Hillary Clinton, lawmakers and human rights groups are criticizing the State Department’s decision to delete language on women’s reproductive rights and discrimination from an upcoming annual report on global human rights.
In response to the reported change, Clinton tweeted Thursday, “Women’s rights are human rights. That was a radical idea back in 1995. It shouldn’t still be two decades later.”
Women’s rights are human rights. That was a radical idea back in 1995. It shouldn’t still be two decades later.https://t.co/BYZR7nI8Qh
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 22, 2018
According to five former and current State Department officials, the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices will not include passages that discuss issues of family planning, including information on how much access women have to contraceptives and abortion, Politico reported.
Sen. Robert Menendez, D.-N.J., ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, contended that the State Department’s decision was “appalling.”
“As if this administration hasn’t already done enough to damage U.S. global leadership on human rights,” Menendez said in a statement. “I am profoundly alarmed to read reports of Secretary Tillerson’s alleged efforts to water down or delete critical sections of the State Department’s annual ‘Country Reports on Human Rights’ related to women’s rights and on the responsibilities of governments to protect individual rights regardless of race, ethnicity or LGBT status.”
Senior officials in the State Department working under Secretary Rex Tillerson reportedly approved the changes, which indicate a shift from former administrations in policy regarding family planning.
Language regarding racial, ethnic and sexual discrimination globally has also reportedly been deleted from the report.
On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that the report had been routinely “revised and reformed” over time and that pending changes did not reflect a diminished interest in protecting human rights.
“This year we are changing some of the terms that are being used in the report, but not our commitment to women’s rights, women’s health or to human rights whatsoever,” Nauert said. “Make no mistake, human rights is a top priority here.”
Rights groups opposed the purported changes, characterizing them as anti-woman and anti-LGBT.
Ty Cobb, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s global program, said that it was “unconscionable that Trump-Pence political appointees are ordering State Department officials to roll back language on anti-LGBTQ discrimination and women’s rights in the annual human rights report. This shameful move is yet another indication of Secretary Tillerson’s dangerously negligent indifference toward LGBTQ people around the globe.”
The State Department rebutted Cobb’s claims.
“We have also made a few changes to sharpen the focus of the report on abuses of internationally recognized human rights and the most egregious issues,” Nauert said on Thursday. “We are not downgrading coverage of LGBT or women’s issues, which remain important components of our policy.”