Definitions

Abortion and the Current Politics of Climate Change

This Definitions examines how the abortion issue relates to the current global political discussion around climate change. It examines how the lingering memory of the “population bomb” that proved to be a dud informs the current debate, the role of the UN in historically pivoting away from the “population control” narrative, and how the rising concern of a “climate crisis” risks reanimating these old and dangerous ideas.

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“Self-Care” that Harms and Kills: The WHO’s Push to “Demedicalize” Abortion

This Definitions examines how the rubric of “self-care” is being used to remove or bypass all safety and legal guardrails around abortion, how the COVID-19 pandemic has been utilized to accelerate this agenda, and how the groundwork has been carefully laid to ensure that access to abortion is ubiquitous regardless of the law—all with support from the UN’s global health agency.

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The Significance of the Geneva Consensus Declaration

This Definitions considers the importance of the Geneva Consensus Declaration in the context of the ongoing debates about social issues in the international context.

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Arguments from International Human Rights Law in the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Abortion Case

This Definitions paper will evaluate the claims that abortion is an international human right asserted in the international law briefs submitted to the court.

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The Gates Foundation: No Controversy or No Complicity?

At the London Summit on Family Planning in 2012, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation made family planning one of its signature issues, using the slogan “No Controversy” to insist that contraception should not be politically divisive, and should be seen as separate from the highly controversial issue of abortion.

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The Importance of Consensus at the UN

Since the founding of the United Nations, member states have tried to adopt common policy positions on a wide range of issues by “consensus.” This is a standard term in parliamentary procedure common to legislative bodies and boardrooms. It means that that a decision or resolution is adopted without objection or the need for a vote because everyone agrees with the proposed text.

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Jamaica Under Pressure: A Caribbean nation faces mounting demands by international actors to change its abortion laws

For decades, countries with pro-life laws have faced increasing pressure to liberalize their laws, both by direct pressure by international expert bodies and other governments and through attempts—thus far unsuccessful—to establish an international human right to abortion.  In recent months, Jamaica has become the target of a well-organized and well-funded campaign to remove legal protections from the unborn and ensure that abortion is not only broadly legal but also readily accessible.

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Biden’s First 100 Days: Positioning the U.S. to be the World’s Abortion Provider

This Definitions examines the actions taken by the Biden administration in its first hundred days as they pertain to the international abortion debate, and consider how they can help to predict what is yet to come in the remainder of his term.

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Why Not SRHR?

The phrase “sexual and reproductive health and rights,” or SRHR, is ubiquitous in the advocacy and programmatic work of UN agencies and the UN secretariat. 

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Who Will Save Multilateralism from Itself? The United Nations at 75

From the moment Donald Trump was elected to the U.S. presidency four years ago, there has been a loud clamor that multilateralism is in crisis. His “America First” doctrine has been excoriated as an invitation to dismantle the UN system. This could not be further from the truth.

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Kenya in the Crosshairs: How the abortion lobby is pressuring an African country from within and without

Sub-Saharan Africa has become a key battleground for the abortion debate that continues within international institutions. Many countries in the region, with the notable exception of South Africa, have pro-life laws that prohibit or strongly restrict abortion, and the practice continues to be viewed negatively within the broader culture of many African countries, which celebrate large families.

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The Gender Agenda: How the LGBT Movement is Hijacking Women’s Rights

In the early 1990s, UN policy began to use the terms “gender,” “gender equality,” “gender balance,” “gender policies,” “gender-sensitive,” etc. to refer to the social, legal, and economic disparities between women and men and policies to address them. UN member states accepted the term “gender” with the understanding that it referred to the two biological sexes and the promotion of the equality of women and men, and nothing more. They thought that by using this term they were focusing on the advancement of women and girls.

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UN-safe Abortion: How the Abortion Industry has Used UN Agencies to Legitimize Abortion

The often-repeated adage that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare,” popularized by U.S. President Bill Clinton, generally captures how the term “safe abortion” was once understood. Abortion is not a good thing. It should be avoided as much as possible. Since the Clinton era, though, abortion advocates have distanced themselves from the phrase, arguing that the word “rare” imparts stigma. Instead, they have increasingly worked to frame abortion as a good thing, and used the word “safe” as part of the push to establish abortion as an international right. 

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What is feminist foreign policy?

This issue of Definitions explores the way feminist foreign policy has been conducted thus far, examines how it has been framed by its creators and proponents, and considers the impact it has already had thus far.

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The UN Human Rights System’s Stillbirth Scandal

Every day around the world, 800 women and 7,000 children die in childbirth. This is tragic, and rightfully their deaths have garnered attention at the highest levels. Yet 7,100 more children are stillborn every day to devastated parents, but they have been erased from the international agenda. This brief paper examines one of the United Nations entities responsible. 

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The Link between Gender-Based Violence Response and Abortion

Violence against women and girls, whether perpetrated in the home, the workplace, at school, in public spaces, or during times of war or crisis, leaves devastating effects on survivors and their families.

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Hope for Human Rights: Why the UN General Assembly Must Address Treaty Body Overreach

The UN General Assembly has negotiated and approved ten human rights treaties since the UN system was founded seventy-five years ago. Each treaty establishes a “treaty body” or “monitoring committee” of between twelve and twenty-four experts, tasked by the terms of their respective treaty to monitor and report on the efforts of States to implement the treaties. These treaty bodies have been at the forefront of promoting abortion as a human right, LGBTQI+ rights, sexual autonomy for children, and other divisive policies, all under the rubric of human rights.

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What does “unintended pregnancy” really mean and why does it matter?

INTRODUCTION The “sexual revolution” of the late 1960s in the United States and Europe was based on the idea that the link between sex and pregnancy is opt-in rather than…

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What is UN Development Reform and Why Should We Care?

Since 2017, members of the United Nations organization have been debating and adopting measures to reform the UN development system. The process, like many other UN reform efforts before it, is ostensibly meant to increase the efficiency and responsiveness of UN agencies and programs, but that is not the full picture. 

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What is the real purpose of the Helms Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act?

INTRODUCTION In 1973, the United States Supreme Court decided, in Roe v. Wade, to strike down all laws protecting unborn children from abortion throughout the country. That same year, Congress moved to…

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What is the “unfinished business” of the ICPD?

INTRODUCTION Twenty-five years ago, national leaders, UN representatives, and members of civil society met in Cairo, Egypt for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).  The resulting Programme of…

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What is the Universal Periodic Review?

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a relatively new UN human rights mechanism. In its ten-year tenure it has provided a forum for nations to review each other’s human rights records, with input from civil society.

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What Went Wrong with the Human Rights System?

The recent formation of the U.S. Commission on Unalienable Rights is a positive sign in the United States. It shows that there is an increasing awareness that the UN human rights system has gone badly awry. Indeed, something has gone awfully wrong in international human rights discourse.

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What does a right to family planning mean?

INTRODUCTION For more than half a century, advocates have asserted that couples have a human right to family planning— the knowledge and means to determine the timing and spacing of…

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Why Confusion About Family Planning Terminology Could Be Costing Us Billions

INTRODUCTION At international institutions, there is always a politically sensitive, if not controversial, nature to discussions of sex, reproduction, and the family.  Even so, since 1968, some nations have framed…

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