Reproductive rights advocates on Friday denounced reports of an extremist Trump appointee pushing anti-choice policies at the United Nations' annual conference on women's rights.
"Someone who doesn't respect American law and who opposes the principles of gender equality should not be empowered to negotiate on behalf of the U.S. government," Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, told the Independent, which first reported on statements made by Bethany Kozma, a USAID official at the Commission on the Status of Women on Thursday. "The U.S. government must prevent this wildcard from subverting American law in the negotiations."
The UN Commission on the Status of Women is an opportunity for us to advance the goal of global gender equality. Instead, the Trump Administration chose to appoint an anti-choice, anti-trans extremist to speak for the United States on the world stage.
What an embarrassment. https://t.co/2EiGfQrkmH
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) March 23, 2018
Kozma, senior adviser in USAID's Office of Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment, told other national delegations at the conference that the U.S. is "a pro-life country," and pushed for the elimination of the term "modern contraceptives" in the meeting's outcome document in order to promote abstinence-only education policies.
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One U.N. diplomat called Kozma's stated positions "shocking" and demonstrating a "weaker" policy on reproductive rights than that of Saudi Arabia.
While its record on women's rights has been condemned, contraceptive use is widely accepted in Saudi Arabia and is supported by the government, with nearly 75 percent of women using birth control in one study by the Center for Population Studies at King Saud University.
In the U.S., while states have taken steps to reduce access to abortion care in recent years and members of the Trump administration have expressed extreme anti-choice views, the population is largely in favor of abortion access. A Pew Research Center poll found last year that 57 percent of Americans support abortion rights in most or all cases.
A YouGov poll taken in 2015 found that only 15 percent of Americans believe sex education should include information only on abstinence, while 66 percent said student should be taught about a wide variety of birth control and safety methods.
"While previous Republican administrations took anti-choice and anti-abortion positions, they were still generally in line with accepted frameworks that recognised the importance and centrality of sexual and reproductive rights," Akila Radhakrishnan, acting president of the Global Justice Center, told the Independent.