(C-Fam) An inter-agency group that includes several UN bodies has been working to create a right to abortion in humanitarian settings. A new manual focusing on adolescent “sexual and reproductive health” in crises represents another step in that process — defining children as young as 10 to receive abortion without parental knowledge.
Two years ago, the same group released its “Inter-Agency Field Manual on Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Settings,” which asserted that “multiple international agreements and expert bodies have recognized a women’s right to access safe abortion.” This statement sidesteps the fact that no global agreement has ever accepted this, and that the opinions of expert bodies, including those that monitor compliance with UN treaties, are nonbinding.
In November, the manual on adolescent health was published as a companion to that 2018 document, incorporating its increasingly bold stance on abortion as a right. Furthermore, it noted that “the UN defines this period as between 10 and 19 years of age,” and insisted that young adolescents who want health services “or to terminate a pregnancy” are capable of consenting “without parental oversight.”
The Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises (IAWG), which produced the manuals, includes UN agencies, governments and other donors, non-governmental agencies, and academic institutions. Its steering committee includes international abortion advocates Ipas, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, as well as the World Health Organization, UNFPA, and UNICEF.
The working group created the Minimum Initial Services Package (MISP), which is central to its guidance manuals and includes “safe abortion to the full extent of the law” in humanitarian settings. This has resulted in the repeated rejection of the MISP from negotiated UN documents.
The new adolescent manual describes “the key priority action of the MISP” as “the provision of safe abortion care for adolescents.”
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The concept of “safe abortion” has been widely used by abortion advocates to pressure countries to legalize and decriminalize it. The phrase “full extent of the law” places a high priority on availability of abortion, and is used in practice to restrict the conscience rights of health care providers or institute abortion training in health facilities.
The adolescent manual encourages the use of “values clarification and attitude transformation” training, suggesting two toolkits created by Ipas to indoctrinate health workers to participate in abortions. While values clarification materials typically help participants to articulate their own positions, Ipas describes its toolkits as “designed with an agenda: to move participants toward support, acceptance and advocacy for comprehensive abortion care and related sexual and reproductive health care and rights.”
After turning humanitarian health workers into abortionists, the manual envisions them becoming advocates as well. It cites an Ipas training guide that seeks to “help providers recognize their personal power as advocates and identify different circumstances and means to advocate for comprehensive abortion care to the full limits of the law.”
In addition to its aggressive posture on abortion, the adolescent manual calls on humanitarian actors to promote the human right of adolescents to “freely define their own sexuality, including sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.” It suggests the “Genderbread Person,” as a “teaching tool for breaking down gender” and characterizing gender and sex as a continuum rather than a male-female binary.