Media Outlets Report On Release Of, Reactions To U.S. State Department Human Rights Report

Foreign Policy: Human Rights Groups Bristling at State Department Report
“Human rights groups blasted the State Department’s annual human rights report, released on Friday, which removed the term ‘reproductive rights’ and softened language on human rights violations in a number of countries, including Yemen and the Dominican Republic. … Human rights groups say the changes undermine the integrity of the report, which is used by the U.S. government, lawmakers, and researchers around the world as a global benchmark for how each country treats human rights. … It replaced the [reproductive rights] section with a much shorter one titled ‘Coercion in Population Control,’ focused exclusively on forced abortion and involuntary sterilization, without mentioning access to contraceptives and abortions as in reports past. In a press briefing on the release of the report on Friday, Amb. Michael Kozak, the top official in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, cautioned critics against reading too much into the ‘reproductive rights’ term, saying it has has become politically charged among advocacy groups. … But he also made clear that it did signify a policy change…” (Gramer, 4/21).

Quartz: The stark differences in how the Trump and Obama administrations talk about human rights
“…The first report to include the [reproductive rights] section was released in 2012, for the previous year. But the latest report … focuses exclusively on ‘coercion in population control,’ referring to the World Health Organization for data on maternal mortality and contraception. It skips assessments of availability of abortion or contraceptive measures…” (Merelli, 4/21).

POLITICO: Democrats, activists slam changes to State Dept. rights report
“… ‘A human rights report that doesn’t fully address reproductive rights is woefully incomplete,’ said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). ‘The State Department’s attempt to characterize this as an effort to ‘refocus’ the report is merely a poor excuse for stripping references to a woman’s right to make her own reproductive health choices.’ …” (Toosi, 4/20).

Wall Street Journal: Human Rights Report by U.S. Singles Out Russia, China and Iran
“…[Kozak] said officials discontinued the use of the phrase ‘reproductive rights’ because it had been misinterpreted as being synonymous with abortion rights. He said officials removed the language to avoid misperceptions…” (Schwartz, 4/20).

Washington Examiner: State Department: Abortion ‘is not a human right’
“…[Kozak] emphasized that, by dropping the term ‘reproductive rights,’ the State Department is returning to the language required by U.S. law. ‘We’ve really gotten at it by flipping back to the original U.S. statutory language,’ he said. ‘It’s in places like China where in order to enforce their — now — two-child policy that there are reports of coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization [or] in North Korea, where the government also coerces [or] forces abortion — although sometimes that’s for political punishment rather than family planning’…” (Gehrke, 4/20).

Washington Post: State Department strikes reproductive rights, ‘Occupied Territories’ from human rights report
“…Several activist groups criticized the decision to remove the phrase, saying it illustrates a tendency to downplay violations in some countries while taking others to task. ‘Reproductive rights are human rights, and omitting the issue signals the Trump administration’s latest retreat from global leadership on human rights,’ said Joanne Lin, head of advocacy and governmental relations for Amnesty International USA…” (Morello, 4/20).

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