Shaheen, Menendez Urges State Department, USAID to ensure access to health care for female workers abroad

January 25, 2023

(Washington, DC) — U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member and the only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, call on the Biden administration to ensure access to adequate health care, including reproductive health care and post-sexual assault care, for female State Department and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) employees. In response to a letter from more than 200 Foreign Service officials expressing grave concern that individuals are consistently denied access to rape kits, family planning services, including emergency contraceptives and medical abortion, and access to obstetrician-gynecologists and other trained professionals, the senators urged both agencies to update their policies and procedures that apply to surgery, including by codifying the right to reproductive health care in the Foreign Affairs Handbook.

“In the first National Strategy for Gender Equality and Equality, the Biden administration asserted, ‘Healthcare is a right, not a privilege. All people deserve access to quality, affordable health care…we will…promote access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, both at home and abroad.” We struggle to reconcile the vision of the national strategy with the experience of women working for the State Department and USAID who are asked to carry out the important objectives of that strategy and yet do not have access to adequate reproductive health care themselves ,” the senators wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and USAID Administrator Samantha Power. “We urge you to take immediate action to implement the policies outlined in this strategy…. It is critical—both to their well-being and to the mission of these agencies—that female State Department and USAID employees have access to adequate health care.”

Acknowledging the agencies’ launch of a Women’s Health Working Group, the senators called for additional information on the State Department and USAID’s efforts to address ongoing concerns, including the deployment of new resources to address the inequitable workers’ access to healthcare abroad.

The full text of the letter is available here.

Senator Shaheen is a relentless advocate for women’s reproductive rights. She has long prioritized access to comprehensive reproductive health care for service women. Shaheen, a senior member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, has introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023 to establish military personnel’s right to access protected leave for abortion care and services. Shaheen held a press conference with the New Hampshire delegation and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England to discuss what is at stake for women’s freedoms and reproductive health with the overthrow of Roe against Wade, and she spoke on the Senate floor to urge lawmakers to vote for legislation that would codify Roe. For years, Shaheen has fought to expand preventive care coverage for women, including through her legislation to reduce the cost of birth control for military personnel and dependents in military families. She also wrote an op-ed for the union leader highlighting threats to women’s freedoms and rights in a post-Roe America. It can be read in full here.

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Shaheen, Menendez Urges State Department, USAID to ensure access to health care for female workers abroad

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