By: Alena Sadiq
House Democrats and civil society organizations are urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to reconsider the State Department’s exclusion of reproductive rights from its annual human rights reports.
Their letters noted that since 2011 these country-specific reports have included detailed information about women’s access to contraception and abortion across the world. This precedent was broken in the 2017 reports, as first reported by POLITICO in February. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, the subsection on gender-based violence was also trimmed down.
Ninety-seven civil society organizations have signed a letter calling on Pompeo to immediately restore the human rights reports to their previous form.
“Governments do not get to pick and choose whose rights will be respected,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “We are already suing the Department of State for documents pertaining to the Department’s decision to delete the reproductive rights section and seeking copies of the full Human Rights Reports prior to the last-minute cuts.”
In a separate letter, 129 House Democrats have demanded that Pompeo ensure that the section on reproductive rights be included in future reports. These reports help Congress evaluate requests for foreign aid as well as assess legislation that may have foreign policy implications. Rights activists and non-governmental organizations also rely on these reports.
“By omitting reproductive rights from its annual Human Rights Reports, the Administration is further signaling that it does not recognize women’s rights as human rights,” Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.
The members have also asked the State Department to provide them with all internal and external correspondence that led to this decision. Additionally, they want to know which officials were involved in making this decision. Earlier this year, POLITICO reported that the move was ordered by a top aide of then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“The Department’s 2017 report was a giant step backwards for women and demonstrated a total disregard for our safety, rights, and autonomy here and around the globe,” Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) said in a statement. “Documenting and reporting human rights violations is a major component of eradicating their existence. The Trump administration cannot get away with trying to quietly tolerate these inhumanities by sweeping them under the rug.”
When reached for comment, a spokesperson said the State Department will respond to the letters in due course.
The report for 2018 is expected to be released in early 2019.
Original story here.