Ambassador Michael Kozak at release of US government's human rights reportMore pushback from the Trump Administration against “reproductive rights” can be seen in the latest Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The 2017 edition omits a section called “reproductive rights” in which access to contraception and abortion, as well as maternal mortality rates, was sketched out for every country. In its place is a section called coercion in population control which discusses instances of “coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods”. This is not what supporters of abortion rights mean by “reproductive rights”, which ought to include access to contraception and abortion.
It was the Trump Administration’s first chance to alter the Obama’s Aminstration’s focus on reproductive rights as a fundamental human right. “Reproductive rights are human rights, and omitting the issue signals the Trump administration’s latest retreat from global leadership on human rights,” said a spokeswoman for Amnesty International USA.
The State Department had a different story. A senior official with the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Michael Kozak, said a discussion of abortion was omitted because there was no international consensus on whether women must have access to the procedure, although there is a consensus on the wrong of forced abortions.
“Reproductive rights,” said Mr Kozak, is “one of the few terms that are used in the report that isn’t derived from an international treaty that has a definition or derived from U.S. law, where there’s a clear definition to the term.
We don’t report on it because it’s not a human right,” he said. “It’s an issue of great policy debate.”
“Die, my dear Doctor! That's the last thing I shall do,” said the 19th Century British foreign secretary Viscount Palmerston, not long before he slipped his cable. For all of us, dying is the last and perhaps most significant moment of life. Which is why recording the exact cause of death is a matter that calls for scrupulous accuracy – not just for epidemiological purposes, but also as part of our personal and social history.
But our disturbing lead story today – that Flemish doctors under-report euthanasia by a mind-boggling 550% -- throws all this to the winds. The most common practice, at least according to the latest research into the topic, is that most Flemish physicians who practice euthanasia lie on the death certificate.
Perhaps their offence is more understandable than jurisdictions which require doctors to lie. In many, like Oregon, they are told to record the patient’s underlying disease as the cause of death – as if JFK died of Addison’s disease rather than an assassin’s bullet.
Perhaps we should keep in mind the wise words of the author of a study on death certificates: “Death certificates are really important. We owe it to our patients to be able to accurately record why they die” — and thus to “help the living.”
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