State Department Drops ‘Reproductive Rights’ from List of Human Rights

SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES - MAY 17: Premature newborn hand in the Neonatal Intesive Care Unit at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital on May 17, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. The Neonatal care unit at Westmead Children's Hospital specialized in specialy care for newborns. (Photo by Jennifer Polixenni Brankin/Getty Images)
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The U.S. State Department has removed the term “reproductive rights” from its annual human rights reports.

During a press briefing on April 20 on the release of the 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Michael Kozak, Ambassador of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said in response to a question from the press about the removal of the term, “It’s not a diminishment of women’s rights or a desire to get away from it; it was to stop using a term that has several different meanings that are not all the ones we intend.”

The human rights country reports now feature data on “coercion in population control” instead of “reproductive rights.”

An appendix to the reports states:

A revised subsection changes the focus from “reproductive rights,” which sought to cover the availability of contraceptives and maternal health issues, to cover more directly the requirement of U.S. law that we report on coercive family planning practices, such as coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization. Our focus is on coercive government action, and we therefore do not cover instances in which family members or partners may pressure someone to have an abortion. However, when rebel or terrorist groups impose such policies on persons, we do cover that, just as we cover rebel or terrorist abuses in other sections of the reports, when they equate to government actions.

Kozak said the term “reproductive rights” was introduced six years ago into the human rights report.

“It hadn’t been there before,” he explained. “The – it’s one of the few terms that are used in the report that isn’t derived from an international treaty that has a definition or derived from U.S. law, where there’s a clear definition to the term.”

He continued:

And in this case, the previous administration intended it to mean look at the availability of contraception, at the – whether the government tried to impose or coerce people in making decisions about reproduction. In the statements that were made – this was derived from the Beijing Declaration that was done in the ‘90s.

At that time, it was very clear and our delegation made a very clear statement that this has nothing to do with abortion, it doesn’t mean abortion, it doesn’t mean abortion. Unfortunately, over the last few years, groups on both sides of that issue domestically have started to use the term, and both seem to think it does include abortion and then argue about it.

So our thought was let’s just not use a term that has the opposite meaning from the one we intend. We went back to the term that’s used in the U.S. statute that requires the Human Rights Report, which is coerced family planning, namely coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Kozak said that in reviewing the previous year’s report, the question asked was whether there were “obstacles opposed to getting contraception information and means.”

“The answer in virtually every country was no, there were no obstacles other than, in almost every country, including our own, the availability in rural areas is less than it is in urban areas,” he explained. “So what we’ve done, we’ve kept that information in there. We’ve done it now by a hyperlink.”

Abortion rights advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America condemned the removal of the term “reproductive rights” from the State Department reports:

Many national pro-life leaders assert the term “reproductive rights” is a narrative that pro-abortion groups have pushed and the media has taken up as well.

“The fact that ‘reproductive rights’ as a category in U.S. Country Reports on Human Rights Practice was added during the Obama Administration tells you a lot about the true intent of this tracking,” Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins told Breitbart News.

“Abortion is not the American dream nor should it be our export of choice,” Hawkins continued. “It is not in the U.S. national interest to push nations around the world to end the lives of preborn infants on a horrific scale, as we do in the United States, or to insinuate through tracking that countries with life-affirming policies need to change. Once again, pro-life Americans appreciate the way that the Trump Administration integrates their support for life into policies and programs across the board.”



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