The United States just became the only country in the United Nations to vote against language in a resolution that aims to stop violence against women and girls. Why? Two paragraphs used the terms “sexual and reproductive health.”
On Monday, the U.S. delegation requested that the U.N. General Assembly vote separately on those two paragraphs as part of an apparent ongoing campaign by the Trump administration to eliminate mentions of “sexual and reproductive health” in U.N. resolutions and other diplomatic documents — even though the terms are standard across international organizations, Foreign Policy reported.
Thirty-one countries abstained from the vote, while 130 voted in favor of the language. The call for a vote on the paragraphs mystified representatives from the Netherlands, whose representatives pointed out that no one had objected to the language while the resolution was in committee.
“We are a little bit surprised by what’s going on exactly, because we have not been informed about a vote,“ one representative told the General Assembly. “I’m quite positive about the way this voting is going so I don’t necessary want to stop it, given that it looks good, but we’re just a little bit confused about what’s really going on here.”
Even before President Donald Trump became president, the United States was frequently an outlier at the United Nations. A 2013 Washington Post analysis found that the U.S. position on several issues had diverged significantly from the rest of the planet. And out of 18 international human rights treaties — many of which are decades old — the United States has only put five into force. That’s fewer than Russia and China.
Under Trump, the U.N. delegation’s positions have often veered even further away from the rest of the world’s — including on issues affecting women. The administration has sought to remove the word “gender” from its U.N. documents, according to the Guardian, and once tried to undercut support for a resolution advocating breastfeeding. In discussions over the resolution, American officials threatened Ecuador, telling the country’s representatives that the United States would enact harsh trade measures and withdraw military aid if Ecuador backed the resolution, the New York Times reported.
Read more: Trump delivers anti-U.N. speech at the U.N.
Plus, like every Republican president since Ronald Reagan, Trump decreed that the United States will no longer contribute money to the United Nations Population Fund, which advocates for family planning in more than 150 countries around the world. And, outside the halls of the United Nations, Trump went even further than past presidents in slashing reproductive health funding around the world. Trump also fell in line with every Republican president since Reagan in cutting USAID support to NGOs that "perform or actively promote" abortions — which includes clinics that give referrals to people seeking them — but extended that policy to all departments and agencies.
Cover: United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a security council meeting about the escalating tensions between the Ukraine and Russia at United Nations headquarters, Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly conflated the U.S. defunding of the United Nations Population Fund with the enactment of the so-called Mexico City policy, which under the Trump administration slashed funding to organizations that provide abortions or public information about abortions.