Rebecca Oas, Ph.D. reports for the Friday Fax — Last week, the nations of the world voted in five new members for the UN Security Council, starting their two-year terms at the beginning of next year. After a run-off vote against Djibouti, Kenya joined fellow winners India, Ireland, Mexico and Norway.
The Security Council is among the most highly regarded organs of the UN, and it is not often thought of as an epicenter of the abortion debate that has become a predictable part of the General Assembly, the UN’s human rights apparatus and its other specialized agencies. Nevertheless, as abortion activists have staked out new battlegrounds in the area of international humanitarian law, the Security Council is a critical area for pro-life advocates to watch.
Last April, the United States under President Donald Trump threatened to use its veto rights as one of the permanent five members of the council unless abortion language was removed from a resolution regarding sexual violence in conflict.
The same topic will again be the subject of a debate next month. As during the previous negotiation, it will be Germany’s turn to preside over the council. Last year, abortion activist groups were hesitant about negotiating a resolution at all “at a time when the U.S. administration’s reservations on sexual and reproductive health rights were well known.”
When the newly-elected council members take their seats, the outcome of the U.S. election in November will be known, and President Trump will either be ending his presidency or about to begin a second four-year term. While the election will determine whether the U.S. continues to use its powerful position as one of the permanent five council members to promote a pro-life position, the five new members are unlikely to act as pro-life leaders in their own right.
While Kenya’s president has spoken out against efforts to corrupt his country’s “culture and morals,” his government also partnered with the United Nations Population Fund to host the controversial Nairobi Summit last fall, which committed to promoting “sexual and reproductive health.”
Likewise, Mexico has joined with France to co-host events commemorating twenty-five years since the 1995 international women’s conference in Beijing, and has announced its intention to promote a “feminist foreign policy.”
Ireland and Norway beat out Canada for the two open seats in the Western Europe and Others Group, in what has been regarded as an embarrassing defeat for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who lost by more votes than his predecessor during a previous campaign for membership.
Some have noted that Trudeau’s “efforts on gender and LGBTQ equality and reproductive rights were a hard sell in Africa, where most of the UN swing vote resides.” Since Trudeau’s election, Canada has repeatedly pledged funding for international abortion and other controversial social issues, emphasizing the contrast with the previous conservative administration under Stephen Harper, which focused on funding global maternal and child health.
However, Norway and Ireland are unlikely to be friendlier to the pro-life cause than Canada in their roles as Security Council members. Ireland voted two years ago to legalize abortion, and Norway has long been a funder and proponent of abortion in its foreign policy.