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No, abortion is not an international right, so the left should stop pushing it

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The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 63) came to an end this week at the United Nations in New York City. News reports warn that the U.S. seeks to decrease the rights of women and girls by taking away an international “right” to abortion in UN resolutions. Based mainly on propaganda from far-left political interest groups, this information is inaccurate and misleading.

The U.S. has long been a leader in policies and aid supporting the expansion of women’s rights around the world. Under the Trump administration alone, major initiatives have been launched in three sectors where the advancement of female equality is sorely needed increasing economic empowerment and entrepreneurship, increasing diplomatic and security participation and decreasing the technological or “digital divide” of women and girls. Research shows that women and girls face inequalities in all of these areas and initiatives like this can elevate women by targeting the main challenges they face. In addition, these initiatives reflect the strategic objectives of gender empowerment goals.

{mosads}In contrast, the promotion of a so-called “right to abortion” that dominates liberal narratives at the UN does none of these. Promoted through the term “sexual reproductive health” (SRH), legalized abortion is neither an international right, nor does it effectively support the goals of health, prosperity and advancement of women and girls. SRH and similar terms have been used at the UN to refer to the inclusion of abortion services since Cairo 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).


However, contrary to claims of abortion advocates, legalized abortion is not an international right but under the sovereignty of UN member states. The ICPD Programme of Action clearly states that any changes related to abortion are determined “at the national or local level according to the national legislative process,” adding that “governments should take the appropriate steps to help women avoid abortion, which in no case should be promoted as a method of family planning.”

The ICPD program has since been reaffirmed in the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action. Furthermore, during a recent press conference, Ambassador Michael Kozak explained that the U.S. position under both Democrat and Republican administrations was not, nor has it ever been, to create an international right to abortion.

Even so, western organizations widely promote legalized abortion at the UN and especially as an integral part of maternal health and decreasing maternal mortality, although abortion is not a top health priority nor is it supported by the majority of populations in the world.

According to the UN and World Health Organization, of the 289,000 women who died in pregnancy or child birth in 2013, only 8 percent died from unsafe abortion — the other 92 percent died from causes like hemorrhaging (leading cause), sepsis, hypertensive disorder, HIV, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease. Clearly, UN development aid should focus on what women really need to combat the majority of maternal deaths — like skilled birth attendants, antibiotics, blood banking and uterotonics.

Ann Mutave Kioko advocates to the UN for the suffering women and girls of Africa, calling on the UN and other western organizations to stop pushing abortion and address the real health and poverty needs of women. According to Pew Research Center, all countries surveyed in Africa believe abortion is morally wrong by the vast majority of their populations. In fact, almost 80 percent of countries in Africa have a law which prohibits or restricts abortion.

Kenyan-born Kioko had a striking message for the UN during a panel this week at CSW 63. Kioko grew up in a small village in Kenya without running water or electricity, where neighbors died without a nearby hospital or available medication. Where they walked barefoot to a “shabby,” “run-down” school.

Kioko powerfully summed up what should be the priorities of UN development assistance: “…Contrary to what the negotiators of some countries argue here …and … push on countries in the developing world, a young girl in a village like mine…does not need policies that prioritize abortion. The women carrying water cans…(and) their daughters on their back to go to hospital…need fully-equipped health centers, good schools, clothing, they need food on their tables! They need electricity. They need…proper skills so they can be good career women… I keep looking forward to that day the UN and those who are speaking and working for the women of the world will get the priorities of the women at the grassroots correct.”

Dr. Shea Garrison is vice president of International Affairs at Concerned Women for America and affiliated faculty and policy fellow at George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government.

Tags Abortion Academic disciplines Feminist theory Gender studies International Conference on Population and Development Reproductive health Unsafe abortion Women's rights

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