Will the Trump Administration Stop Humanitarian Abortion?

By | November 29, 2018

NEW YORK, November 30 (C-Fam) UN abortion advocates are keen to create “humanitarian abortion’, that is, include a right to abortion in humanitarian assistance through actions of the Security Council. The issue is before the UN General Assembly this week.

This week, the U.S. “broke silence” and reopened negotiations in order to oppose “sexual and reproductive health” in a resolution on humanitarian operations in war zones. This signals that the Trump administration may finally begin to rollback abortion from UN policy.

The Trump administration’s pro-life diplomacy has made abortion as controversial as ever at UN headquarters, but real progress in rolling back abortion has barely started. The General Assembly’s annual humanitarian resolution is a prime candidate to make serious progress.

Given that humanitarian operations are about saving lives, abortion is a controversial addition. But, as the world’s largest funder of humanitarian assistance, the U.S. has the most leverage to stop it. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s diplomats said in June that the use of the term “sexual and reproductive health” in the humanitarian context is “not acceptable.”

The U.S. delegation has contested the use of the term “sexual and reproductive health” throughout negotiations in the General Assembly explaining that the term has “connotations that suggest the promotion of abortion or a right to abortion.”

The Bush administration regularly contested the term in UN resolutions precisely because the term is associated with the promotion of abortion. But the Bush administration ultimately accepted the ambiguity of the term and did no more than make reservations on its use. No one in the Bush administration ever called a vote on a resolution because it included the controversial term. The Trump administration appears ready to progress beyond what the Bush administration did and make pro-life gains in UN policy.

Over the years, UN agencies and the UN human rights office have taken advantage of the term’s ambiguity and routinely promoted access to and a right to abortion. The Obama administration and European governments pressured countries to streamline the term into all areas of UN policy. One of the final holdouts was humanitarian assistance.

Abortion proponents were able to break down resistance in the humanitarian resolution thanks to a formalistic compromise with delegations that traditionally held pro-life positions. They agreed not to talk about “reproductive rights” and only mention “sexual and reproductive health” instead. This so-called “Malta compromise” has favored abortion promoters. It allowed an unprecedented and unforeseen proliferation of the term “sexual and reproductive health” throughout UN resolutions, including the annual General Assembly resolution on humanitarian assistance in 2015. And the compromise never removed the ambiguity of the term.

As a result, the UN system has become even more aggressive in its abortion advocacy. For example, all major UN reports on humanitarian assistance that address issues affecting women since 2015 have mentioned abortion as a right under the rubric of “sexual and reproductive health.”

Will the Trump administration muster the political will to exclude abortion from UN policy with the same diplomatic resources and tenacity as the Clinton and Obama administrations did to promote it, or, will they simply close a blind eye to UN abortion advocacy, like the Bush administration before it?