When President Biden recently sent his proposed budget to Congress, it was an administration policy statement as much as it was a spending plan for the next fiscal year. His priority on abortion is clear without even mentioning the word.
Pundits quickly pointed out his proposed elimination of the Hyde Amendment, a move that broke from decades of bipartisan agreement and would force taxpayers to pay for elective abortions here in the United States.
But it is easy to miss other items which could run afoul of a statutory provision that forbids the U.S. from advocating for or against abortion internationally. This congressional mandate means the U.S. is to remain neutral on abortion in its foreign assistance, leaving such decisions up to individual countries according to their own national priorities and values. And most Americans agree, regardless of their political party or overall views on abortion. According to a recent poll, “more than three in four Americans oppose using tax dollars to support abortions in other countries.”
In the Trump administration, we signed the Geneva Consensus Declaration with 34 other countries, stating that it is the right of every nation to legislate on abortion and the protection of life, absent outside pressure. I led this effort on behalf of the administration and nations often expressed gratitude for affirming their sovereignty and our neutrality.
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But Biden’s budget requests carte blanche funding for two international organizations that advocate for abortion — a clear violation of international neutrality on abortion.
The first is the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which was not funded under the Trump administration amid ongoing concerns that they were financially supporting coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization in China.
In addition to that disturbing activity, though, there is a broader concern regarding UNFPA. Despite stating on their website that they do not promote abortion, UNFPA agrees that “all governments should remove abortion from their criminal law” and names and shames countries with abortion limits, accusing them of violating human rights. The organization recently released a report that analyzes countries according to whether they have laws “guaranteeing access to overall ‘maternity care,’” which they ludicrously define as requiring liberal abortion access. UNFPA stresses that “access to safe abortion is essential to sexual and reproductive health and rights,” beginning at 10 years of age. The president’s budget includes $56,000,000 in funding for UNFPA.
The second international organization is the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), whose mission is to “work for the protection of all human rights for all people.” If operating within its original mandate, the OHCHR would serve an incredibly valuable purpose, but too often it uses its influence in treaty monitoring to lobby and direct participating nations to liberalize their abortion laws. For years, OHCHR made abortion advocacy a priority but the current high commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, accelerated this effort. She served as president of Chile and was responsible for liberalizing the country’s abortion laws. OHCHR warns that “denial of access to abortion has been identified as a form of gender-based violence against women, which can amount to torture and/or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” The president’s budget includes $14,500,000 in funding for OHCHR.
Since at least the 1990’s, UNFPA and OHCHR have strayed from their original mandates and crafted a long-term strategic blueprint to wrongly assert abortion as a new international human right. This incremental strategy has been methodically implemented since then, so it is not at all surprising that they now declare limits on abortion to be a violation of human rights.
The Biden administration is responsible to stay within the legislative mandate of international abortion neutrality and it begins by ensuring that U.S. funding of international organizations like UNFPA and OHCHR is not used for abortion advocacy. The U.S. can support international development and the protection of human rights by holding these U.N. agencies accountable to stay within their original mandates. Congress must exercise its authority to ensure both are achieved.
LifeNews Note: Valerie Huber served as the U.S. special representative for Global Women’s Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration.