NEW YORK (SE): The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has declined to endorse abortion as being an essential part of emergency humanitarian response.
C-Fam reported that access to safe abortion to the full extent of the law was included for the first time in the sexual and reproductive health Minimum Initial Services Package designed by UN agencies and abortion groups to place the sexual and reproductive health agenda, and specifically abortion, into the humanitarian responses programme.
But the General Assembly viewed the Minimum Initial Services Package as ambiguous and did not endorse or recommend it in a resolution on the UN system coordination in humanitarian settings.
In July last year, the Economic and Social Council of the General Assembly had recommended it as a benchmark for humanitarian response, but at the time, it did not include the abortion language that has since been inserted into the proposal.
Abortion groups have had difficulty convincing humanitarian actors and donors to include abortion as part of humanitarian programming and the latest version of the Minimum Initial Services Package agreed to by UN agencies and abortion industry giants, Planned Parenthood and Ipas, in November tried to change this.
The move followed an internal audit of UN Population Fund programming that recommended a ramp up on abortion advocacy in humanitarian settings. The UN Population Fund is a key player and implementer of the Minimum Initial Services Package.
Though the latest version of the Minimum Initial Services Package falls short of calling abortion a humanitarian right, or including it prominently, it defines “access to safe abortion to the full extent of the law” as a basic element in making national policies.
C-Fam says that this is ambiguous, as it could be read as denying abortion as a humanitarian right, but it could also understood as saying that Security Council resolutions and human rights law support abortion as part of humanitarian responses.
However, Susan Yoshihara, from C-Fam, believes that it shows UN agencies are on board with the campaign to make abortion a human right.
She adds that abortion groups are increasingly open about how post-abortion care is also an entry point for wider abortion access and claims that studies show how they design programmes to progressively make abortion more accessible regardless of the law.
The Minimum Initial Services Package was launched shortly after the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994 to mainstream the sexual and reproductive health agenda and, specifically abortion, in humanitarian campaigns.
It is unique in that there is no comparable inter-agency initiative for access to basic health, water, sanitation, food or shelter.