US diplomats want to insert language about avoiding abortion into an annual UN resolution on meeting humanitarian needs around the world.
A text submitted by US negotiators states that countries should include voluntary and informed family planning, and other options to avoid abortion as components of humanitarian response.
The US position is regrettable, according to a senior NGO official. Guaranteeing access to sexual and reproductive health saves lives and it's a basic human right, said Catarina Carvalho, Geneva representative of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. You cannot address or combat SGBV [sexual and gender-based violence] if you don't ensure access to sexual and reproductive health services, Carvalho said.
The final text is to be voted on on Wednesday afternoon, and a late draft obtained Tuesday by The New Humanitarian does not include the changes demanded by the United States. The US can again request edits before the vote on Wednesday, diplomats said.
The move follows successful US lobbying to alter references to sexual and reproductive health in international agreements, notably in a recent UN Security Council resolution about rape and other forms of sexual violence.
It's a political campaign, with a religious flavour, said a UN official familiar with the issues; by changing the language, the US is attempting to limit the conversation about abortion, and pressure aid groups to avoid discussion, the official noted.
The UN staffer, who asked to remain anonymous due to diplomatic sensitivities, said it's an assault on women, whose risk of gender-based violence increases in conflicts.
The US bans any recipients of US government grants from offering abortion services or referrals or advocating for abortion law reform. The so-called Mexico City Policy was first applied in 1984 by president Ronald Reagan and has been switched on and off by successive administrations, most recently being set aside by president Barack Obama. It's also known by critics as a global gag rule and was reinstated in 2017 by the Trump administration, which has expanded its reach in 2019.
A document obtained by TNH shows requests from US negotiators to alter the UN resolution currently under discussion in Geneva. The text under negotiation is an annual resolution on: Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations.
It is a routine text signed off by the member states of the UN by consensus as part of an annual meeting on humanitarian issues under the Economic and Social Council, a body of the General Assembly. Its humanitarian affairs segment is meeting this week in Geneva.
The US delegation had asked for changes to two paragraphs in the 2019 resolution. Both make changes to boilerplate clauses that appeared last year. The United States did not object to the same language when it was included in the 2018 version:
Source: The New Humanitatian