Abortion advocates are seeking to advance the idea that women have a “right” to abortion, based on humanitarian law. The United Nations continues to grapple with whether or not to formally include "access to abortion" as a "humanitarian right," in UN Humanitarian Resolutions. Distorting the laws of war to include such a right would have significant ramifications for groups providing aid in war torn areas. For example, the Red Cross and other faith based groups would likely have objections to abortions on religious grounds. Moreover, since abortion is illegal and culturally unacceptable in many countries receiving humanitarian aid, making abortion a right under the laws of war could certainly have the potential to put aid workers at greater risk.

A core standards of humanitarian law, the prohibition of rape, would also face attacks on two fronts if abortion is included under humanitarian law. One from militant groups who blatantly disregard the law, and one from activists, seeking to subvert it in order to create a right to abortion. Additionally, one of the primary reasons behind the call to include abortion under the humanitarian law is for women who are raped and impregnated during times of war. However, what truly needs to be addressed are the acts of violence themselves and the subsequent shaming of women that often ensues.

Humanitarian law does not need to be reinterpreted. Rather, the laws already agreed upon need to be strictly enforced to protect women and girls from ever becoming victims of rape or other acts of violence. Indeed, where is the logic in multiplying the tragedy of war by increasing the loss of life through added abortions?

Mary L. Bennett


Mary L. Bennett is assistant outreach coordinator for Feminists Choosing Life of New York.

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