One of the quieter devastations taking place under the Trump presidency is the harm being done by his administrative state, from anti-abortion activists who are now in positions overseeing gender equity to anti-science and climate change deniers installed at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior.
The latest evisceration being pushed by political appointees comes courtesy of the State Department and USAID, where two senior advisors, Mari Stull and Bethany Kozma, are leading an effort to prevent U.S. diplomats from referencing phrases like “sexual and reproductive health” and “comprehensive sexuality education” in their official communications.
It’s unclear what impact their proposal would have—and at this point, it’s still just a proposal—but Politico notes that if approved by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, it would signal at minimum an important symbolic shift and could possibly throw a wrench into future international negotiations:
It was not immediately clear what sort of direct policy changes, if any, could result from eliminating such terms, which have been used for years in domestic and international communications.
But changing the terms could lead to more contentious negotiations at the United Nations and other forums over language used for resolutions and agreements. It also could complicate matters for some non-governmental groups that receive U.S. funding and opt to stick with the traditional terms.
At the very least, abandoning the use of the word “sex” would be a symbolic move that aligns with other Trump administration efforts to reduce funding for and focus on women’s reproductive issues — especially anything related to abortion.
According to Foreign Policy, the push to eliminate the use of phrases referencing sexual health and education has already had an impact:
Last week, the United States backed down on demands to eliminate the phrase “sexual and reproductive health” from a final document at a Global Conference on Primary Health Care in Astana, Kazakhstan. But in exchange for joining the consensus, the United States insisted on including a footnote affirming that “in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning.”
It’s worth taking a look at just who Stull and Kozma are. (Spoiler: they’re real fuckers.) Stull, who earlier this year was made a senior advisor to the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs, is a former lobbyist and wine blogger who used the pen name “Vino Vixen.” Reassuring! At the State Department, her role is essentially to vet “career diplomats and American employees of international institutions to determine whether they are loyal to President Donald Trump and his political agenda” and to look for “signs of ideological deviation,” according to Foreign Policy. Stull is currently being investigated over whether she’s retaliated against career diplomats in the State Department whom she has “deemed insufficiently loyal” to Trump. Nothing troubling there at all.
Kozma, meanwhile, is an anti-trans activist and anti-abortion crusader who was appointed as a senior advisor for the Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at USAID in 2017. In 2016, Kozma launched a campaign fighting the right of trans students to use the bathroom of their choice. In a post Kozma wrote for the Heritage Foundation’s publication the Daily Signal, she described trans students as “claiming gender confusion,” bathroom equity as “radical new gender identity policies,” and raised the specter of “predators” who “could abuse these new policies to hurt children.”
As is typical for the Trump administration, both Stull and Kozma sound like pleasant people who should absolutely be crafting international diplomatic policy.