The Center for Reproductive Rights Sues the Department of State over Deletion of Reproductive Rights from the Annual Human Rights Reports

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(PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of State (DOS) for refusing to release records related to the deletion of the reproductive rights subsection from DOS’s 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (HRPs).  

The 2017 HRRs, published on April 20, 2018 omitted all mention of reproductive rights from the 195 country reports in direct contravention of Congress’s mandate that DOS report on “all the available information about observance of and respect for human rights” “without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion. . . .” 

The Center filed its initial FOIA request with DOS in June seeking to obtain information on why Trump administration officials decided to unilaterally remove this vital information from the 2017 HRRs, despite the fact that comprehensive reproductive rights data had already been collected and included in the draft 2017 HRRs per DOS instructions and consistent with past HRRs.   

DOS has effectively ignored the Center’s request, leading to the Center’s decision to sue for the information.  Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP will represent the Center in the lawsuit.  

“Human rights are indivisible and universal.  Governments do not get to pick and choose whose rights will be respected. 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,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Striking reporting on reproductive rights sends a clear message that the United States does not care about the plight of women and girls and emboldens those seeking to undermine the advancement of women’s rights across the globe.  When women’s rights are limited and they are unable to access basic health care like contraception, safe abortion, and maternal health care, their ability to achieve economic, social, and political empowerment is fundamentally hindered.”   

“We will continue to use the power of law, for as long as it takes to ensure that the U.S. State Department doesn’t leave women’s rights on the cutting room floor. Secretary of State Pompeo should reverse his predecessor’s dramatic about-face and include robust reporting on reproductive rights in the 2018 Reports currently being prepared by the Department,” added Northup.  

Rules and policies attacking reproductive rights such as the Global Gag Rule, the Domestic Gag Rule, and regulations aimed at the Affordable Care Act, have been specifically designed to restrict access to abortion, birth control, and reproductive health care, curbing human rights domestically and abroad.