U.S. Expected to Fight Back Against Abortion as a Humanitarian Right

By | September 20, 2018

NEW YORK, September 21 (C-Fam) During the Obama administration abortion groups successfully included the term “sexual and reproductive health” in two Security Council resolutions and an annual UN General Assembly resolution.

The result is that now UN resolutions on humanitarian policies for war and natural disasters call “sexual and reproductive health” a “basic humanitarian need.” What this means is that nearly all UN reports on humanitarianism call for access to abortion as a humanitarian right under the rubric of providing access to “sexual and reproductive health.”

It is now impossible to include “sexual and reproductive health” in UN resolutions without also endorsing the notion of abortion as a humanitarian right, even if only indirectly and on shaky legal ground.

Trump administration officials seem to have recognized as much earlier this year when they opposed the inclusion of “sexual and reproductive health” in a resolution about humanitarianism in the Economic and Social Council that shadows the General Assembly resolution that will be negotiated in coming weeks.

In a statement, negotiators said, “The United States cannot accept the inclusion of ‘sexual and reproductive health services’ and ‘sexual and reproductive health’ in the resolution.”

While the U.S. did not go as far as calling a vote on the term in June, after the resolution was adopted, U.S. Ambassador Kelly Currie had the strongest possible words against its inclusion in future resolutions. She explained, “the terms have been used to promote abortion, and the right to abortion.”

It remains to be seen if the Trump administration will back this up with action during the General Assembly by taking “sexual and reproductive health” in humanitarian resolutions to a vote.

The administration could insist, to the point of calling a vote, on the inclusion of caveats that exclude a humanitarian right to abortion, and prohibit the promotion of abortion as a method of family planning. The U.S. could also require much else, including mandating that UN humanitarian efforts provide women with the best available maternal and child care to help women avoid abortion, prohibit discrimination against victims of rape both women and children born of war, protect the conscience of humanitarian workers who don’t want to perform abortions, and prohibit discrimination against faith-based humanitarian organizations that object to abortion.

Such caveats actually reflect UN consensus on abortion in other contexts. More importantly, policy makers should see these caveats as essential to preserve U.S. sovereign prerogatives. The campaign for an international right to abortion is a direct challenge to the Helms amendment, which bars U.S. funding for abortion. Nordic governments behind this campaign have already challenged the Helms amendment as a violation of international law at the Human Rights Council.

Pro-lifers at the UN believe it behooves the Trump administration to put an end to the campaign for humanitarian abortion. One high-ranking NGO leader told the Friday Fax, “Humanitarianism is a longstanding and revered area of international law and cooperation to protect civilians in war and other disasters. It should not be used to play bureaucratic games on contentious social issues.”