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Attacks on Gender and Reproductive Rights Language in UN Resolutions

Trump administration officials have repeatedly and aggressively pushed to remove references to gender and reproductive rights from U.N. resolutions and agreements. At the 2018 Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the U.S. delegation forced the removal of references to “modern contraception,” “emergency contraception,” and “unsafe abortion” from the Commission’s outcome document, and unsuccessfully attempted to remove terms including “sexual and reproductive health and rights” (SRHR) — an effort that was opposed by nearly every other member state in attendance. Members of the U.S. Mission to the U.N. have attempted similar dilution of SRHR language in other U.N. General Assembly resolutions, including one on child, early and forced marriage in 2018. With regard to this resolution, which the U.S. failed to alter the gendered language of, the American delegation released a frustrated statement: “We do not recognize abortion as a method of family planning, nor do we support abortion in our reproductive health assistance.”

At the 2019 CSW, the U.S. again attempted to remove “gender-responsive” language and SRHR references from exit documents. In a speech at the CSW, U.S. Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet declared that “we are not about gender jargon…we are about women and girls.” This type of rhetoric is seen as an effort to dilute the rights of non-binary and transgender people, in line with the Trump administration’s broader attacks on the LGBTQ community. At this same meeting, the U.S. delegation also sought to weaken the landmark Beijing Declaration, which is considered an “internationally recognized progressive blueprint for women’s rights” and is widely used by civil society organizations to hold governments accountable on a range of women’s rights.

In the spring of 2019, the U.S. Mission threatened to use its veto power to eliminate reproductive health language from a U.N. resolution combatting rape as a weapon of war. Advocates reacted angrily, as reflected in a statement by the Sisterhood Is Global Institute: “It is unthinkable and bizarre to see the U.S. lining up with Russia and China to block efforts to strengthen the U.N.’s ability to effectively address rape in conflict and to provide sexual violence survivors with sexual and reproductive health services.”