US rejects international resolution to fight violence against women

President Donald Trump signs an executive order in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, in Washington. (Credit: AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The U.S. has rejected a United Nations resolution aimed at preventing violence against women because it included language on access to safe abortions.

The resolution, tabled by Canada, expressed “outrage at the persistence and pervasiveness of all forms of violence against women and girls worldwide,” calling on countries to take immediate steps to prevent gender-based violence and discrimination.

It said that all women should have access to “comprehensive sexual and health-care services” including modern contraception, prevention programs for adolescent pregnancy and “safe abortion where such services are permitted by national law.”

The UN Human Rights Council says these services are particularly vital for women in conflict zones, who are at higher risk of sexual assault and rape. The need is exacerbated by an increasing number of migrants and refugees worldwide, often living in vulnerable conditions without access to proper medical care and legal support.

The resolution was adopted by the Council without a vote, but U.S. First Secretary to the U.N. in Geneva Jason Mack said that the U.S. “must dissociate from the consensus,” specifically on access to safe abortions.

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“We do not recognize abortion as a method of family planning, nor do we support abortion in our reproductive health assistance,” Mack said in a statement read to the Council, reported Reuters.

Despite rejecting the resolution, he said that the United States “strongly supports the spirit of this resolution and joins other members of this council in condemning all acts of violence against women and girls.”

Mack added the U.S. supports women’s equal access to reproductive health care, and pointed out that the U.S. remains the world’s number one bilateral donor of reproductive health and family planning assistance.

Several other countries, including Bangladesh, China and Egypt took issue with parts or all of the text, reported AFP.

U.S. funding for reproductive health services has come under the chopping block since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, whose first actions in office included the reinstatement of a policy blocking U.S. assistance to foreign groups that perform or provide information about abortions.

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Health experts warn the “Global Gag Rule” has endangered the lives of millions of the world’s poorest women and families, leaving mothers with little choice but to seek unsafe abortions or to give birth to children they cannot afford to care for. Last month Secretary of State Rex Tillerson approved a significant expansion of the Gag Rule, which now applies not just to funds for family planning programs but to all U.S. foreign health assistance.

This Thursday, the US Senate released its draft of a bill aiming to repeal and replace Obamacare, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which would make it harder for women to access birth control, maternity coverage and other critical health benefits. The bill proposes dramatic cuts to Medicaid — which covers half of all U.S. births — and defunds Planned Parenthood, which some 2.5 million people rely on for birth control, cancer screenings and other services.

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Lisa Nikolau

Lisa Nikolau is a Madrid-based reporter for Humanosphere, covering gender equality, indigenous rights and poverty in Latin America and worldwide. Find her on Twitter at @lisanikolau, email lisa.nikolau@humanosphere.org or see her latest work at www.lisanikolau.com