Will Trump’s UN team be bested by EU in this week’s humanitarian resolution debate?

By | June 13, 2018

U.S. delegation concerns over abortion in an annual UN humanitarian resolution of the Economic and Social Council prompted negotiations to be reopened this week to prevent the advancement of an international right to abortion in humanitarian law.

Late Friday the U.S. delegation broke silence on the draft, and the facilitators sent a message to all delegations that negotiations would resume this week.

One delegate told us there was a sense that “anything could happen” given the position of the U.S. delegation, suggesting the resolution might even come down to a vote on these controversial issues.

Delegates were hoping for an end to the negotiations last week, but the Swiss and Zimbabwean facilitators of the draft resolution did not heed requests of the U.S. and other delegations to remove references to “sexual and reproductive health” and a UN agency partnership with abortion giant International Planned Parenthood Federation to promote abortion in humanitarian settings called “minimum initial service package for sexual and reproductive health in emergencies”, also known as MISP.

Also included in the draft was a reference to “sexual and reproductive health-care services” – a dangerous concoction proposed for the first time two years ago as a clean compromise. Any variation of the term “sexual and reproductive health” includes abortion as it was defined in the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994. The convention included important caveats to restrict abortion which is why when the term is included in any intergovernmental agreement it must always include the ICPD reference though European countries fight vociferously against it.

Many pro-life countries have told the Friday Fax they will support the U.S. amending the text should the facilitators not heed the calls for MISP to be deleted and the ICPD qualifier to be added.

If the U.S. were to force a vote on “sexual and reproductive health” it would be the first time ever that a delegation called a vote on this language on the floor of a UN meeting. The only votes that have ever taken place so far have been informal and behind closed doors.

A vote would cement the Trump administration’s pro-life position. It would show the administration’s opposition to this terminology and its use by the UN system to promote access to abortion is more than just political. It would throw open the debate about whether UN policy should include abortion, a debate that was thought settled 25 years ago at Cairo Conference on Population and Development. And it would create the strongest evidence base for opposing the gradual development of a customary international right to abortion—something abortion groups have been trying to do for more than three decades by promoting this language in UN resolutions.

Under the Obama Administration it was reported that lawyers and diplomats at the U.S. State Department were working to advance U.S. funded abortion in humanitarian settings by re-interpreting the Helms amendment to only ban funding abortion as “family planning” even though it has been interpreted by both USAID and foreign governments as a complete ban on abortion funding. The new interpretation would allow for U.S. funding for abortion as a humanitarian need of rape victims and it would be interpreted as evidence that abortion in cases of rape is viewed as a humanitarian right.

The European Parliament and several European delegations have pushed this reinterpretation on U.S. diplomats, going as far as suggesting that the Helms amendment is a violation of humanitarian law. Even the otherwise pro-abortion Obama administration rebutted that suggestion during the last round of the U.S. in the Universal Periodic Review.

As the leaked emails from then Obama chief of staff John Podesta showed, the previous administration never took the final steps to reinterpret Helms because abortion advocates stopped him. Obama apparently was going to have to protect conscience rights of humanitarian operators and health workers in order to get major aid organizations onboard. Abortion groups were apparently willing to wait for a Hillary Clinton administration to get a better deal rather than concede rights of conscience in the short term.