Opinion

UN Population Fund adds abortion to fine print of ‘sexual rights’ goals

The agency is careful about using the word because many of its members object to abortion, but the intent is clear.
Wed Apr 15, 2020 - 8:08 pm EST
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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 10 (C-Fam) – The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) recently inserted abortion into its analysis of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, despite the objections of many UN member countries.

The UN agency launched a report charting progress toward achieving one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The target, which comes under the fifth goal focused on gender equality, was among the most controversial during the SDG negotiations. It involves “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.”

During negotiations, delegates were careful to use the previously-agreed wording and avoid the term preferred by abortion activists, “sexual and reproductive health and rights” (SRHR), as this implies the existence of “sexual rights,” which have never been agreed to by global consensus. They also insisted on the inclusion of a caveat linking the target back to prior agreements in which an international human right to abortion was rejected, leaving its legal status a matter for individual countries to determine.

After the lengthy SDG negotiations were concluded, nations handed over the task of determining the fine points of measurement of this target to UNFPA. One of its indicators is the “number of countries with laws and regulations that guarantee full and equal access to women and men age 15 years and older to sexual and reproductive health care, information and education.” UNFPA chose to consider 13 topics in their analysis, including “abortion” as a subset of “maternity care services,” and “comprehensive sexuality education,” which likewise remains highly contested in UN negotiations.

In UNFPA’s recently-released analysis, the agency makes clear its view that abortion is a component of “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights” (SRHRR): “The data also tells us that legal barriers to full and equal SRHRR access exist in a number of areas. Such barriers are most prevalent in the case of legal access to abortion, with an average of just 31 percent achievement in this component.”

Later in the report, in listing “enablers” of achieving full access to SRHRR, UNFPA includes the fact that “abortion is legal on some or all grounds in 93 percent of reporting countries.”

UNFPA has a long history of straddling the line between upholding its mandate, which does not include promoting the legalization of abortion, and continuously doing so by subtle means. Despite the lack of agreement on SRHR terminology, and its inclusion of “sexual rights,” UNFPA frequently includes such language in its reports and promotes its inclusion in negotiated resolutions in UN meetings. UNFPA has also supported the promotion of “safe abortion,” to the fullest extent of the law, as a way to prevent “unsafe abortion.”

Nevertheless, in light of UNFPA’s history of advancing the pro-abortion movement’s talking points while taking care not to do so explicitly, this new report is noteworthy for its boldness. By clearly characterizing the liberalization of abortion laws as an “achievement” and an “enabler” of access to health and rights, UNFPA is staking out a position outside the consensus of UN member states, and outside its own mandate.

Just last year, UNFPA issued a statement in response to the United States’ decision not to fund them, in part because of their pro-abortion activities. In it, they insisted that “UNFPA does not promote changes to the legal status of abortion.” The language of this latest report from UNFPA suggests this is no longer the case, if indeed it ever was.


  abortion, contraception, reproductive rights, sustainable development goals, united nations, united nations population fund

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