November 15, 2018
The Honorable Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State U.S. Department of State
Dear Mr. Secretary,
The undersigned groups are deeply concerned by reports from several sources that the U.S. Department of State is considering a proposal to prohibit U.S. diplomats around the world from using the terms “sexual and reproductive health” and “comprehensive sexuality education.” This proposal is counterproductive, banning widely accepted language that has been in use for decades. We strongly oppose any such change.
The term “sexual and reproductive health” encompasses a broad array of issues affecting both women and men, including pregnancy, prepartum and postpartum care, maternal and perinatal health, perimenopause and menopause issues, puberty issues, pap smears and cervical cancer testing, contraception, abortion, Ebola, Zika, stillbirths, female genital mutilation, infertility, adolescents and sex education, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases including GC and Chlamydia (both on the rise according to the Centers for Disease Control) and HIV prevention, testing and treatment, posttraumatic stress syndrome, depression related to hormone changes, and importantly, violence against women.
The United States has tremendous influence around the world in promoting better health outcomes for all of the world’s citizens. Efforts to change or control the language and restrict the use of certain words that U.S. diplomats are permitted to use is unwise as we believe that by prohibiting the terms “sexual and reproductive health” and “comprehensive sexuality education” will undo decades of global progress for women’s access to healthcare and basic human rights.
We are committed to lifting the stigma related to sexual reproductive health communications, especially between women and their healthcare providers. Sexual health issues are very common for both sexes, with about 7 in 10 women having experienced a sexual health issue and 15-20% of men having described some kind of sexual problem when meeting with their healthcare provider.
Reproductive health is specific to reproductive processes, functions, and the reproductive system across all stages of life. Sexual and reproductive health issues are frequently preventable or treatable, yet a multitude of barriers often stand in the way of women and men discussing their concerns with a healthcare provider, leaving them to suffer in silence. Among those barriers is the culture of embarrassment or stigma that already exists in discussions about sexual and reproductive health.
Breaking down barriers that hinder or prevent conversations about sexual and reproductive health requires support and education at many levels. We believe the U.S. Department of State’s proposal to prohibit the terms “sexual and reproductive health” and “comprehensive sexuality education” will only hurt, not help, the progress that has been made and hinder ongoing efforts to further break down barriers.
For these reasons, we urge the Administration to abandon the proposal to prohibit the use of “sexual and reproductive health” and “comprehensive sexuality education.”
Thank you for your attention to our concerns about the damage this proposed prohibition of terms will have. The United States should be a leader in promoting sexual and reproductive health for men and women.
Sheryl A. Kingsberg, PhD
Immediate Past President
The North American Menopause Society
Ms. Sally Greenberg
National Consumers League
Healthy Women International
Other Groups Endorsing this Request
American Medical Women’s Association
American Sexual Health Association
Healthy Women International
Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health
National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health