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Undermining State Department Country Reports On Human Rights

The State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (within the State Department Office of Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights) publishes annual country reports on human rights practices for over 200 nations. Under the Trump administration, each year, State Department staffers have been ordered to strip “passages that describe societal views on family planning, including how much access women have to contraceptives and abortion.” The reports’ reproductive rights sections — which provided critical country-level data and analysis — have been replaced with much shorter, less informative sections that focus on “coercion in population control.” These sections in past reports have included “documentation of violations of women’s reproductive rights such as high rates of maternal mortality and limited availability of contraception” as well as “harsh penal consequences of criminal abortion laws” and the “denial of medical care” for women “suffering complications from unsafe abortion.”

State Department officials explained the change by stating that “reproductive rights” suggest the right to abortion, which is “not a human right.” The move has been harshly criticized by reproductive rights organizations, such as the Center for Reproductive Rights, which responded, “The U.S. State Department’s decision to continue its destructive practice of omitting reporting on reproductive rights from its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices sends a clear message that the United States does not care about the plight of women and girls and is part of a comprehensive effort to erase sexual and reproductive health and rights from global discourse.”