to President Biden today urging him to implement recommendations on sexual and reproductive rights issued by United Nations member states. The recommendations came as part of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a process that reviews the human rights records of all UN Member States.

Signing organizations represent a diverse cross-section of issues and expertise, including in human rights, reproductive rights, racial justice, and global health. The full letter and list of signees can be found here: http://bit.ly/BidenUPRletter

The US received numerous UPR recommendations, and several countries called for the US to take action on its abortion restrictions on foreign assistance, in particular the Helms AmendmentThe Biden administration responded to these recommendations, but did not mention Helms and instead referred to their recent repeal of the Global Gag Rule.

To implement these recommendations, the letter outlines several executive and administrative actions the administration can take now:

  • Take executive action and issue guidance to immediately clarify US foreign assistance can be used to provide abortion care in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment of the pregnant person
  • Issue guidance from relevant agencies to proactively clarify that US foreign assistance may be used for abortion information and counseling under the Leahy Amendment
  • Prioritize the removal of abortion funding restrictions like the Helms Amendment through the White House Gender Policy Council, in addition to addressing many other important sexual and reproductive health and rights priorities and considering the role of racial and other forms of discrimination on recipients of sexual and reproductive healthcare in the US and globally
  • Consult with stakeholders and agencies to issue policies to combat systemic racism and ensure implementation of these policies at the state, federal and local levels, recognizing domestic US policy influences the values exported through US foreign assistance 
  • Eliminate Helms Amendment and similar abortion funding restrictions from FY 2022 budget

Four of the signing organizations issued the following statements:

“The Biden administration says it is committed to advancing sexual and reproductive rights around the world. Now, they have an opportunity to prove it,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center. “A failure to implement these recommendations would make the US commitment to the human rights system be mere rhetoric, and worse yet, rhetoric that is directly undermined by the failure to act.”

“It is time for the U.S. to join the global community to support and defend reproductive justice,” said Dr. Anu Kumar, president and CEO of Ipas. “Ending abortion funding restrictions like the Helms Amendment will protect people seeking abortion, will help countries expand access to health services, and will bring us closer to achieving reproductive and economic freedom and equity for millions worldwide. This policy has harmed Black and brown communities in low-to-middle income countries for far too long.”

“It is not enough to remove the Global Gag Rule and maintain the pre-Trump status quo,” said Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, Founder & President of the National Birth Equity Collaborative. “The Biden administration must go further to advance reproductive justice by supporting repeal of the Helms Amendment and advancing racial justice in the United States. The last year demonstrated how much further the US has to go to achieve racial justice and eliminate white supremacy from our domestic and foreign policy. This cannot wait.”

“This is an opportunity for Biden’s administration to fulfill its commitment to reproductive health care by completely removing abortion funding restrictions from US foreign assistance, ensuring that no woman, girl, or young person dies from an unsafe abortion as a result of stigma, lack of information, and lack of life-saving services,” said Nelly Munyasia, Executive Director of Reproductive Health Network Kenya. “One death as a result of unsafe abortion is far too many deaths.”

 

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.

Download Fact Sheet 

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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