African Nations Stand Alone Against Abortion Rights, Gender Ideology at the UN

The United Nations General Assembly in New York. | Drop of Light/Shutterstock.

A United Nations resolution defining abortion as a human right and advancing gender ideology was adopted this month with overwhelming support from Western countries but was opposed by a group of mainly African nations. 

The resolution, which is titled “International cooperation for access to justice, remedies and assistance for survivors of sexual violence,” includes language stating that countries must provide “access to safe abortion” as a “human right.”

The resolution, adopted on Sept. 2, also references new gender terminology that some countries said was in opposition to their values because it contradicted a traditional view on human sexuality.

Western nations define abortion as a ‘human right’

More than 80 nations, including the United States and members of the European Union, co-sponsored the inclusion of language that defined abortion as a human right for women and girls. 


“Human rights include the right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality,” the document reads. 

The resolution includes modern contraception, emergency contraception and “safe abortion” in a list of rights entitled to women. 

It also updated the resolution’s language to add “gender-based violence” to the definition of “sexual violence.”

A handful of countries protested this move, arguing it promoted societal acceptance of homosexuality and transgenderism. 

Africa’s pro-life, pro-family amendments fail 

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The resolution’s focus on abortion and gender ideology came under fire from 33 nations, primarily from Africa. 

Nigeria led the fight by proposing several amendments to protect unborn children and delete controversial language from the resolution, but the measures failed to get enough support to pass.

“Each country should decide its abortion laws at the national level without external interference,” a Nigerian representative said in a fiery debate. “Countries should help women avoid abortion and provide mothers and their children with health-care and social support.” 

“[This] creates the danger that women will be pressured to abort their babies,” he added.

Nigeria also voiced strong opposition to references to gender identity, arguing that “gender” can only include “male” or “female'' and announced that the country would withdraw from the resolution completely to defend its “values, laws and sovereignty.”


“We should not be creating new rights,” the Nigerian representative said. 

In remarks made at the U.N. meeting, Senegal’s representative condemned the inclusion of abortion as a family planning method and argued the word “gender” must only refer to “social relations between males and females.”

Among the 32 nations that joined Nigeria in supporting amendments to strike abortion and gender language from the resolution were Uganda, Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Senegal. The Philippines, Nicaragua, Russia, and a handful of Middle Eastern countries also joined the effort.

Austin Ruse, president of the Center for Family & Human Rights, said in an interview with CNA that it is well-known that smaller African countries courageously stand against the West’s pro-abortion and gender policies.

“They have the most to lose,” he emphasized. “They know what the sexual revolution is about because they can see what has happened to our country and don’t want any of it.”

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“They want basic medical care, clean water, safe sanitation; not the gender, reproductive health, and comprehensive sexuality education agenda that comes from the big powers,” he added. 

Poland and Hungary vote to advance abortion, gender ideology 

Missing from the effort to protect life and a traditional view of sexuality were Hungary and Poland, predominantly Catholic nations known as global leaders in opposing abortion and gender ideology.

Poland is one of the few nations that have banned almost all abortions and ranks among the most pro-life governments.

Hungary’s story is a bit more nuanced, as abortion is legal in the country with some restrictions. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, however, the country is introducing pro-life measures and leading the way on pro-family policies

Both Hungarian and Polish governments have also gone toe-to-toe with progressive European leaders over gender ideology in the recent past.

Imre Téglásy, director of Human Life International Hungary, told CNA in a statement that he believed that Hungary failed to oppose abortion at the U.N. because it faces “heavy attacks of the liberal representatives of the EU.”

Téglásy explained that the EU has punished Hungary by cutting billions in funding to the country when the nation defended its “sovereignty and Christian values.”

Téglásy said the other possible explanation is that Hungary’s ambassador to the U.N., Zsuzsa Horváth, was not “really aware” of her government’s pro-family policies.   

“You can evaluate both of these [decisions as] shameful,” he concluded. 

The Ordo Iuris Institute for Legal Culture, a Polish legal organization that promotes human dignity in law, issued a statement deploring the vote.

“The silence of Poland, as well as Hungary, in taking a position in the international arena, represented a failure to realize the commitment made in the Geneva Consensus Declaration to defend fundamental rights and to fight to restore the true meaning of the concept of human rights,” the statement read. 

The institute called the resolution a “missed opportunity” for Poland to defend its sovereign laws and unborn human life.

‘Missed opportunity’ to defend life and values

Ruse said that as far as he was aware, Poland and Hungary “have never broken the EU consensus” on social issues in 25 years.

If Hungary and Poland were to stand up to the EU’s promotion of abortion at the U.N., it would “open the door to many pro-life victories,” Ruse explained. 

All 27 countries in the alliance would have to negotiate their own positions on abortion, he said.

“The EU speaking with a single voice is very powerful. If that voice is taken away, then there are great opportunities for the pro-life cause to advance,” Ruse concluded. 

Rod Dreher, a senior editor at the American Conservative and author of “The Benedict Option,” is surprised that Hungary and Poland did not vote in favor of traditional values. 

Dreher has spent extended time in Hungary as a fellow at the Danube Institute.

“I don’t understand this. There might be a reasonable explanation,” he told CNA in an email. 

“That said, even if this vote is unjustifiable, we Americans must not lose track of how strong both governments have been on these issues — Poland more than Hungary on abortion, because abortion rights are, sadly, popular in Hungary, limiting what the government can do,” Dreher explained. 

“Both have taken very strong stands against gender ideology in Europe, and have been forced to pay a steep price by Brussels. And they have accepted that price. This is why I can’t pass judgment on Poland’s and Hungary’s U.N. votes without more information,” he said.

Both the Hungarian and Polish delegations to the UN did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.

UN resolution first to promote global abortion right

The resolution “puts abortion under the category of international human rights in a General Assembly resolution for the first time,” according to C-Fam. 

While U.N. resolutions are nonbinding on individual states, Stefano Gennarini, vice president for legal studies at C-Fam, told CNA resolutions are binding “both in terms of the programs and norms the U.N. system promotes globally.”

Gennarini explained that the move is concerning for international law and “can be read by activist judges in domestic and international courts as evidence of a human right to abortion.”

The U.N. did not respond to a request for comment.