Trump Pro-life Diplomacy Roils General Assembly Debates  

By | November 21, 2019

NEW YORK, November 22 (C-Fam) Abortion is as controversial today at UN headquarters as it was before Barack Obama took office in the White House, thanks to pro-life diplomacy from the Trump administration.

In a dramatic reversal of position, the Philippines and Indonesia removed all mentions of “sexual and reproductive health” from the annual violence against women resolution they co-sponsors every year in the General Assembly. The delegate of the Philippines who presented the draft for adoption emphasized, “we cannot accept any text that alludes to abortion as lawful.”

European and Nordic Countries, and their supporters in Latin America, harshly criticized the Trump administration for reviving the abortion issue at the UN, a debate they thought they had won in 2009.

When the U.S. tried to amend other resolutions—to change language about “sexuality education” and “sexual and reproductive health” that UN agencies use to promote abortion and homosexuality—the Europeans and the Nordics used the occasion to berate the U.S. delegation.

“It is essential that we do not go back on our shared commitments. We cannot undermine the normative framework that underpins our work,” said a delegate of Argentina on behalf of a coalition of countries mostly from Europe and Latin America.

The pro-life amendments predictably failed by a margin of seventy votes, but were supported by up to thirty countries.

The statements from critics of U.S. pro-life policy were uncommonly harsh and were delivered with visible anger and frustration. Some delegates accused the U.S. of “nullifying” protections for the health of children and youth and of bad faith.

The Trump administration responded with the words of President Trump to the General Assembly in September: “Americans will never tire of defending innocent life.”

“The United States believes in legal protections for the unborn, and rejects any interpretation of international human rights (such as General Comment 36 on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) to require any State Party to provide safe, legal, and effective access to abortion,” the statement specified.

“Each nation has the sovereign right to implement related programs and activities consistent with their laws and policies. There is no international right to abortion, nor is there any duty on the part of States to finance or facilitate abortion,” the statement added.

Despite the uncommonly strong pro-life statement, the Trump administration actually held back and promoted only a few minor pro-life amendments in UN resolutions about children and youth. No amendments were proposed in several resolutions about women that include the same controversial terms.

This inconsistency, combined with the limited number of U.S. diplomats committed to the pro-life cause, probably left countries who might be more sympathetic to the U.S. vulnerable to EU pressure. The EU, unlike the U.S., has a systemic consistent approach to “sexual and reproductive health” across all resolutions. The EU also backs its UN diplomacy with pressure and financial aid incentives to foreign capitals. In spite of this imbalance in diplomatic firepower, the U.S. had support from thirty countries.