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UN resolution on maternal mortality is loss for mothers around the world

Summary

  • Human Rights Council undermined national sovereignty on issue of abortion
  • Human rights organizations criticized process and outcome

GENEVA (2 October 2018) – The 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva concluded on 28 September 2018. One of the main documents adopted focused on the issue of maternal mortality. The finalized document largely ignored concerns expressed during negotiations by developing countries.

“The adoption of the resolution on maternal mortality at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva is a severe loss for women around the world. Especially in the developing countries, thousands of mothers die despite the fact that we have the medical expertise to see them safely through pregnancy and the birth of their child. What we need is an international commitment to implement basic lifesaving care—a task that is tragically mishandled by the UN,” said Elyssa Koren, Director of UN Advocacy for ADF International.

What we need is an international commitment to implement basic lifesaving care—a task that is tragically mishandled by the UN.

“The three-week session devolved into the flagrant promotion of abortion, radical sexuality education for children, and other controversial issues. Led by Burkina Faso and New Zealand, the maternal mortality resolution failed to take into account the positions of other Member States such as Russia, Egypt, and other countries, which consistently expressed that the document should remain focused on maternal mortality.”

Disregard for national sovereignty
The resolution marks the first time that “reproductive rights,” widely understood as abortion, was included without a so-called national law qualifier, despite the fact that countries repeatedly requested it throughout negotiations. Prior to this, a corresponding mention of national laws to safeguard state sovereignty on this sensitive issue has been included in all UN resolutions.

Many countries have experienced pressure from the UN system to liberalize their abortion laws. Retaining references to national sovereignty helps nations resist attempts to change domestic laws as a result of UN pressure. While the majority of Western countries maintain a liberal stance, for much of the developing world protecting the right to life of the unborn continues to carry great political and societal weight.

“Consensus is effectively dead at the Human Rights Council. It is the fundamental principle upon which multilateral negotiations at the UN should be based. National sovereignty was disavowed in this resolution, which constitutes an enormous threat to the international order. It reveals the willingness of Western powers to engage in blatant abortion promotion even when the lives of women are at stake,” Koren added.

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