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US rejects UN allegations of states using COVID-19 to restrict abortion access
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US rejects UN allegations of states using COVID-19 to restrict abortion access

The US Mission to International Organizations in Geneva (US Mission) responded Wednesday to a UN panel that determined certain states “appear to be manipulating the COVID-19 crisis to curb access to essential abortion care.” In its response, the US Mission rejected the idea of an “assumed right to abortion” and denounced the panel’s interference.

The panel, officially known as the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls, currently consists of five experts and is part of the UN Human Rights Council. Forty-seven countries make up the Human Rights Council. The US is no longer one of the participating members, having withdrawn on June 19, 2018.

In the press release, the panel argued that the limiting of abortion rights during the COVID-19 crisis is “manipulative” and would ultimately undermine general public health efforts to adequately respond to COVID-19. The panel referenced COVID-19 emergency orders of Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Iowa, Ohio, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee, which prohibited elective surgeries and specifically restricted abortion procedures. The panel took the position that abortion care “constitutes health care” and is necessary to remain accessible in order to prevent additional risk to women’s health.

The response of the US Mission denied any attempt to manipulate the crisis to restrict reproductive rights, calling the allegations from the panel “bizarre” and a “waste [of] the limited time and resources” of the UN. The mission particularly pushed back against any interference from the UN and claimed the forced abortion and sterilization occurring in Xinjiang warranted their attention more.

The mission further took the position that there is no international human right to abortion, writing that the US is “disappointed by and categorically rejects this transparent attempt to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to assert the existence of such a right.”