Can you judge a nation by the company it keeps?
President Donald Trump's administration spearheaded a declaration at the United Nations last week calling for the elimination of allegedly "ambiguous" expressions in the body's documents - primarily, "sexual and reproductive health." These terms are often used to promote pro-abortion policies, the officials claimed, and "there is no international right to an abortion." Joining the land of the free? Some of the least-free nations on the planet, from Russia to Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Egypt, Libya and 12 more.
This, evidently, is what the anti-globalist "America First" philosophy the president hawked at this week's U.N. General Assembly looks like: This country standing not only among but also in front of a pantheon of human rights offenders.
The move is dispiriting but not surprising. The administration has been on a crusade to replace science-based approaches to women's health with a focus to "defend life and family." The State Department's annual human rights reports have scrapped statistics on the rates of contraceptive access and maternal mortality worldwide. (Those statistics showed, among other things, that 8 percent of such deaths result from unsafe abortion.) The administration has massively expanded the gag rule that prevents organizations from receiving federal funds if they even mention abortion to clients, and it has imposed a similar stricture on providers at home.
The United States even threatened in the spring to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution on rape amid armed conflict because it mentioned reproductive-health services for victims.
All this runs counter to a robust body of research that stresses the dangerousness of stringent abortion restrictions. The U.N. Human Rights Committee issued a comment last year clarifying that international law's right to life does include the right to an abortion for exactly that reason. States, the council said, can regulate voluntary terminations of pregnancy, but those regulations cannot jeopardize women's lives or cause them undue suffering.
Abortion access isn't the only thing the Trump administration means to put under assault. The language it seeks to purge protects comprehensive services that give women control over their lives. Those services include contraceptive care, gender-based violence prevention and HIV treatment. The administration says it seeks to avoid terms that evade "international consensus," but that gets it backward: The international community has agreed for decades on the need for all people to have access to a panoply of reproductive services, and now the United States has banded with the notoriously oppressive to attempt a retroactive hecklers' veto.
Those who still believe in the liberal world order can take cold comfort in the likelihood that the rogue's gallery won't win on this one; 58 countries signed on to a counter-statement helmed by the Netherlands in favor of the status quo. But the episode has shown what's in store for this nation and the world under Trump's nationalist paradigm. Putting America first means putting it shoulder to shoulder with serial repressors. It also means putting women last.
The Washington Post