UN Human Rights Chief Bashes U.S. on Abortion

By | June 16, 2022

Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. June 17 (C-Fam) Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, criticized the U.S. for the expectation that the Supreme Court will overturn the federal abortion regime.  At the same time, Bachelet praised Latin American countries that have recently liberalized their abortion laws.

“Restrictive abortion laws and practical barriers pose a threat to human rights,” said Bachelet in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council. “This is a time for progress, not further restrictions on these essential rights, as is under consideration in the United States of America.”

She specifically praised Colombia, Argentina, and Mexico for recent liberalization of their abortion laws. During her tenure, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has aggressively promoted abortion, including in a fact sheet that relies heavily on the work of treaty monitoring bodies that have attempted to insinuate a right to abortion into treaties that do not mention it at all.

Before her appointment to the UN’s human rights office, Bachelet was president of Chile, where she campaigned to decriminalize abortion.  She then served as the first head of UN Women, where she likewise used her position to promote abortion, despite the lack of consensus among UN member nations on a right to abortion, as well as previous negotiated agreements stating that abortion laws should be left to individual countries to determine.

Bachelet recently announced she will not seek a second term as the UN human rights chief.  She has faced mounting criticism for contributing to a “whitewashing” of Chinese human rights abuses, particularly against its Uyghur Muslim minority, including forced abortions and sterilizations.

She visited China in late May, where she drew complaints from human rights organizations for failing to address the Chinese government’s crimes.  A long-awaited report from her office on the human rights situation in China remains unpublished.

In a statement following her visit, Bachelet, praised the Chinese government for universal health care and gender equality initiatives.  She similarly applauded Chinese NGOs for advancing “gender equality, the rights of LGBTI people, of people with disabilities and older people, among others.”

Her praise of China even drew fire from usually friendly Democrats. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) likened Bachelet’s comments to a “hostage video.” Her official statement about the trip was described by one regional expert and human rights analyst as “Orwellian” for omitting to mention “well-documented and systematic sexual violence, forced sterilization, forced abortions, human trafficking, torture, crimes against humanity, and genocide.”

These were not listed among the “significant setbacks” to “sexual and reproductive health and rights” discussed by Bachelet in her speech to the Human Rights Council, in which she spoke only of barriers to accessing abortion as human rights violations.

Bachelet has stated that her decision to leave her post when her term expires in August was not related to her China trip.  However, she may have tactical reasons for wanting to distance herself from the blowback from recent events.  For several years, there have been intensifying calls for the UN to have its first female Secretary-General, and Bachelet’s name has been among those suggested for the role.

The current Secretary-General, António Guterres, has begun his second and likely last term, which expires in 2026.