Monday, December 24, 2018

Center for Reproductive Rights Suit Challenges State Department, Again

For a second time, the Center for Reproductive Rights (represented by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher) has filed a second Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit against the Administration seeking records related to the Department's decision to delete the reproductive rights subsection from Department of State's (DOS) annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (HRRs).  After several years of assessing countries' reproductive rights protections in the annual DOS reports, the 2017 reports eliminated the section on reproductive rights and instead reported on a narrow category titled "Coercion in Population Control." 

The Center initially filed a FOIA request with the agency in June 2018 seeking records relating to the change in reporting.  The agency acknowledged receipt of the request but then produced no response despite FOIA deadlines, prompting a lawsuit in September 2018.  After seeking additional records through FOIA relating to the forthcoming 2018 reports, with no agency response, the Center filed its latest federal suit against DOS.  A copy of the December 12, 2018 complaint is available here  courtesy of the FOIA Project.  

At the same time, some members of Congress are seeking a legislative fix to the State Department's action.  Current law requires that the annual DOS reports be thorough, but a bill introduced in the House of Representatives on Human Rights Day, December 10, 2018, would specify that the DOS human rights reports must include reproductive rights.  The bill, titled the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act, would mandate reporting on reproductive rights, a position that has been endorsed by over a hundred members of Congress.  As stated by the bill's co-sponsor Katherine Clark (D-MA), “Documenting and reporting human rights violations is a major part of eradicating their existence.  This bill would ensure that our State Department maintains its vital role as an international watchdog and protector of women’s rights no matter the ideology of our White House.”

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