Abortion Activists Pin Hopes on Security Council Resolution

By Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D. | October 15, 2015

NEW YORK, October 16 (C-Fam) The UN Security Council passed a resolution this week that activists will use to target laws protecting unborn children from abortion and to strike down U.S. laws prohibiting the funding of abortion overseas.

The resolution was passed at the beginning of a marathon, two-day series of speeches at which the UN Security Council and UN member states commemorated the 15th anniversary of the Women, Peace, and Security agenda. The purpose of the agenda, and its initial resolution, UNSCR 1325, is to identify ways in which war disproportionately affects women, and to engage more women in conflict prevention, peace building, and peace keeping.

Over the years abortion activists have sought to attach their agenda to the serial resolutions, seeking the prestigious council’s imprimatur, policy change, and the substantial funding adhering to Security Council initiatives. Despite backing by the UK and France, which are members of the permanent group of five nations on the Council, the effort has so far failed. In 2013 France was rebuffed when it tried to insert a reference to abortion in that year’s resolution.

This year, advocates took a different tack and inserted into the resolution references to three documents which made their claim for them–a UN Secretary General report, a study conducted by UN Women, and a general recommendation by the committee that monitors the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

These UN staff claim that pregnancy is a war wound, needing abortion to heal and therefore comes under the Geneva Convention’s requirement to provide non-discriminatory medical care to non-combatants regardless of national laws.  They claim that laws protecting the unborn represent “cruel and inhuman” treatment to the child’s mother and are a violation of human rights law.

The resolution mentioned but did not endorse these documents, and it is unclear whether nations were aware of their controversial contents. Several, like the United States, mentioned the study’s analysis on women’s participation in peace initiatives. Many congratulated the authors of the study and promised to consider its contents. Only the Holy See addressed abortion directly, saying it objected strongly to the suggestion that it was a means of recovery and rehabilitation.

Egypt alluded to the problem of politicizing humanitarian law as well as “negligence with respect to the priorities of national sovereignty and the respect for national laws” and the “issue of unofficial studies and data” that don’t reflect the goals relating to the Women, Peace, and Security agenda.

The insertion of abortion into the study by UN Women appears haphazard. Footnotes do not match text, assertions are inserted with no references at all, and in some places the editors did not find primary references and instead relied on secondary sources.

The main claim is substantiated only by documents from an abortion advocacy organization, the Global Justice Center, by a collection of essays, and by personal opinions appearing in newspapers. The disconnect from the rest of the study gives the appearance that it was accepted without vetting by any legal authority.

Neither the study nor the Secretary General’s report provide legal basis for the claim, except references to the non-binding comments of UN treaty monitoring bodies and other UN staff. While the committee that monitors CEDAW references its own authority in making the assertion, the committee has no authority to interpret the treaty in ways that create new obligations on states.

Abortion activists will likely use the new resolution to press their case against U.S. laws restricting funding of abortion overseas. UN Women staff continue to assert that the 2013 resolution backs their claim even though abortion was explicitly rejected. This week European Parliament staff submitted a resolution to the parliament making the same argument. The resolution goes to a vote next week.