Well this is horrifying.
A U.S. threat to veto U.N. Security Council action on sexual violence in conflict was averted on Tuesday after a long-agreed phrase was removed because President Donald Trump’s administration sees it as code for abortion, diplomats said.
Yes, you read that right. The U.S. threatened to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution on sexual violence in conflict, over a phrase they claimed was code for abortion. By now you’re probably wondering—what phrase?
A German-drafted resolution was adopted after a reference was cut referring to the need for U.N. bodies and donors to give timely “sexual and reproductive health” assistance to survivors of sexual violence in conflict.
The U.S. veto threat was the latest in a string of policy reversals that some U.N. diplomats say has been driven by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, a conservative Christian who staunchly opposes abortion rights.
Oh. That phrase. Sexual and reproductive health.
Let’s pause to consider the context for this resolution. That context is the rape of Yizidi women and girls by ISIS, and the rape of Rohingya women and girls, and the rape of women and girls in ongoing violence in the Congo. I bet you can think of more—the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, for instance. My point is that this resolution is very timely—and needed. And important.
Here’s some background:
“This resolution is about the [Rohingya] girls systematically raped in Myanmar, the Yezidi girls enslaved by ISIS, the Congolese girls who flock to Panzi Hospital seeking medical help and desperately needing comprehensive health services for the sexual violence they have endured,” said Neuwirth, now the head of a women’s advocacy think tank, The Sisterhood Is Global Institute
The State Department cable stresses that the United States “is strongly committed to preventing conflict-related sexual violence and holding responsible persons accountable.”
Trying to prevent sexual violence and holding perpetrators accountable is all well and good, but what about helping survivors? Are you noticing the same thing I am about the focus here? Because this really is a recurring thing—abortion opponents argue that they abhor rape, and I’m quite sure they do. But once a woman has been raped, if she’s pregnant, too bad.While it does at least refer to the need to “assist survivors,” the state department is clearly far more interested in seeing abortion behind every bush:
“We understand and agree that more needs to be done to deter the recurrence of such crimes and assist survivors. The United States plans to be supportive in shaping future action on this important issue,” the State Department cable says.
But it adds, “We cannot accept unamended explicit, or implicit, references to ‘sexual and reproductive health’” because “we do not support or promote abortion” in global women’s health.
The term “sexual and reproductive health” has been widely accepted and used in international institutions for decades.
As noted above, “sexual and reproductive health” is terminology that has long been widely accepted and used internationally. Whatever the state department may say, this language does not refer to abortion specifically. Sexual and reproductive health is about a whole range of things. It includes sexually transmitted diseases, among other things. Rape can sometimes be very, very violent, leaving a woman in need of surgery or other medical care that, yes, implicates her reproductive health.
In other words—and yes, you’re reading this right—state department forced the UN Security Council to take out a widely used and accepted phrase that refers simply to the range of women’s health needs most fully implicated in rape and sexual violence.
There’s another issue, though—even if the resolution had directly referenced abortion, what would be wrong with that? To be sure, I’m familiar with opposition to abortion. Even within the anti-abortion movement, however, there are many who make exemptions for rape—and one would think that rape used as a tool of war should especially qualify for this exemption.
That is how heartless this administration is. They not only oppose abortion access for women who were raped in war, they oppose it so strongly that they threatened to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning sexual violence in conflict over a phrase that didn’t even refer directly to abortion, but rather to a full range of sexual and reproductive health care, exactly the sort of care rape victims are most likely to need.
Oh—but they aren’t anti-woman. They love women! /sarcasm
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