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Paolo Carozza

Commissioner, State Department Commission on Unalienable Rights

Paolo Carozza is a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, where he has worked to roll back birth control coverage for students. He has extensive experience working in academia and in international institutions; he has represented the Holy See at a United Nations conference. Carozza is staunchly opposed to reproductive rights, a position he rationalizes through the guise of religious freedom.


From his seat on the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights, Carozza is able to take his anti-reproductive rights views into the realm of international policymaking.


University of Notre Dame:

  • Professor of Law and Concurrent Professor of Political Science, Present
  • Director, Kellogg Institute for International Studies, July 2012 – Present
  • Director, Doctor of Juridical Science (J.S.D.) Program, 2006 – Present
  • Director, Center for Civil and Human Rights, 2012 – 2014
  • Director, Program on Law and Human Development, 2010 – 2014
  • Law School Associate Dean for International and Graduate Programs, 2010 – 2011
  • Faculty Fellow: Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies; Nanovic Institute for European Studies; Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies; Institute for Educational Initiatives

Pontifical Council on Interreligious Dialogue, Invited delegate in Catholic-Muslim dialogues and fora, 2011 – 2014

University of Florence, Faculty of Economics, Visiting Professor, Spring 2011

Harvard Law School, John Harvey Gregory Lecturer on World Organization, Spring 2009

Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Lecturer, Fall 1992

Graduate School of Economics and International Relations (Milan), Visiting Professor, 2003 – 2011

United Nations World Youth Conference in Léon, Mexico, Diplomatic Representative of the Holy See, August 2010

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 2006 – 2010

  • Commissioner, 2006 – 2010
  • President, 2008 – 2009
  • First Vice-President, 2007 – 2008
  • Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Commissioner for Human Rights Defenders Unit

University Of Milan, Faculty of Law, Fall 2004

European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation (Venice), Visiting Professor, Fall 2004

University of Trent, Faculty of Law, Spring 1998

University of Chile, Institute of International Studies, Visiting Professor, Spring 1992

Arnold & Porter, Associate Attorney in international trade and finance, 1990 – 1991, 1993 – 1996

Supreme Court of the Federated States of Micronesia, Judicial Clerk to the Chief Justice, 1989 – 1990


Mary Ann Glendon: Mary Ann Glendon is a law professor whose work centers around her narrow interpretation of human rights. Glendon and Carozza serve on the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights together; Glendon also helped organize a letter protesting the ACA’s birth control mandate that Carozza signed onto with a number of his colleagues at Notre Dame. Glendon has decades of experience pushing her views — which prioritizes religious liberty as a reason to deny care to women and to deny rights to LGBTQ people — through various international bodies, including as a representative for the Vatican


Carozza Has Interpreted Religious Freedom To Permit Employers To Exclude Birth Control From Health Care Coverage

Carozza Has Called Birth Control “Drugs That Can End Human Life In The Womb.” “Commission member Paolo Carozza has argued that religious freedom is ‘key to the coherence and viability of the entire human rights project’—a freedom he has interpreted to include the right of family businesses to exclude from health care coverage ‘drugs that can end human life in the womb.’” [Just Security, 7/9/19]


Carozza Was Appointed To The Commission On Unalienable Rights, Which Has Sparked Concern Among Human Rights Activists, In 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Appointed Carozza To The Newly-Formed Commission On Unalienable Rights In 2019. “The definition of human rights has ‘lost focus,’ according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who told reporters Monday that he's launching a new advisory committee to ‘review the role of human rights in American public policy.’ He announced the new "Unalienable Rights" commission in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Sunday… The panel will be chaired by Harvard Professor and Human Rights scholar Mary Ann Glendon and will include Russell Berman, Peter Berkowitz, Paolo Carozza, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, Jacqueline Rivers, Kiron Skinner, Meir Soloveichik, Katrina Lantos Swett, Christopher Tollefsen and David Tse-Chien Pan, and F. Cartwrite Weiland.” [CBS News, 7/8/19]

