U.S. pitted against Britain, France, South Africa, others at U.N. over abortion

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that it opposed references to sexual and reproductive health and the safe termination of pregnancies, pitting Washington against Britain, France, South Africa and others.

FILE PHOTO: New U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft speaks to reporters after attending her first U.N. Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S. September 12, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

While the United States joined its 14 council counterparts to unanimously adopt a resolution on women, peace and security, U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft said Washington was unhappy that the text mentioned previous resolutions that promote sexual and reproductive health.

“We cannot accept references to ‘sexual and reproductive health,’ nor any references to ‘safe termination of pregnancy’ or language that would promote abortion or suggest a right to abortion,” she said after the vote.

The statement by Craft was the latest in a string of moves by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration against the promotion of sexual and reproductive health services by the United Nations.

“The U.N. should not put itself in a position of promoting or suggesting a right to abortion, whether it is humanitarian or development work,” said Craft, who took up her role in August.

The language promoting sexual and reproductive health is long-agreed internationally, including in resolutions adopted by the Security Council in 2009 and 2013 and several resolutions adopted annually by the 193-member General Assembly.

“Women have long-argued that they should be able to control their bodies,” South Africa’s International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor told reporters. “It is their right to make that choice and this is recognized worldwide,” Pandor said of abortions.

“It can’t be that I’m a victim of sexual violence and I cannot make a choice as to my body and my reproductive rights,” she said.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce said sexual and reproductive health were “a vital part of public services for women in all countries and a vital part of ensuring that women can play a truly equal role in the building of their countries.”

Deputy French U.N. Ambassador Anne Gueguen said council acknowledgement of sexual and reproductive health and rights was essential to helping victims of sexual violence globally.

In April, Washington threatened to veto a Security Council resolution if a reference was not cut citing the need for U.N. bodies and donors to give timely “sexual and reproductive health” assistance to survivors of sexual violence in conflict.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council on Tuesday that “sexual and gender-based violence continues to be used as a weapon of war, with the survivors of such violence often left without justice or support.”

“This year alone, millions of women and girls were in need of life-saving sexual and reproductive health services, and millions more required interventions to prevent sexual and gender-based violence,” he said.

The Trump administration cut funding in 2017 for the U.N. Population Fund because it said it “supports, or participates in the management of, a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.” The U.N. said that was an inaccurate perception.

In 2018, Washington unsuccessfully tried to remove language on sexual and reproductive health from several General Assembly resolutions, then failed in a similar campaign in March during the annual U.N. Commission on the Status of Women meeting.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Bill Berkrot