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UN draft resolution: Poland does not support an amendment removing the possibility of recognizing abortion as a human right

Published: 15.12.2022

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· The UN General Assembly's Third Committee - the largest UN body responsible for addressing human rights issues - has approved a draft resolution on the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls, "gender stereotypes" and "negative social norms."

· The draft will now be submitted to the United Nations General Assembly for final adoption.

· The text of the resolution contains many references to "gender identity," "gender stereotypes" and "negative social norms" as sources of violence against women. It also identifies "access to safe abortion" within the limits of state laws as one of the policies that governments should pursue to "ensure the promotion and protection of the human rights of all women and their sexual and reproductive health."

· Adoption of the resolution was preceded by a lively discussion of nine amendments proposed by Guatemala, Egypt, Libya and Nigeria, among others, aimed at removing or clarifying references to ambiguous abortion terms, gender stereotypes and the concept of femicide.

· All amendments were rejected, and the draft resolution was adopted with 166 votes in favor.

· Poland did not take part in the vote on the final draft of the resolution, nor in the vote on the amendment to delete an item that could be interpreted as counting abortion as a human right. Instead, it voted against eight amendments to clarify other vague terms.

On November 10, the UN General Assembly's Third Committee on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs adopted a draft resolution entitled. "Stepping up efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls: gender stereotypes and negative social norms."  The resolution sees the causes of violence against women as ambiguously framed "gender stereotypes" and "negative social norms." The draft calls on states to ensure the promotion and protection of women's human rights and their sexual and reproductive rights, including methods of modern "emergency contraception" and "safe abortion."

Most of the resolution's provisions focus on the elimination of "gender inequality" and "stereotypes" as necessary steps to combat the problem of violence against women. However, no clear definition is given for terms such as "gendered violence," "gendered values" or "negative social norms." Meanwhile, these are terms around which the entire document is built, and which are often used by the UN system and specialized agencies to promote abortion and gender ideology on a large scale.

During the debate that took place in the Third Committee on the approval of the text, some member state delegations distanced themselves from ambiguous terms such as "intersectional forms of discrimination" or "women in all their diversity" (which most often refers to so-called transgender people) and the paragraph listing abortion among human rights. The countries pointed out that the document contains conditions not based on consensus, which are not recognized in international law. Egypt's representative, also speaking on behalf of Libya, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, pointed out that "the Third Committee has before it a text that is the result of attempts to impose conditions that divide and that do not stem from international consensus." According to the member states proposing the amendments, the issue of violence against women and girls should not be used as a pretext for adopting ambiguous provisions that have not been agreed upon in intergovernmental debate.

In this context, the Holy See's observer also noted that despite consistent objections raised by numerous delegations, the text of the resolution contains many controversial and ambiguous formulations on which there is no consensus among UN states. Moreover, the Holy See also stressed that safe abortion should never be promoted as a means of family planning.

For his part, the Czech representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union member states - and therefore Poland as well - expressed deep regret over the decision of a small group of countries to submit amendments that "undermine the consensus on such an important issue." The representative voted against all the proposed amendments and urged other delegations to do the same.

The Polish delegation abstained from voting on the draft resolution, and when it came to supporting the only amendment to delete paragraph 5(a) of the resolution - a passage that could be interpreted as counting abortion as a human right - Poland did not support the initiative of the delegation of countries that raised the issue, also failing to vote on the amendment.

During the debate, Poland could have at least expressed reservations, for example, about the meaning it intends to give to phrases like "sexual and reproductive health," but did not do so. Thus, among the countries deliberating at the UN, there was no European country that stood up for the right to life, leaving this role in principle to African countries. The Guatemalan delegation stressed, among other things, that abortion is not regulated by any international law binding on the country, and that Guatemalan law protects human life from conception. Similarly, Cameroon's representative pointed out that under domestic law "abortion is not a human right." Ethiopia indicated that it recognizes abortion only in exceptional circumstances, adding further that, in its understanding, sex can only be male or female. Mauritania's delegate, voting in favor of the resolution, however, explicitly disassociated himself from the term "safe abortion," noting that abortion is not considered a human right by his country.

"Although the resolution is not a document binding on UN member states, the practice adopted by the Polish delegation is cause for concern. Poland has once again not only failed to support the attempt to protect the right to life of the unborn child in the international arena, but has not even taken a position on the issue. For the second time in two months, Poland, despite numerous earlier appeals by the Ordo Iuris Institute, has taken the same - passive - position at the UN on the fundamental issue of respecting the right to life, not the right to kill as a human right." - Veronica Turetta, an analyst at the Ordo Iuris Center for International Law, points out.

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