June 1, 2023
Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are essential components of human rights, gender equality, and public health. However, in many parts of the world, these rights are under threat from restrictive laws and policies, as well as social norms that stigmatize them, threatening bodily autonomy and civil liberties. Treaties and laws, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), recognize the right to make decisions about one's own sexual and reproductive health and well-being, including the right to access safe and legal abortion and contraception, as a fundamental human right. There is broad agreement that sexual and reproductive health and rights are essential to gender equality. Officials in the Biden-Harris administration have stated that "gender equality is a prerequisite for democracy" and that "the status of women is the status of democracy." Some experts have even warned that "a rollback in abortion access is indicative of backsliding democracy."This brief explores the connection between restrictions on SRHR, the decline of democracy, and the rise of authoritarianism and provides recommendations for U.S. policymakers as they work to promote and protect these rights through U.S. foreign policy.