WASHINGTON — As Sen. John Kerry is confirmed as secretary of state for Obama’s second administration, pro-life groups have encouraged the official to protect human rights, especially for the unborn.

“International diplomacy with a central focus on the dignity of the human person will bear tremendous fruit in building a more loving, healthier and more stable world,” Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life, told Catholic News Agency Jan. 31.

“The March for Life Education and Defense Fund deeply hopes that the new secretary of state will work to combat the human-rights abuse of today, abortion — both in the U.S. and internationally.”

Kerry was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Legislators voted 94-3 to confirm the nomination on Jan. 29. The three No votes came from three Republicans — Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and both of Texas’ senators.

Kerry was the Democratic candidate for president in 2004, and his abortion-advocacy views have drawn ire from many in the Catholic sphere.

Critics have been quick to point out, however, that, during his presidential campaign, he said that “life begins at conception” while also supporting legislation to promote abortion rights.

“John Kerry ... is an outspoken champion of abortion and homosexual 'marriage,'” Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), told CNA.

“There is little doubt that this unfaithful Catholic will continue the policies of Hillary Clinton and push the developing world, under threats of losing development aid, into accepting abortion on demand and homosexual 'marriage.' I have little doubt that traditional peoples around the globe are cringing today at this choice of the Obama administration for secretary of state.”

The State Department is responsible for America’s foreign relations. Under Clinton, the department promoted abortion access overseas as part of “reproductive health.”

“We are concerned Secretary Kerry will seek to impose his extreme anti-life views in America’s name. In addition, there are serious questions about his commitment to religious freedom, having been part of an effort to gut the vital USCIRF as a senator,” Ashley McGuire of The Catholic Association said Jan. 31 to CNA.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom is a commission of the federal government that supports religious freedom throughout the world.


Religious Freedom

The issue of religious freedom was raised during Kerry’s confirmation hearings this week. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., questioned him about the case of Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor and an American citizen who was recently sentenced to eight years in an Iranian prison for his work with Christian churches in the nation.

Kerry indicated that he and the federal government condemn Iran’s violations of religious freedom and are calling for Abedini’s release.

“Sen. Kerry, who has now been confirmed and will take the oath of office soon, has the opportunity to lead a worldwide effort needed to free Pastor Saeed. ... It’s our hope that the strong statements he put on paper during his confirmation process will be transformed into full engagement when he takes office,” said Jordan Sekulow, director of the American Center for Law and Justice.

The center also indicated that it “fully intend[s] to hold him to this commitment upon his confirmation. Sen. Kerry has an ideal opportunity to begin his tenure at the State Department by reaffirming American commitments to religious freedom.”

Kerry previously served as a senator for Massachusetts, and his resignation will be effective Feb. 1. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has appointed William Cowan to take his senate seat until elections can be held this summer.