The Commission On Unalienable Rights Was Announced In May 2019 And Launched In July 2019

In Its May 2019 Announcement Of The New Commission, The State Department Noted It Will Have Advisory Powers. “The State Department recently published a brief, enigmatic notice announcing the formation of a new Commission on Unalienable Rights. With a modest budget of $385,074 and merely advisory powers, the commission received little attention beyond head-scratching over its strange name. Yet the significance of the endeavor should not be overlooked. It puts the government’s imprimatur on an assault upon one of the cornerstones of modern liberalism: international human rights. According to the commission’s draft charter, its job will be to explore ‘reforms of human rights discourse where it has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights’.” [Washington Post, 6/14/19]

The State Department Formally Launched The Commission In July 2019. “The State Department will formally launch on Monday an advisory commission on human rights that has engendered controversy since it was proposed.” [Washington Post, 7/8/19]

Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo Coopted Human Rights-Based Language To Formally Launch State’s “Commission On Unalienable Rights.” “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday unveiled a new Commission on Unalienable Rights, a panel he said is aimed at providing him with ‘an informed review of the role of human rights in American foreign policy.’… In remarks at the State Department on Monday, Pompeo noted that “words like ‘rights’ can be used by good or evil,” decrying how some have ‘hijacked’ human rights rhetoric to be used for ‘dubious or malignant purposes.’” [Politico, 7/8/19]

The Commission On Unalienable Rights Champions “Traditional Values” Using Human Rights As A Justification — Despite The Trump Administration’s Consistent Efforts To Undermine Human Rights

The Trump Administration Has Not Supported International Human Rights — Yet Tries To Use The New Commission And Rights-Based Language To Achieve Their Preferred Policies. “Donald Trump is not known as a supporter of international human rights. However, late last week, the Trump State Department announced a new Commission on Unalienable Rights to provide advice and recommendations regarding international human rights policy. Advocacy NGOs are likely to be unhappy, as the commission is likely to attack many of their preferred policies, using human rights — albeit a very different set of rights than most activists prefer — as a justification.” [Washington Post, 6/6/19]

The New Commission Will Likely Prioritize “Natural Family” And “Traditional Values” To Limit Reproductive Rights, Gun Control And Immigration. “The Trump Commission on Unalienable Rights is likely to champion the “natural family” and “traditional values.”… The United States has sought to purge all references to ‘sexual and reproductive health’ at the United Nations since 2017. This term, favored by mainstream human rights activists, is viewed by conservatives as code for abortion, gay and transgender rights, as well as other acts or identities that they see as ‘unnatural.’…Another likely commission favorite will be the right to individual self-defense as a justification for opposing international and domestic gun control… Natural rights could also be used to justify a tougher stance on immigration, as the expression of the sovereign right of a people to protect its territorial integrity and established culture. This clashes with a long-standing concern of human rights groups, the rights of immigrants and refugees. But it jibes well with the sentiments of nationalist movements in Europe and elsewhere, who often promote the rights of majorities.” [Washington Post, 6/6/19]

Human Rights Groups Focusing On LGBTQ Rights Have Decried The Commission And Its Appointees

GLAAD: The Commission Is A “Farce.” Sarah Kate Ellis, the CEO of GLAAD, called the commission a ‘farce’ and accused the Trump administration of ‘knowingly appointing activists who have made careers out of fighting against LGBTQ progress and is now providing them an opportunity to export their anti-LGBTQ activism around the world through the U.S. State Department.’ [NBC News, 7/10/19]

A Notre Dame International Law Professor, Carozza’s Academic Work Has Been Guided By His Anti-Abortion Beliefs

Carozza Claims That The American Public Has Shifted Away From Supporting “Extreme” Versions Of Abortion — However, The Majority Of Americans Have Supported Abortion In All/Most Cases For Roughly A Decade

