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December 8, 2016 / IP Memos

MEMO: How the Secretaries of Labor and State can impact reproductive freedom

December 8, 2016

As Donald Trump continues to announce the names of those he’d like to fill his cabinet, we want to highlight two positions that have a significant impact on reproductive freedom: secretary of labor and secretary of state. As you are reporting on these two positions, keep in mind how the secretary of state and secretary of labor can use their posts to impact the future of our four pillars of reproductive freedom (access to birth control, access to abortion, access to paid parental leave, and policy on pregnancy discrimination):

Secretary of Labor

Reproductive freedom is an economic issue: when women are able to choose whether, when, and with whom to grow their families, we all prosper. The Department of Labor can play a key role in developing, promoting, and enforcing policies that expand reproductive freedom and benefit women and families, or it could roll back the clock for working people and their reproductive rights.

For example, the person who fills this position will have an outsized impact on the following

  • The future of paid family leave: Men and women need a paid leave program that gives all parents the opportunity to take care of their children without risk of losing their job or paycheck. The secretary of labor can choose to prioritize strong paid parental leave policies that allow women and men to care for a new child, or they can make it nearly impossible for people to get the time they need off when they are new parents. This policy is critical to a woman’s ability to be a full partner in society, and raising healthy families.
  • Strengthening and enforcing policies prohibiting discrimination against pregnant employees or applicants by employers. Women deserve accommodations in the workplace that demonstrate respect for a woman’s choice to start or grow a family. This is an essential part of reproductive freedom. For example, the secretary of labor can advise on:
    • What kind of leave policy for pregnant women should be supported by the administration
    • Whether the administration should support policy that provides accommodations for breastfeeding mothers

Secretary of State

As the lead spokesperson for the United States worldwide, the secretary of state has a unique platform from which to influence global policy and attitudes surrounding reproductive health care. The secretary of state:

  • Advises the president on all key international policy issues, including those that affect reproductive health. These issues include:
    • Whether “the global gag rule” should it be reinstated: This policy, supported by anti-choice elected officials, prohibits USAID from granting family planning funds to any overseas health center unless it agrees not to use its own, private, non-U.S. dollars for abortion services, abortion related advocacy, or abortion counseling or referrals. When in effect, this policy blocks funds from organizations that provide family planning services and other critical health services to some of the poorest women in the world.
    • Whether funding should be provided for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA): This organization is the largest international source of population assistance for developing countries. For nearly 50 years, UNFPA has provided billions in aid for critical family planning and maternal and child health care across 150 countries.
    • Programmatic efforts: The secretary of state can advise the president on the importance of continuing State Department programs that help women across the globe access key reproductive health care services, including contraception, abortion, and maternal health care.
  • Makes key personnel and policy decisions that impact programs in every corner of the world
    • A pro-women secretary of state could oversee the creation of programs that meet the needs of women and girls, while an administration hostile toward women’s health could ignore them altogether or hire staff who make it clear to foreign governments that women’s rights are not important or can be bargained away.

NARAL Pro-Choice America encourages the incoming secretary of state to use their platform to ensure that the rights of women and girls are central in U.S. foreign policy and present in all key international conversations. For example, Hillary Clinton made women’s rights a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy during her tenure as secretary of state by:

  • Creating the first ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, which has now become a permanent position
  • Launching the first U.S. global strategy to prevent and respond to gender-based violence
  • Advancing women’s economic empowerment
  • Spearheading public-private partnerships to improve the status of women and girls across the world
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Everyone should be able to decide if, when, how, and with whom they start or grow a family.

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