The U.S. Senate must now decide whether to confirm Mike Pompeo, current CIA Director and Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Rex Tillerson, as Secretary of State—and the rights of women and girls around the world are at stake. The Secretary of State can use their platform to advance the well-being of women and girls in U.S. foreign policy in myriad ways, but Pompeo’s alarming record leaves no doubt that, as the nation’s top diplomat, he will instead double-down on the Trump Administration’s war on women.
Under the president’s expanded Global Gag Rule, women around the world are losing access to comprehensive abortion care—and medical centers are shutting their doors. At the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women last month, Trump officials from the Department of Health and Human Services declared in a closed meeting that the country was a “pro-life nation.” Pompeo falls in line with the Trump administration—and out of step with the nation—on these points. He openly opposes access to abortion for rape survivors; in 2012 he told the Associated Press that he believes “[a] child—however, conceived—is a life and I want very much for that life to continue to exist.”
Pompeo is also notably anti-LGBTQ, and maintains that he does not support same-sex marriage. Just days ago, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) quoted a speech by Pompeo in which he described homosexuality as a “perversion” and an “alternative lifestyle.” Pompeo responded that he “stood by” his assertion that is “inappropriate” for two people of the same sex to marry and repeatedly dodged Booker’s requests to clarify if he considered homosexuality a “perversion.”
These outrageous remarks don’t reflect just Pompeo’s personal views—they also reveal his political agenda. While representing Kansas in Congress, Pompeo co-signed a letter encouraging former House Speaker John Boehner to use parliamentary procedure to undermine the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit; he later signed numerous briefs supporting challenges to the policy, which saved women in the U.S. millions of dollars each year. Pompeo received a 100 percent score from the anti-abortion group National Right to Life Committee every year of his term, and he was endorsed by the same group and other anti-abortion and anti-LGBT groups during his campaigns—including the FRC Action PAC of the Family Research Council, a designated hate group.
“I cannot support Director Mike Pompeo’s nomination to serve as Secretary of State,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hamp.) wrote on Twitter. “The Secretary of State is a policy-making position and I continue to have deep concerns regarding Mr. Pompeo’s past statements and policy views, particularly in regards to the LGBTQ community, American Muslims and women’s reproductive rights. For those reasons, I have concluded that I cannot support Director Pompeo to lead the State Department at this critical time.”
Twenty-three years ago, then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton let the world know that “women’s rights are human rights.” During Clinton’s later tenure as Secretary of State, she instituted critical efforts to promote women’s rights—not just as a moral issue, but one of inherent importance to maintaining a country’s and overall global security, from food stability to combatting violent extremism, and creating a new ambassador-at-large position for global women’s issues. Under Clinton, women’s rights became one of the key pillars of the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, a process she initiated to ensure a long-term plan for the State Department’s diplomatic and economic development work. Clinton also helped launch the first U.S. strategy to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally.
The priorities Pompeo will bring to the State Department could not be more at odds with its modern history or the feminist values which have transformed its agenda. If the Senate confirms Pompeo, they will be rolling back decades of progress in international policy—and putting women and girls around the world back at the margins.