Carozza Has Written Scholarship About “The Right To Life” In Which He Claims The American Public Has Shifted Away From Supporting “Extreme” “Abortion”… “United States where for some time the clear trend in both popular opinion and in law has been to back away from the earlier and more extreme versions of the constitutional right to an abortion.” [Notre Dame Journal Of International & Comparative Law, 2015]

…However, 61 Percent Of Americans Believe Abortion Should Be Legal In All/Most Cases — “As High As It Has Been In Two Decades Of Polling.” “As of 2019, public support for legal abortion remains as high as it has been in two decades of polling. Currently, 61% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 38% say it should be illegal in all or most cases.” [Pew Research Center, 8/29/19]

In Fact, The Percentage Of Americans Who Believe Abortion Should Be Legal In All/Most Cases Is Higher Than It Has Been In 25 Years.

[Pew Research Center, 8/29/19]

Carozza Spoke On A Right To Life Panel At Notre Dame

Carozza Spoke On A 2016 Right To Life Panel About A “Pro-Life World” At Notre Dame. “The Notre Dame Right to Life Club hosted its final panel on a holistic vision of a pro-life world Thursday night in Geddes Hall… Professor Paolo Carozza, director of the Kellogg Institute for International Studies discussed international development and helping the poor abroad. He said a pro-life vision of development needs to acknowledge the value of human life and consists both of individual development and community support to help others develop.” [The Observer, 11/18/16]

Carozza Has Called The Rights Rationale Behind Supreme Court Case Planned Parenthood vs. Casey “The Justification For The Killing Of Innocent Human Life On A Massive Scale”

Carozza Has Used Natural Law To Dispute The Legality Of Abortion. “Commissioner Paolo Carozza, for his part, has utilized natural law arguments grounded in Christianity to contrast the logic of the Supreme Court’s finding in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey to conclude that ‘the former conceives of freedom as inseparable from an objective order of truth, justice, and charity; the latter contemplates freedom as pure subjectivity untethered from human reason.’ He goes on to criticize the rights rationale of Casey as ‘the justification for the killing of innocent human life on a massive scale.’” [Columbia Human Rights Law Review, 12/1/19]

Carozza Has Publicly Opposed The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Birth Control Benefit Using A “Religious Freedom” Argument And Worked To Roll Back Insurance Coverage For His Students At Notre Dame

During The Obama Era, Carozza And Notre Dame Colleagues Spoke Out Against The ACA’s Birth Control Benefit...

Carozza, Along With Two Dozen Notre Dame Colleagues, Signed A Letter Protesting The ACA’s Benefit That Ensured Health Insurance Plans Cover Birth Control, Claiming That Some Contraceptives “Cause Abortion” And That The Rule Is A “Grave Violation Of Religious Freedom.” “Twenty-five Notre Dame faculty members--led by the university’s top ethics expert, and including some of the school’s most eminent scholars--have signed a statement declaring that President Barack Obama’s latest version of his administration’s mandate that all health insurance plans in the United States must cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including those that cause abortions, is ‘a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.’ … Some of the other distinguished Notre Dame faculty who signed the statement condemning Obama’s mandate [include] … Prof. Paolo Carozza, director of Notre Dame’s Center for Civil and Human Rights.” [CNS News, 2/12/12]

  • “Other Leading Organizers Of The Letter Included Prof. Robert George Of Princeton And Prof. Mary Ann Glendon Of Harvard Law School.” [CNS News, 2/12/12]

…And Notre Dame Was The First Major Institution To Roll Back Coverage For Birth Control Under Trump Administration’s Legally Embattled Rule Changes… 

In 2017, The University Announced It Would No Longer Provide Birth Control Coverage To Students And Employees. “The University of Notre Dame will no longer provide birth control coverage to students and employees, taking advantage of the Trump administration's decision to weaken the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate. As Indiana Public Media notes, the Catholic university previously "made the coverage available through a third-party service separate from the rest of its health insurance and attempted to sue for the right to not offer the coverage at all." That lawsuit, against the Obama administration, was unsuccessful. But last month, the Trump administration rolled back the requirement, allowing any company or nonprofit to refuse to cover contraception based on a moral or religious objection. That policy change allowed Notre Dame to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage in any form. Notre Dame is the "first and most important employer publicly to take advantage" of the rollback, The Los Angeles Times reports.” [NPR, 11/3/17]

