In his remarks on the State Department’s 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken noted the lack of a section on reproductive health; he promised that the agency would produce an addendum on the subject – an issue the Trump administration removed from its annual human rights reports.
In 2018, the State Department removed the “reproductive rights” section from its 2017 human rights report, replacing it with statistics on “coercion in population control.”
"For many years, our human rights reports contained a section on reproductive health, including information about maternal morality, discrimination against women in accessing sexual and reproductive health care, and government policies about access to contraception and skilled health care during pregnancy and childbirth," Blinken stated on Tuesday.
Blinken said that he asked for an addendum on reproductive health to be produced later in 2021. “And we are restoring the practice of documenting these rights in 2021 and future years,” he said on Tuesday.
Pro-life leaders have warned that the term “sexual and reproductive health” commonly includes abortion and contraception in international diplomatic parlance; previous State Department human rights reports included information on abortion laws in their respective sections on reproductive health.
On Tuesday, Blinken mentioned steps taken by the Biden administration to resume funding of international pro-abortion groups and to withdraw from an international pro-life statement.
Biden in January repealed the Mexico City Policy, allowing U.S. global health assistance to once again fund international pro-abortion groups. The U.S. also withdrew from the Geneva Declaration, an October 2020 statement signed by the U.S. and 31 other countries stating that there is no international right to abortion.
“It is one of many steps – along with revoking the Mexico City Policy, withdrawing from the Geneva Consensus Declaration, resuming support for the United Nations Population Fund – that we are taking to promote women’s health and equity at home and abroad. Because women’s rights – including sexual and reproductive rights – are human rights,” Blinken stated.
In 2019, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the creation of an advisory group on human rights; legal experts explained to CNA the need for the group to rediscover fundamental human rights amid a proliferation of rights claims on the international stage.
The group produced a report in 2020 saying that religious freedom was “foremost” among human rights, along with “property rights.”
Blinken on Tuesday said that the Biden administration would repudiate that “hierarchy” of human rights.
“Past unbalanced statements that suggest such a hierarchy, including those offered by a recently disbanded State Department advisory committee, do not represent a guiding document for this administration,” he said.
In his remarks introducing the 2020 report, Blinken also condemned the “genocide” in Xinjiang, committed against “predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups.”
The military coup in Burma occurred too late to include in the 2020 report, he said, but he mentioned the beatings of “nonviolent protesters” and members of the military shooting protesters, including children.