US Pick For UN Ambassador Disputes Sexual & Reproductive Rights, Draws Opposition

A United States congressional committee met today to vote on whether or not to recommend Andrew Bremberg for confirmation as Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva. Bremberg is a controversial pick due to his extreme stance against abortion and his pledge to vote against any UN resolution that includes the right to abortion where legal, even in cases of sexual violence.

In the lead-up to the vote by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, 38 US and international organisations sent an open letter to Senate leaders opposing the nomination of Bremberg and calling on all Senators to vote against his confirmation.

“The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva is a position of critical importance. The person occupying this role will be responsible for representing the U.S. in efforts to address some of the world’s biggest challenges, including health, human rights, and humanitarian crises and the resulting refugee and migration trends. Mr. Bremberg’s confirmation hearing, written responses, and previous record in government indicate he will not only obstruct, but actively work against the interests of individuals and communities worldwide who face the greatest barriers to sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice,” stated the letter.

Andrew Bremberg responding to questions at the 20 June hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Andrew Bremberg, currently serving as Assistant to the President and the Director of the Domestic Policy Council, previously worked as Aide to Republican Senator and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Today’s closed hearing vote will also determine the recommendation of Kelly Craft as US Ambassador to the United Nations in New York. Craft, who’s family own a major coal company and is a major Republican donor, currently serves as US Ambassador to Canada.

In an exchange between Bremberg and Senator Robert Menendez at the 20 June hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez cited the recent US threat to veto a UN Security Council resolution on gender-based violence in conflict over a reference to survivor’s access to sexual and reproductive health, asking: “Should victims of sexual violence be able to terminate the pregnancy where legal?”

Bremberg replied: “Senator, I don’t believe that abortion is a moral solution to any problem.”

Planned Parenthood Global responded in a Tweet saying: “The Trump admin continues to nominate anti-rights players to critical diplomatic positions, jeopardizing women’s and human rights protections. E.g. Andrew Bremberg, nom for US Ambassador to UN in Geneva, who opposes abortion even in cases of rape.”

Bremberg, a top pick of US President Donald Trump, is also chief architect of Trump’s expanded version of the “global gag rule,” an international policy that prohibits any foreign NGO that receives US funding from providing abortion services, counseling or referrals.

It requires these organisations to certify that they do not engage in abortion-related activities, and forces them “to choose between providing a comprehensive spectrum of reproductive health care and receiving critical US funding,” according to a report by the International Women’s Health Coalition, one of the signatories to the open letter.

Despite US attempts to restrict abortion services through the gag rule, evidence shows that the rule actually increased rates of abortion by 40 percent between 2001-2008 in areas where the policy was in effect, according to a recent study published in The Lancet Global Health. The study explains that this rate is associated with the rise of pregnancies in these areas, which are related to the policy’s impact on limiting family planning services including modern contraception.

After being rescinded by President Barack Obama in 2009, the gag rule was reinstated by President Trump in 2017 and renamed as “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance.” Under this policy, the rule was expanded beyond just international family planning assistance to include all US funding for “global health assistance,” amounting to some US$ 9 billion.

According to the expanded policy, global health assistance “includes funding for international health programs, such as those for HIV/AIDS; maternal and child health; nutrition; infectious diseases, including malaria and tuberculosis; global health security; and voluntary family planning and reproductive health.”

A staunch advocate of the global gag rule, Bremberg, in his opening statement at the 20 June hearing, said: “If confirmed, I will advocate for reforms at UN organizations to protect US sovereignty and the broader world order we have fought so hard to create. We contribute more to the United Nations than any other country. It is our duty to ensure these funds are spent effectively, efficiently, and in a manner consistent with American values and interests.”

If recommended by the Committee in today’s vote, Bremberg’s confirmation will still be subject to a vote by the full Senate.

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