UN Staff Instructed to Promote Abortion in UN Manual on Women’s Access to Justice

By | May 25, 2018

NEW YORK, May 25 (C-Fam) A new UN agency manual on access to justice instructs UN staff working to reform legal systems around the world to lobby countries to “decriminalize forms of behavior” that effect only women, such as abortion.

The manual recommends that states “ensure” that sexual and reproductive health care includes “safe abortion services” as a measure of “effective, accountable and gender-responsive justice institutions” for purposes of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. And the manual says laws that criminalize abortion amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The hefty 350-page document cites non-binding opinions of UN experts to make these recommendations, claiming they are accurate interpretations of the binding obligations of states under international law as well as international political commitments, such as the Sustainable Development Goals.

The manual — “A Practitioner’s Toolkit on Women’s Access to Justice Programming” — is a guidance document for UN personnel working on rebuilding the legal systems in countries emerging from war, political instability, and poverty.

Of special note is the emphasis on decriminalizing abortion.

“The criminal justice system has historically been designed by men for men,” the manual decries, before listing abortion among the crimes that unfairly single out women for punishment.

The manual also places emphasis on promoting the notion of discrimination on the basis of “actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity” as a component of “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination” that UN personnel are to address in UN programming.

The manual was developed primarily by the increasingly powerful agency called UN Women. The UN Development Program, the UN human rights office, and the UN agency for drugs and crime are also listed as co-authors of the manual.

This is not the first time UN Women has instructed UN staff to promote abortion. In 2014 it co-authored a manual with the UN human rights office that instructed UN personnel to promote abortion as a right of reparation under humanitarian law.

It is also not the first time UN Women has promoted abortion under the banner of “access to justice.” The first ever report of UN Women in 2011 was on access to justice, and it praised the Constitutional Court of Colombia for declaring the country’s abortion ban unconstitutional, a decision widely understood to constitute judicial activism.

The fact that other UN agencies, especially the massive UN development fund, which administers the lion share of the $26 billion UN development budget, means UN Women’s activist stance is making gains.

Even so, the manual will mostly impact the work of UN Women. Unlike the UN development fund, which promoted traditional programing in infrastructure, education, health, food, and shelter, UN Women exclusively carries out lobbying activities, training non-governmental organizations, governments, and politicians through manuals such as the one on access to justice.

It should be noted that no UN treaty or nonbinding resolution calls abortion a human right and neither has sexual orientation and gender identity been accepted as a category of nondiscrimination in international law.