New Security and Humanitarian Compact: Advancing Women or Abortion Trojan Horse?

By | July 8, 2021

NEW YORK, July 9 (C-Fam) The UN Agency for Women is asking countries to sign an agreement on women, peace, and security that will create new avenues for the abortion industry in war-torn countries and other humanitarian emergencies.

The much-anticipated compact was launched at last week’s Generation Equality Forum.  In the name of “meaningfully includ[ing] women and girls” in responses to conflict and crisis, the Compact further entrenches abortion-related language in the security and humanitarian space and promotes sexual orientation and gender identity as categories of international humanitarian law.

In a section on “protecting and promoting women’s human rights in conflict and crisis contexts,” the Compact calls for survivors of human rights violations to have access to the “full range” of “comprehensive” services, “including sexual and reproductive health services.”  This language is widely interpreted to include abortion, and UN agencies’ manuals include abortion as part of humanitarian programing.

The terms “sexual and reproductive health” and “reproductive rights” have been allowed in negotiated documents with the understanding that their use does not create new rights, and that abortion laws in particular are a matter for national governments to determine.

The placement of this language in the human rights section of the Compact is troubling to pro-life advocates.  It could be seen as elevating the ambiguous language beyond mere health policy to the realm of normative requirement.

Language about sexual and reproductive health usually appears in UN agreements in the context of health policy. Framing abortion-related phrases in terms of human rights will be used to pressure countries into recognizing an international right to abortion.

In a section outlining concrete actions signatories might take to advance the Compact, countries are called on to “redress gender-based violence in line with international standards.”  The main international standard recognized in existing UN agency guidelines for addressing gender-based violence is the Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP), created by the Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises which advocates for abortion.

The Working Group updated the MISP in 2019 to include “safe abortion care.” UN agencies and other humanitarian actors that support abortion will inevitably use the MISP and related World Health Organization guidance as the standards to be followed in programs and policies flowing from the Compact.

The Compact was not the result of an open and transparent negotiation, as UN agreements are traditionally required to be. UN donors increasingly bypass traditional negotiations to avoid having to sacrifice political priorities that lack universal support, including abortion and LGBT issues.

The Compact’s signatories include groups that promote abortion, including the International Rescue Committee, the Women’s Refugee Commission, and the International Alliance of Women.  National government signatories include the United States and other international abortion proponents, including Norway, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

Other signatories include countries that have national laws protecting the unborn, at least under all but exceptional circumstances, including Namibia, the United Arab Emirates, Sierra Leone, and Peru.

In its glossary, the Compact also includes controversial language on “sexual orientation and gender identity,” which are mentioned in the definitions of gender, diversity, and intersectionality.

The United Arab Emirates, which not only signed the Compact, but acts as one of its board members, has laws against homosexual activity, as does Sierra Leone.

UN Women serves as the secretariat of the Compact, which will likely be included in the work of UN Women and its associated programs.