Secretary General’s push for abortion in war torn areas goes unnoticed
NEW YORK, April 24, 2015 (C-Fam.org) -- As the Security Council met last week to address atrocities committed by groups like Boko Haram and ISIS, nearly 70 countries brought up the grim realities of sexual violence in war.
However, a little known directive of the UN Secretary General instructing UN officials to promote abortion in war torn areas went largely unnoticed.
Countries agree that more needs to be done to prevent sexual violence in conflict, punish perpetrators, and provide victims with reparations. Rape is often employed as a tactic of war with genocidal intent. Perpetrators are rarely brought to justice. Victims struggle with lifelong discrimination and stigma, and lack or are denied support.
Now abortion activists are targeting these victims as a way to promote abortion.
The Secretary General gave them a helping hand last year through a guidance note on reparations for victims of sexual violence in conflict situations. Included in it were instructions to UN officials and staff to push for changes where abortion is illegal, arguing that abortion is a way to prevent sexual violence in the future.
The General Assembly took note of that document in the fall, without endorsing it—amounting to a mere acknowledgement of its existence. Few countries at the Security Council mentioned the guidance note last week, and it is not clear that those that did considered the controversial directive to promote abortion.
Last year the Secretary General claimed that the Security Council had given him a mandate to promote abortion. Leading up to the publication of his directive was an unprecedented call for free abortion by France within the Security Council, following the use of the term “sexual and reproductive health” in a resolution in 2013. Yet there does not seem to be much traction to this approach.
The Secretary General issued a new report this year on sexual violence in conflict that dials back these claims, and simply asserts that “safe abortion” is not legal or available in many conflict situations. But even this is controversial. The directive openly defies UN consensus that abortion is an issue that should be left to nations.
The extent to which the Secretary General’s instruction is gaining traction in the UN is entirely unclear.
When asked about it by C-FAM (publisher of the Friday Fax) during an event on human rights in peacekeeping operations in January, UN officials dodged.
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Ivan Simonovic, the second highest-ranking UN human rights official, declined to comment when asked what was being done to carry out the Secretary General’s directive to promote abortion in war torn areas. To his credit the Swiss Ambassador, who moderated a panel featuring several heads of peacekeeping missions, brought up the question repeatedly, to no avail.
Afterward, three panelists explained they were unable to answer because they had never heard of the Secretary General’s guidance note.
The biggest obstacle to promoting abortion in conflict situations is a U.S. law known as the Helms amendment that prohibits the use of U.S. foreign assistance to promote or provide abortions. Rumors that the Obama administration was poised to dismantle that law by executive order – a move that could endanger women and health providers in unstable areas, and discriminate against faith-based groups that will not perform abortions – merely to appease abortion groups have not materialized.
Reprinted with permission from C-Fam.