British Lords tell US to fund abortions worldwide
April 15, 2016 (C-Fam) – A committee in the United Kingdom’s House of Lords claims abortion must be provided to survivors of wartime rape as a matter of both human rights law and international humanitarian law. In a report published this week, the committee harshly criticizes the United States for its law blocking funding for abortions in foreign countries.
The claim to an international right to abortion is eccentric and disputed. In a recent law review article, C-Fam’s Susan Yoshihara presents a detailed analysis of how the opinions of elite international bureaucrats and recommendations of experts on UN committees assert falsely that such a right already exists.
More recently, the laws of war have been seized upon, spearheaded by the abortion advocacy group Global Justice Center and a few allies, including some in the House of Lords.
While the committee sets out to assess the UK’s response to the problem of wartime sexual assault, it spends considerable time criticizing the United States for its refusal to fund overseas abortions—effectively disregarding not only the U.S.’s sovereignty over its own laws and money, but also the sovereignty of countries facing humanitarian crises. As the report points out, “[a]bortion is illegal in a number of conflict-affected countries.”
The committee’s report pays little attention to the often-overlooked children “born of war”—those conceived in wartime rape, whose right to healthcare, education, and even a legal identity are routinely denied. Instead of calling for rights for these children, the committee frames their status as outcasts as a further argument for abortion for their mothers. When victims of war rape do give birth, the report calls for maternity care and continuing financial support for the mother, but neglects to acknowledge their children as fellow rights-holders.
Writing in the Guardian, Erica Hall describes the report from the House of Lords as a “much needed” input to the ongoing international discussion of the horrific sexual abuses that occur during conflict. Hall, the senior child rights policy adviser for the Christian humanitarian organization World Vision, recounts her own discussions with survivors of sexual violence in several African countries, including their calls for justice and fair treatment for their children born of rape. She expresses hope that the report “will ensure the voices of survivors and children born of rape are central to the debate.”
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In the case of the children, the Lords’ report provides little support, and may instead be used to increase pressure on humanitarian aid groups like World Vision to provide abortions, or else face the threat of being denied grants to carry out their vital work in settings ravaged by crisis and conflict.
The committee calls on the UK to increase its support for the work of “human rights defenders” – stressing that the term is not limited to activists and journalists, but also includes “those offering support to victims and survivors (especially abortion services).”
This report is the latest in a series of steps being taken within the European Union and individual European governments to redefine international humanitarian law to include a right to abortion – an effort likely to come to a head at the forthcoming World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul this May.
Reprinted with permission from C-Fam.
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