The US is threatening to veto a UN resolution intended to offer support to survivors of rape because of reproductive health language

Getty Images/John MoorePeople walk past the United Nations headquarters on September 26, 2018 in New York City. World leaders gathered for the 73rd annual meeting at the UN headquarters in Manhattan.
  • The US is reportedly threatening to veto a resolution in the United Nations Security Council that would prevent rape as a weapon of war and terrorism – because the resolution includes language about “sexual and reproductive health.”
  • The resolution comes as the international humanitarian sector continues to grapple with a longstanding culture of sexual misconduct within its ranks.
  • The veto threat is the latest effort by the Trump administration to push for anti-abortion policies at home and abroad.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

The United States is reportedly threatening to veto a resolution in the United Nations Security Council that would prevent rape as a weapon of war and terrorism – because the resolution includes language about “sexual and reproductive health,” which some in the Trump administration consider to be a reference to abortions, sources told CNN.

The proposed resolution, which was discussed on Tuesday at a special UN security council session about sexual violence in conflict, intended to provide reproductive and sexual health support for rape survivors in conflicts by establishing a new monitoring body to track and report instances of sexual violence. The US, Russia, and China all opposed the creation of that new body.

While the monitoring body, which would have acted as an additional mechanism to monitor and report sexual violence, was eventually removed, according to The Guardian, the US’s veto threat was not withdrawn because the resolution still includes mention of providing victims with support from family planning clinics.

The US specifically found issue with a clause in the proposal that “urges United Nations entities and donors to provide non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services, including sexual and reproductive health, psychosocial, legal and livelihood support and other multi-sectoral services for survivors of sexual violence, taking into account the specific needs of persons with disabilities,” according to a draft seen by The Guardian.

The resolution, introduced by Germany and supported by other European countries, comes as the international humanitarian sector grapples with a longstanding culture of sexual misconduct – from allegations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers in missions across the world, to alleged instances of sexual misconduct against aid workers within the ranks of their organisations. A UN survey in January found that one third of UN staff and contractors had been sexually harassed in the last two years.

CNN, which also reviewed the document, reported that a member of the German delegation had made edits to the document to try and appease the US. Those changes included cutting language that referenced “health services” and the “sexual and reproductive health” of rape victims. Another change that sources told CNN were introduced to satisfy the Americans included the elimination of a sentence that the UN “further encourages support to and training of journalists on sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations and gender inequality.”

A source in the UN told CNN that the US seems to have a “red line” regarding any mention of sexual and reproductive health.

“It will be a huge contradiction that you are talking about a survivor-centered approach and you do not have language on sexual and reproductive healthcare services, which is for me the most critical,” Pramila Patten, the UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict, told the Guardian.

Trump Administration’s global anti-abortion stance

Since taking office in 2016, the Trump administration has pushed for anti-abortion policies at home and abroad.

Three days into his presidency, Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy, first introduced under President Ronald Reagan, and which bans overseas groups that receive US aid from performing or promoting abortions. Unlike past Republican presidents, however, Trump expanded the policy in a memorandum, applying the restrictions to not only US family planning funds but to all US global health assistance funds, which totals around $US10 billion.

In March, the Trump administration announced a new expansion to the Mexico City Policy, dubbed the ‘Global Gag Rule,’ by not just cutting funding to foreign organisations directly involved in abortions, but also slashing assistance to the local groups that offer those organisations support.

“This administration has shown we can continue to meet our critical global health goals, including providing health care for women, while refusing to subsidise the killing of unborn babies,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the time.


Read more:
U.S. to expand abortion gag rule, won’t assist certain groups: Pompeo

In another instance of the administration’s shifting priorities, the State Department under Pompeo considered a proposal in October that would prohibit diplomats from using phrases like “sexual and reproductive health” and “comprehensive sexuality education,” to decrease focus and funding on women’s reproductive issues, according to POLITICO.

Patten, the UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict, told The Guardian that the current draft of the resolution to help rape victims is “very, very weak.”

“If we let the Americans do this and take out this language, it will be watered down for a long time,” added an anonymous European diplomat, who spoke to The Guardian. “Until the Trump administration, we could always count on the Americans to help us defend it. Now the Americans have switched camps.”

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