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Susan Yoshihara

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Rogue nations skirting UN negotiations to try to make abortion a ‘humanitarian right’

Susan Yoshihara

October 10, 2019 (C-Fam) — Nations may pledge to fund abortion in crisis and "fragile" situations at an upcoming UN population conference in Nairobi. This means introducing abortion precisely in those situations where it could most likely endanger women's health.

The latest draft of an agreement to be presented by the UN population agency (UNFPA) at the upcoming Nairobi Summit commits governments to "Uphold the right to sexual and reproductive health care in humanitarian and fragile contexts..." The document explicitly includes abortion in the "full range of sexual and reproductive health services."

The Nairobi Summit takes place in November and is sponsored by UNFPA alongside the governments of Kenya and Denmark. The conference organizers have gone out of their way to avoid traditional UN negotiations that afford governments with pro-life concerns opportunities to express their views.

Nations have never agreed that abortion is a right in any context and would likely not agree to such a right in open and transparent negotiations. Abortion remains a politically fraught issue around the world and at the United Nations.

The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, which the Nairobi Summit is meant to commemorate, expressly said that abortion was an issue to be decided nationally, and that governments and UN agencies must help women avoid abortion.

Over the last decade, a handful of European nations have asserted a right to abortion in international humanitarian law. This claim has been rejected by UN member states, the European Commission, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Holy See.

Even the U.S. government under the Obama administration rejected the notion of a humanitarian right to abortion.

UNFPA executive director Natalia Kanem held a meeting last week to rally support and funding for the already controversial Nairobi Summit. She said the purpose of the summit is to "finish the unfinished business" of the 1994 Cairo agreement which made "sexual and reproductive health" a staple of UN programming.

Speakers at the meeting acknowledged that family planning access has increased since 1994. But they said abortion and LGBT rights have flagged. Both abortion and LGBT rights were rejected at the 1994 conference.

Katja Iversen, president of annual pro-abortion conference Women Deliver, said the purpose of the Nairobi Summit is to tell nations to "ditch your discriminatory laws, put in the progressive ones," such as "safe abortion" and "LGBTQI."

Iverson warned of "conservative winds blowing across the globe...and groundbreaking achievements being rolled back."

She characterized the summit as part of keeping up global advocacy for abortion and LGBTQI.

"Advocacy costs money," she said, but "it's about power."

Representatives from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Ireland pledged to fund the summit with between $400,000 and $770,000 each.

A Dutch representative said, "I am mad and I am angry because we have been turning in circles," trying to advance this agenda.

"To those who are trying to orchestrate us to stop, you're on a road to nowhere," she said dramatically.

The Danish representative said "former allies" have become opponents in reference to nations, including the U.S., which are trying to minimize the use of the term "sexual and reproductive health" in UN documents, saying that it is a confusing term often used to promote abortion.

Published with permission from C-Fam.

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