Europeans press for abortion edict from upcoming summit
April 8, 2016 (C-Fam) – Europeans and UN staff want to put the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit agreement – yet to be disclosed – on par with high-level documents such as the 2000 Millennium Summit. But if this week’s events are an indication, the goal runs athwart their second aim: garnering “ambitious” and “concrete” outcomes, such as a declaration of a right to abortion, by barring inter-governmental negotiations.
Europeans and UN staff have been laying the groundwork to get the summit, meeting in Istanbul in May, to declare a right to abortion under humanitarian law, or the laws of war. One of the seven “roundtables” for discussion is focused on linking sexual violence with “comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care services without discrimination,” a term used to promote abortion.
The European Parliament passed a resolution in December that “Calls [on the summit] for a global commitment to ensure that women and girls…have access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services, including safe abortions, in humanitarian crises, rather than perpetuating what amounts to inhumane treatment, as required by international humanitarian law and as foreseen in the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols.”
Neither the Geneva Conventions nor their Additional Protocols mention abortion.
Last year, five EU nations accused the US of violating the Geneva Conventions by restricting funding for abortions. A trans-Atlantic divergence on the law was heightened by the fact that the Obama administration rejected their views even though it supports abortion.
The head of the WHS process, former UK parliamentarian and UN Deputy Secretary General Stephen O’Brien threw his support behind the effort at an event at UN headquarters two weeks ago during the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). O’Brien appeared with Action AID, a UK organization which advocates abortion as a response to sexual violence in conflict.
At the meeting, Action Aid called for access to “comprehensive” reproductive health care services, and a shift away from charity and toward human rights in order to “address the issue of sexual and reproductive health care around rights”.
In a report distributed at the event, “Fearless: Standing with Women and Girls to End Violence,” the group said that international legal frameworks guarantee abortion rights, which are violated when “religious fundamentalism (whether Christian, Islamic, Hindu or other) has led to the suppression or complete denial of women’s access to sexual and reproductive health, including criminalizing or restricting access to safe abortions and emergency contraception.”
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O’Brien’s office authored Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s report on the summit which called for putting a priority on “comprehensive sexual and reproductive health-care services” and said countries have a “core” obligation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of “sexual identity.”
O’Brien has said that “success” at the summit depends upon high-level participation at Istanbul and concrete commitments. He urged groups at the CSW event to press their governments to send the highest possible representation.
At a briefing Ban Ki-moon and O’Brien hosted on Monday, an EU spokesman said Europe will ensure it has high level representation at Istanbul, but other countries pushed back.
Russia and China, echoed by Egypt, Morocco, and Cuba, chastised O’Brien for ignoring their requests for a transparent process before and during the summit and cautioned him to abide by his mandate, 1992 UN General Assembly resolution emphasizing consent, impartiality, and neutrality. They said that if their concerns weren’t addressed it may affect their country’s participation at the summit.
Reprinted with permission from C-Fam.