Certain phrases like “sexual and reproductive health” and “comprehensive sexuality education” may be banned at the State Department, according to anonymous sources who talked with Politico.
A memo that has not yet been signed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is being pushed by two Trump appointees at the State Department: former wine blogger Mari Stull and anti-LGBTQ activist Bethany Kozma, who started a campaign to end protections for transgender students during the Obama administration.
The two initially wanted to send a proposal to all embassies via diplomatic cable that would have replaced references to sexual health with expressions like “reproduction and the related health services,” according to three of the sources.
They were told by career staffers that they were circumventing protocol, so they switched to a memo to be signed by Pompeo.
The U.S. last week backed down from an attempt to remove the phrase “sexual and reproductive health” from a document produced at the Global Conference on Primary Health Care in Astana, Kazakhstan.
But in exchange, the U.S. demanded a footnote that said, “In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning.”
The moves underscore the political power Christian conservatives have found in the State Department during the Trump administration. Instead of gathering information and listening to experts on issues like sexual health, Trump appointees have used their positions to push their personal views on the department.
“The traditional norms, procedures, and checks and balances that have been in place are being tossed aside,” an unnamed State Department official told Foreign Policy. “Less than 10 people, all political appointees, call the shots.”
Another directive uncovered by Foreign Policy explains the U.S. position on sexual harassment: “[The Department of Justice] cannot support a resolution that conflates physical violence against women with sexual harassment…. Not all forms of sexual harassment rise to the level of criminal offenses.”
According to several diplomats, the directive contradicts decades of international legal frameworks that define sexual harassment as a form of violence against women.
“This is not a symbolic gesture,” said Beirne Roose-Snyder, director of public policy at the organization Center for Health and Gender Equity.
“It is a real harm to the health and rights of individuals, families, and communities and undermines the prevention and treatment of HIV as well as the avoidance of maternal deaths and unwanted pregnancies.”
Late last year, officials at the CDC were told not to use terms like “transgender,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based” in official documents, in order to secure funding as Republicans control Congress and the White House.