For the First Time Ever, the U.S. Threatened Pro-Life Veto at UN Security Council

By | April 25, 2019

Christoph Heusgen and António Guterres

NEW YORK, April 26 (C-Fam) The United States forced Germany to remove abortion-related terms from a UN Security Council resolution this week, threatening to veto the resolution if they did not. The Germans, who held the presidency of the council this month, and brought the resolution before the council, immediately downplayed the U.S. achievement.

For the first time ever, the U.S. threatened to use its Security Council veto over pro-life concerns. As a result, the Security Council resolution on sexual violence in conflict was adopted Tuesday without mentioning abortion or “sexual and reproductive health.”

The Germans, however, say the UN will continue to promote abortion for victims of rape in war zones based on a previous Security Council resolution from 2013, known as resolution 2106. That resolution included the provision of “sexual and reproductive health” for survivors of rape for the first time in a council resolution, and the UN system has consistently implemented the resolution as including abortion ever since.

“We did not mention the topic (sexual and reproductive health) to make sure that international law remains in place, and that what has already been adopted on sexual and reproductive health care remains valid. Resolution 2106 remains valid. This is expressly stated in the resolution,” said Christoph Heusgen, the German ambassador to the UN, at the Security Council press stakeout after the resolution was adopted.

He was directly responding to abortion supporters in Germany, including UN-Women, the UN agency for women. They asked the German government not to put forth a resolution at all last month unless it preserved the status quo. Heusgen was explaining to the disappointed activists that the status quo has in fact not changed at all, even though the term “sexual and reproductive health” was not in the resolution.

“You have to look at it from a legal point of view,” he said, describing the German government as “overall very happy” with the result.

“If we had at this point weaker language than before, then it could be used as an example for other resolutions. So, we chose not to have anything on this and just have a reaffirmation of 2106. This means that 2106 is reaffirmed with this resolution and stands. And we have not introduced weaker language,” he explained.

By weaker language, Heusgen was referring to the possibility of adding caveats about abortion to the term “sexual and reproductive health.” The UN has previously adopted and discussed language to exclude an international right to abortion, respect for national laws, respect for conscience rights, and that otherwise casts abortion in a negative light, all in conjunction with the controversial abortion-related term.

When asked specifically if Germany would continue to fight the United States’ position on abortion, Heusgen was adamant.

“Absolutely, we will push back,” he said, “The question is, do you, because there is one government that does not want anything on this topic, do you stop all your activities?”

In the council debate, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and France also emphasized that the absence of an explicit reference to abortion or abortion-related terms in the resolution would not affect the ability of the UN system to continue to promote abortion as a response to sexual violence in war zones.

The negotiations over the resolution have been going on since February this year. In the lead up to adoption, Germany promoted explicit references to the termination of pregnancy as well as language on protections for individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.