Shaheen Joins Group of 30 Senators in Letter to Pompeo Opposing Elimination of Women’s Rights Report

November 02, 2018

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the lead Democrat of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and a group of 28 Senators in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo opposing the Trump administration’s decision to delete a section including reproductive rights from the Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. In the letter, which was supported by 11 prominent human rights and reproductive rights organizations, the Senators strongly urged the State Department to include the reproductive rights section in its upcoming 2018 report. 

The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices provide a comprehensive overview of human rights in almost 200 countries, and have previously included a detailed subsection on women’s reproductive rights. The Senators stated that, “by removing the ‘reproductive rights’ subsection, the State Department has made it more difficult for Congress to gauge the human rights records of nations seeking U.S. assistance and to setting foreign policy properly.” 

The Senators also noted that the omission of the report would hinder the State Department’s and Congress’ mission to promote human rights around the world, and could allow “nations who propagate human rights violations that negatively affect the health and safety of women to act with impunity.” 

The Senators’ letter was also supported by Planned Parenthood, Center for Reproductive Rights, American Jewish World Service, Center for Health and Gender Equity, Advocates for Youth, Population Connection, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Population Institute, Catholics for Choice, PAI, International Women's Health Coalition, and International Center for Research on Women. 

“The erasure of reproductive rights from the State Department’s human rights report is dangerous and unacceptable and must be reversed in all future reports. Human rights are indivisible, and the State Department’s action undermines U.S. leadership on the global stage,” added Latanya Mapp Frett, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Global. “Planned Parenthood is proud to stand with our allies on and off Capitol Hill as we call on the Trump-Pence administration to restore reproductive rights to the human rights report and uphold the rights and autonomy of women in this country and around the world.”   

“We applaud the 30 Senators urging Secretary Pompeo to reverse the State Department’s unacceptable decision to delete the reproductive rights section from the Department’s annual Human Rights Reports.  Access to reproductive healthcare has been recognized as a protected human right impacting women’s right to life, health, equality, non-discrimination and freedom from cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.  Governments do not get to pick and choose whose rights will be respected.  That is why we are committed to fighting this egregious omission by 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,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  

The letter was also signed by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jack Reed (D-RI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Tim Kaine (D-VA). 

A copy of the letter can be read here. 

Shaheen is a leading voice in the Senate defending global women’s issues. She introduced the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act, which would permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule, in January following President Trump's executive order. She also introduced the Keeping Girls in School Act to help address the unique barriers adolescent girls in developing countries face in accessing an education.