UNFPA Promotes Abortion in the Name of Bodily Autonomy
Monday, April 26, 2021

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) confirmed its work promoting abortion in its recent World Population 2021 report— My body is my own. Claiming the Right to Autonomy and Self-Determination.

It boasts, “At UNFPA, realizing bodily autonomy is everything we do”, and explains that bodily autonomy relates to a range of issues “including abortion, age of consent, surrogacy, sex work and more.” The term is further explained as being used by “advocates, activists and human rights experts surrounding issues related to sexuality, health, reproductive rights, sexual orientation, gender identity, transactional sex, surrogacy, disability status, abortion and more.”

UNFPA acknowledges that there is “no simple definition” of bodily autonomy: Depending on the treaty or agreement, “autonomy” in matters related to sexuality and reproductive health and decision-making may encompass access to comprehensive sexuality education, contraceptive information and services, maternal health care, infertility treatment, gender-affirming interventions, such as hormonal and surgical treatment, and comprehensive abortion care. Autonomy also touches on matters of civil status, ranging from marriage and divorce to the legal capacity to make decisions about one’s own body and the power to express one’s gender identity.”

The report continuously links access to abortion—in the name of bodily autonomy and integrity— to gender equality. UNFPA states that “achieving bodily autonomy and integrity for women and girls depends on realizing gender equality on all fronts, and that sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights are among the most important entry points.”

UNFPA explains that gender equality is internationally agreed upon in Sustainable Development Goal 5—"Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls". It proceeds to use indicators that track progress on target 5.6 “the achievement of sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights for all” to promote the idea that bodily autonomy is necessary for gender equality including in legal access to “reproductive health care”. 

Indicator 5.6.1 seeks to “measure the proportion of women aged 15 to 49 years who make their own informed decisions regarding sexual relations, contraceptive use and reproductive health care” and Indicator 5.6.2 “tracks the number of countries with laws and regulations that guarantee full and equal access to women and men aged 15 years and older to sexual and reproductive health care, information and education.” By UNFPA reasoning, pro-life laws protecting children in the womb from abortion deny women and adolescent girls bodily autonomy.

UNFPA references the non-binding recommendations of UN treaty monitoring bodies advocating for access to abortion in the section “Abortion and bodily integrity and autonomy”. It includes the opinion of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that laws and policies “can fulfil a government’s human rights obligations provided they are enabling and guarantee all individuals access to affordable, safe and effective contraceptives and comprehensive sexuality education, liberalize restrictive abortion laws, guarantee women and girls access to safe abortion services…”

The report also references a comment from the United Nations Committee on Civil and Political Rights, that “criminal laws related to contraception, comprehensive sexuality education, abortion and accessing information about sexual and reproductive health violate rights to bodily autonomy and integrity”.

Parental consent laws are also attacked in the 164-page report which states “Human rights treaty bodies have criticized States that have permitted third parties, whether parents, spouses or others, to obstruct individuals from making decisions about their own bodies and reproductive and sexual lives”.

The ICPD Programme of Action is mentioned as guiding the work of UNFPA since 1994 with the acknowledgment that it “stresses that measures or changes related to abortion within the health system are matters left to national legislative process.”

UNFPA claims that “pushback against gender equality has grown, leading to new restrictions on sexual and reproductive health and rights and thus threatening progress towards bodily autonomy for women and girls worldwide. For example, there have been attempts to remove comprehensive sexuality education from school curricula. And there is mounting evidence that critical sexual and reproductive health services have been deemed “less essential” and have suffered a diversion of capacity and funding during the response to COVID-19.”

UNFPA highlights UN Women’s new “Generation Equality” campaign stating, “Generation Equality has a chance to see choice and autonomy finally, irrevocably, reaching everyone.” UNFPA co-leads, along with a number of pro-abortion organizations including IPPF, IWHC, and Arrow, the action coalition on bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights.

In the foreward of the report, Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of UNFPA, writes: “Through our leadership in the new Generation Equality Action Coalition on Bodily Autonomy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, and through this edition of the State of World Population, UNFPA is highlighting why bodily autonomy is a universal right that must be upheld.”

She concludes, “Let us therefore claim the right for each individual to make decisions about their body and enjoy the freedom of informed choices. All of us want this. All of us should have it. It is at the core of our humanity, and we should never lose sight of just how much depends on it—for everyone.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights’ press release on UNFPA’s report stated that the report displayed “the agency’s evolving radical agenda.”