State Dept. Reverses Trump Policies on Reproductive and Religious Freedoms

Even as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken similarly condemned abuses and oppression from China to Syria to Venezuela, he overturned aspects of the Trump administration’s human rights agenda.

By Lara Jakes

WASHINGTON — Women’s access to contraceptives and reproductive care is a global human right that will be monitored by the United States, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken declared on Tuesday, reversing a Trump administration policy that had overlooked discrimination or denials of women seeking sexual health services worldwide.

The announcement was one of several departures Mr. Blinken made from the previous administration’s approach as the State Department issued its annual report on human rights violations, even while he similarly condemned abuses and state-sanctioned oppression from China to Syria to Venezuela that have continued for years.

The report was completed during the Trump administration and, Mr. Blinken said, did not include examples of women who were refused health care and family planning information in nearly 200 countries and territories in 2020. He has directed officials to compile that data and identify violators this year “because women’s rights — including sexual and reproductive rights — are human rights,” Mr. Blinken told reporters at the department.

Mr. Blinken also announced that he had dismantled an advisory committee, set up by Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state at the time, that had prioritized religious liberties and property rights among universal freedoms. Critics of the panel had accused Mr. Pompeo of using it to promote his evangelical Christian beliefs and conservative politics.

On Tuesday, Mr. Blinken said his disbanding of the panel, the Commission on Unalienable Rights, was to “repudiate those unbalanced views.”

“There is no hierarchy that makes some rights more important than others,” he said.

Mr. Blinken also said the Biden administration would call out foreign governments’ persecution of dissidents, not just within their borders, but abroad as well — a reference to the 2018 killing of the journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey by a squad of hit men from Saudi Arabia. The administration released an intelligence report in February that concluded Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia had approved the assassination, although the United States has not announced sanctions or other penalties against him.

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