Abortion “is not a human right” under international law, a U.S. diplomat emphasized Friday as he explained why the State Department human rights report doesn’t monitor “restrictions” on abortion around the world.
“We don’t report on it, because it’s not a human right,” Ambassador Michael Kozak told reporters at the State Department.
The State Department has taken criticism in recent months over the decision to remove the term “reproductive rights” from the annual report, one of the most widely-read documents produced by U.S. diplomats. The term first appeared in the human rights reports in 2010, but Kozak — who has held his current post since 2014 — said the decision to replace the term with “coerced family planning” sharpens the State Department’s focus on forced abortions, as required by law.
“[Abortion is] an issue of great policy debate, you can have a good discussion, but there’s no internationally-recognized standard as to what’s the right treatment,” he said. “But, the other, yes — it is internationally-recognized that somebody shouldn’t coerce you to have an abortion or force you to be sterilized.”
He 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.”