U.S. rejects U.N. rights panel upholding access to abortions during pandemic

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United States on Wednesday hit back at a U.N. women’s rights panel that said some U.S. states limited access to abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic, rejecting its interference and the notion of “an assumed right to abortion”.

“The United States 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,” the U.S. mission in Geneva said in a release posted on Twitter.

“This is a perversion of the human rights system and the founding principles of the United Nations,” it said, citing an Aug. 11 letter it sent to the U.N. experts responding to the “spurious allegations”.

The U.N. working group on discrimination against women and girls said on May 27 that some U.S. states “appear to be “manipulating the COVID-19 crisis to curb access to essential abortion care”.

The panel of five independent U.N. experts said that states including Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Iowa, Ohio, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee had issued COVID-19 emergency orders suspending procedures not deemed immediately medically necessary to restrict access to abortion.

“This situation is also the latest example illustrating a pattern of restrictions and retrogressions in access to legal abortion care across the country,” Elizabeth Broderick, panel vice-chair, said at the time.

The U.S. statement cited allegations of forced abortions and sterilisations in China’s western region of Xinjiang and urged the panel to focus on “actual human rights abuses”.

A lack of comment on such issues was “one of the reasons that the United States and others increasingly see the U.N.’s human rights system as utterly broken”.

U.S. President Donald Trump, seeking re-election in November, works closely with evangelical Christians and puts their causes of restricting abortion and preserving gun ownership at the top of his policy agenda.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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