US fails in UN bid to take aim at reproductive health

Published: November 16, 2018
United States ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. PHOTO: AFP

United States ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS, UNITED STATES: The United States failed on Thursday at the United Nations to push for changes to a resolution on forced marriage that would have weakened access to reproductive health for girls, despite backing from China and Muslim countries.

Four amendments presented by the United States would have specified that information and services on reproductive health be provided to girls “in accordance with national law.”

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The US proposals were defeated in a vote at a General Assembly committee, with 96 countries voting against, 33 in favour and 35 abstentions.

China, Gulf countries, Pakistan, Malaysia, Cameroon, Libya, Djibouti and Burundi were among the countries that backed the US move.

US diplomat Kelley Currie argued that the changes would not “strike reproductive and health preferences. Rather they improve them by referencing national laws.”

But Canada, which co-sponsored the resolution with Zambia, hit back at the US move.

“The amendments put forward by the United States call into question formulations used within the UN for decades” to combat forced marriages, Canadian Ambassador Marc-Andre Blanchard said.

After the US failure to win support for the changes, the resolution was adopted by consensus in the committee.

The United Nations estimates that every year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18.

The United States is expected to seek amendments to other UN resolutions that call for access to reproductive health in what some diplomats see as a push from ultra-conservative supporters of US Vice President Mike Pence.

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A UN diplomat commented that the United States had found itself in the company of “strange bedfellows” in its bid to push back on women’s rights, in reference to China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, among other countries.

Last year, the administration of President Donald Trump cut all funding to the UN Population Fund, which provides family planning services and access to reproductive health in some countries.

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