…However, Notre Dame Then Reversed Course At Least In Part, Stating It Would Provide Coverage From Undefined “Simple Contraceptives” — Causing Widespread Confusion Among The 17,000 People Covered By The School’s Health Care

A Few Days After Announcing It Would Opt Out Of The ACA’s Birth Control Benefit, The School Reversed Its Decision. “Notre Dame announced on Tuesday that faculty, students, and staff will be able to obtain coverage for contraceptives through their university-sponsored insurance plans. The surprise decision is a reversal of the school’s announcement last week that it would discontinue birth-control coverage in light of new religious-freedom protections put in place by the Trump administration.” [The Atlantic, 11/8/17]

  • The School Said It Would Not Provide Coverage For Any Drugs That “Kill A Fertilized Egg.” “Notre Dame has decided to ban “abortion-inducing drugs” from third-party-provided insurance plans. It will also begin providing coverage for “simple contraceptives” in the university plan. The move was announced in a letter from its president, Father John Jenkins, to the university community on Wednesday. It was not immediately clear which drugs the ban entails, such as the morning-after pill, IUDs, or other long-acting contraceptives. That list will be available in March, a spokesperson confirmed. The school’s arrangement will still allow access to contraceptives, but will discontinue coverage of any drugs that would “kill a fertilized egg,” according to the spokesperson. These drugs “are far more gravely objectionable in Catholic teaching,” Jenkins wrote in the letter.” [The Atlantic, 2/7/18]
  • Notre Dame Eventually Clarified Its Health Coverage Would Not Cover Certain Forms Of Contraception Such As The Cooper IUD — One Of The Most Effective Forms Of Birth Control. “The decision caused a considerable amount of confusion for many covered by Notre Dame’s insurance — largely because the new plan directly contravened the ACA’s no-cost, full-access birth control provision, which had been upheld by the courts despite attempts by the university and the Trump administration to dismantle it. Moreover, the notion that certain contraceptives induce abortion, while popular among the Catholic hierarchy, doesn’t comport with science. Notre Dame has said that it will not cover the copper intrauterine device — a small, T-shaped piece of plastic wrapped in copper wire, which is toxic to sperm. While it can also be used as emergency contraception, it is among the most effective forms of birth control and is nonhormonal, which is the best solution for some women. (A spokesperson wrote in an email to The Intercept that faculty with Health Savings Accounts would also be barred from using funds to obtain a copper IUD or other reproductive services the university objects to.)” [The Intercept, 10/11/18]

17,000 People Who Receive Health Care Through The University Have Been Affected By Notre Dame’s Mismanaged Decisions Restricting Reproductive Health Care. “This decision is Notre Dame’s latest attempt to balance its Catholic character with the demands of pluralism within its community. Over 17,000 people are covered by the university’s health plans, including faculty, staff, students, and their family members.” [The Atlantic, 2/7/18]

Notre Dame Students Sued The University In 2018 Over Its Improper Settlement Agreement With HHS Barring Students From Access To Birth Control As Mandated By The ACA. “Late last month, several women sued the University of Notre Dame over its refusal to allow individuals who participate in the university’s health-care plans to access birth control as legally mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The lawsuit alleges that Notre Dame improperly entered into a settlement agreement with the U.S. government that permits the school to deny its students, faculty, and staff contraceptive coverage, regardless of the rules of the ACA’s birth control benefit. The lawsuit raises thorny questions of administrative law and shows just how far Trump’s agencies will go to restrict access to contraception, regardless of laws designed to stop them.” [Rewire.News, 7/9/18]

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