Speaking Out Against the Trump Administration’s Latest Attack on Equality Worldwide

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Monday announced the creation of a Commission on Unalienable Rights to advise on “human rights grounded in our nation’s founding principles” based on documents like the Declaration of Independence and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

This Commission is nothing less than a subterfuge for undermining reproductive rights and the rights of marginalized communities, including LGBTQ persons. 

Contrary to its asserted purpose, there is no need to redefine or develop foundational principles on human rights. There is a clear and unequivocal consensus by UN human rights treaty bodies and independent experts that reproductive rights are human rights—grounded in the right to life, health, equality, non-discrimination and freedom from cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, among other rights.

This new Commission is part of a comprehensive effort by this Administration to erase sexual and reproductive health and rights from global discourse. The State Department has deleted reporting on reproductive rights from its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and theCenter for Reproductive Rights currently has two lawsuits pending in the United State District Court for the District of Columbia challenging these cuts. In addition, this Administration has insisted on the elimination of sexual and reproductive health and rights protections from UN resolutions, sending a clear message that the United States does not care about the plight of women and girls, nor established international law. 

( Candid Characters / Creative Commons)

We are also alarmed by reports that the State Department has not engaged in Congressional consultation in advance of creating this Commission and similar reports that there was no consultation or input from career human rights experts working in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL). Indeed, this Commission appears to be an attempt to circumvent the State Department’s foreign policy and human rights experts in an effort to pick and choose which rights the United States will respect and promote. This redundant and duplicative Commission is a waste of tax-payer resources, which the House of Representatives recognized when it passed H.R. 2740 which included a provision explicitly prohibiting funds being allocated to this Commission.

This unnecessary Commission will further compound the Administration’s disengagement, de-prioritization and rollback of human rights and further cede the United States’ leadership in advancing the full spectrum of human rights protections within the United States and globally.


Stephanie Schmid is the U.S. Foreign Policy Counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights and plays a leadership role in the Center’s foreign policy and advocacy work, developing and implementing strategies to ensure protection for reproductive rights and access to reproductive healthcare within U.S. Foreign Policy. She previously served in the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer specializing in human rights and did political advocacy work in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Recife, Brazil and in Washington, DC, including in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. She received the Department of State’s Meritorious Honor Award for her leadership in advancing women’s rights.