Guest Column

U.S. fails to capitalize on growing pro-life support in UN General Assembly

Trump admin, abortion

(New York – C-Fam) Despite a growing number of countries supporting U.S. pro-life diplomacy, the U.S. fell short of the votes necessary to add new pro-life protections in UN policy this week in the United Nations General Assembly.

Up to 23 countries supported U.S. pro-life amendments in General Assembly resolutions, far more than last year, when only 6 countries supported U.S. pro-life positions. Despite the improvement, it was not enough to change UN policy on “sexual and reproductive health.”

Over 100 countries sided with the pro-abortion European Union instead, voting in favor of keeping ambiguous UN terminology about sexual and reproductive health unmodified.

The U.S. amendments sought to delete or modify existing language on “sexual and reproductive health” in several UN resolutions on women’s issues. Even though the U.S. amendments failed, the U.S. delegation did not vote against the resolutions overall, opting to only make reservations about its pro-life concerns.

Terminology on “sexual and reproductive health” in UN resolutions has long been used by UN entities as a mandate to promote abortion through health policies and human rights mechanisms.

During the COVID-19 pandemic UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres designated “sexual and reproductive health” as “essential” and defined it as including abortion by reference to a UN manual on reproductive health in emergency situations.

The Trump administration strongly opposed this move.

Acting Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development John Barsa publicly rebuked Guterres twice for promoting abortion. And U.S. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft scuttled a humanitarian agreement that rubberstamped Guterres’ designation of “sexual and reproductive health” as “essential” in June.

READ: Trump HHS Secretary to United Nations: ‘There is no international right to an abortion’

Surprisingly, the U.S. did not vote against a resolution on child marriage even though it designated “sexual and reproductive health” as “essential.” Another resolution, on violence against women, went further and promoted “safe abortion.” Yet, the U.S. voted in favor and offered and delivered strong reservations on the language about reproductive health.

“Let me be very clear: abortion is not healthcare. It is not safe in any circumstance. It is not an international human right. It does not protect life, but takes life,” said Jennifer Barber, Special Advisor and Public Delegate of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

“It is particularly hypocritical that a resolution on violence against women promotes access to something that results in the loss of millions of baby girls every year,” Barber added.

Persons familiar with the way the U.S. delegation operates speculated that the decision not to vote against these resolutions overall, despite the pro-abortion language, was governed by concern with the optics because the issues of violence against women and child marriage were involved. In the same week, however, the U.S. voted against resolutions on the right to food, the right to water, and the right to development despite the negative “optics.”

U.S. diplomats also cited the Geneva Consensus Declaration in official statements explaining their opposition to existing terminology on “sexual and reproductive health” in UN resolutions.

“Consistent with the Geneva Consensus Declaration, signed by countries representing every region of the world, we assert that there is no international right to abortion, and each nation has the sovereign right to legislate its own position on the protection of life at all stages, absent external pressure, especially from the UN,” said U.S. Diplomat Jason Mack.

The declaration was launched last month by the Trump administration and joined by 33 countries jointly representing over 1.6 billion people. The Geneva Consensus Declaration was presented at the World Health Assembly last week.

Editor’s Note: Stefano Gennarini, J.D. writes for C-Fam. This article first appeared in the Friday Fax, an internet report published weekly by C-Fam (Center for Family & Human Rights), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute (https://c-fam.org/). This article appears with permission.

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