Four years after President Bush reinstated the Global Gag Rule, a policy that severely restricts funding for any non-governmental organization that performs abortions or advocates for a woman’s right to choose, the administration is back on the attack against allowing reproductive rights to be available to all women. The United States delegation to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women is demanding that the platform “make clear that abortion is not a fundamental right.” The same delegate, Ellen Sauerbrey, then proceeded to blame NGOs, the groups actually doing the tough work on the ground, for “trying to distort the issue.” But, in fact, she and other conservative activists have long stood as a barricade to the quest for basic human rights:
• At a U.N. Commission on the Status of Women meeting in 2003, the United States joined with Iran, Egypt, Sudan, and other countries notorious for human rights abuses to raise objections against a platform that was committed “to strengthen legislation to end domestic violence and sexual exploitation and trafficking of women [as well as] educate governments on how to promote and protect women’s human rights.” This block was the “first-ever diplomatic failure” in the meeting body’s history.
• In 2004, Janice Crouse, one of the acting U.S. delegates to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, wrote, “Radical feminists typically use the phrase made famous by now-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-New York) at the United Nations’ Beijing Women’s Conference in the mid-1990s, when she said: ‘Women’s rights are human rights.’ That mantra carries the special agenda of the radical feminists — abortion, lesbianism and quotas.”
• In that same year, Ellen Sauerbrey, current delegate to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, harshly critiqued the committee that oversees the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Also known as the Treaty for the Rights of Women, the United States is the only industrialized nation that has yet to sign on. Sauerbrey continued on to champion maternity and assert, “Marriage — defined as the voluntary union of a man and a woman — has been linked to procreation and the rearing of children from the dawn of time.” These remarks were delivered at an event held by a group stemmed from The Rockford Institute, a “paleo-conservative” organization which the Southern Poverty Law Center has linked to hate groups, and whose founder is described as a “neo-Confederate.”
It is upsetting that our country continues to allow such voices to speak for us on an international stage. More so, it is embarrassing that a nation that claims to champion human rights continues to find itself on the wrong side of the debate when it comes to ensuring the guarantee of women’s rights. At a time when more than one in 10 maternal deaths is due to unsafe abortion procedures, we should be fighting hard to ensure that the right to choose is a safe and viable option for every woman, both at home and abroad.