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Stefano Gennarini, J.D.

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United States bungles pro-life vote at UN, pro-abortion Europe laughs

Stefano Gennarini, J.D.

January 3, 2019 (C-Fam) – The European Union has proved a tough adversary for the U.S., outmaneuvering U.S. pro-life diplomatic effort at UN headquarters in recent weeks, and signaling that they will not cede on abortion policy in development and humanitarian assistance.

Following several months of U.S. opposition to abortion-related terms in UN resolutions, the U.S. attempted to delete references to "sexual and reproductive health" through last-minute amendments in several UN resolutions on December 17 and December 14, as the General Assembly wrapped up its annual work.

In an effort to isolate the U.S. delegation, the EU diplomatic machinery actively opposed U.S. pro-life efforts in embassies and ministries all around the world. By the 17th, only one country supported the U.S. amendments in the General Assembly.

A delegate of the Netherlands, a leading pro-abortion delegation, chuckled as he interrupted voting in the General Assembly to mock U.S. pro-life efforts.

"We are just a little confused about what is going on here, but let's continue to vote," he joked, pointing to the voting screen that showed the U.S. had lost all support.

The Europeans' diplomatic advantage was overwhelming. They refused to even entertain a modest U.S. proposal to qualify "sexual and reproductive health" in the resolution on humanitarian cooperation.

The U.S. asked to qualify the controversial term with the phrase "which does not include abortion as a method of family planning," to prevent UN agencies from including abortion as a service within reproductive health, though not necessarily always.

European Union diplomats rejected the U.S. amendment off-hand, boasting of collectively being the largest donors to humanitarian operations and accusing the U.S. of endangering women's health and undermining their fundamental rights. It should be noted, the U.S. is the single largest national donor to humanitarian assistance.

The failure of the U.S. delegation to gain wider Member State support was not solely due to European efforts to isolate the U.S. delegation. It was also a result of the U.S. inability to communicate a consistent strategy and demonstrate to like-minded countries that they had the political will to oppose the Europeans.

When the same resolutions were tentatively agreed by the General Assembly's third committee toward the beginning of December, over forty delegations supported U.S. pro-life proposals. And upward of seventy supported the outright deletion of "sexual and reproductive health" in one instance. But none of these delegations supported the U.S. amendments in the General Assembly plenary.

One delegate suggested the U.S. had been its own worst enemy. No delegation was prepared to support the U.S. because the U.S. never asked for support.

"The U.S. did not make any attempts to contact capitals" at any point, he explained, and delegations in New York were "caught unaware" every time the U.S. proposed any amendments.

In addition, the U.S. never called a vote on a resolution because of pro-life concerns. This made it seem as though the U.S. was merely politicizing UN voting procedures to appease pro-life voters, rather than pursuing actual foreign policy priorities in good faith.

But what was most responsible for the loss of support, according to this delegate, was an earlier U.S. attempt to divide Islamic countries to advance language about "sexual orientation and gender identity" in a resolution.

"They asked for delegations' support in one resolution and in the very next resolution tried to break up the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which constitutes most of their supporters on sexual and reproductive health," he said.

Delegates said until the U.S. demonstrates the political will to match European diplomacy, and a willingness to work in a collaborative and diplomatic spirit with countries sympathetic to their pro-life position, the U.S. will not succeed in rolling back abortion advances.

Published with permission from C-Fam.

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