In the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) recent State of World Population report, access to contraception is described as a “universal human right.” While the report has no legal force, it declares that cultural and financial barriers to accessing contraception are an infringement on women’s rights.
While access to contraceptives may be a serious policy concern for groups like UNFPA, to label it a human right is to devalue the very principle of rights. Declaring it to be so is to cheapen the very serious need to defend true human rights—rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The principle of natural rights delineates those fundamental freedoms that government can neither create nor take away.
Moreover, demanding products and services supplied by UNFPA as a “right” means someone has the responsibility to provide them. And how much will this “right” cost others? The fund is calling for an additional $8 billion per year.
Ironically, the UNFPA’s report avoids considering actual human rights abuses in China, including incidents in which family-planning officials have dragged Chinese women into clinics and forced them to submit to abortions or sterilizations. In fact, for many years, the U.S. prohibited funding for UNFPA under the Kemp-Kasten amendment, which prevents U.S. international aid from supporting coercive abortion procedures or involuntary sterilization, because of UNFPA’s ties to the Chinese family planning machine. In 2009, however, Congress exempted UNFPA funding from the Kemp-Kasten language and has since sent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to UNFPA each year.
Reggie Littlejohn, President of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, which opposes China’s one-child birth policy, calls the UNFPA report’s title—“By Choice, Not By Chance”—ironic.
“What about the 600 million women in China who are unable to ‘decide on the number and spacing of [their] children,’ not because they lack access to contraception but because they will be forcibly aborted if they get pregnant without a birth permit,” Littlejohn said.
UNFPA’s irresponsible statement, coupled with the organization’s suggested ties to the Chinese family planning department, should make policymakers reconsider continuing to give U.S. taxpayer dollars to UNFPA.
Elevating access to contraceptives to the level of a human right not only exhibits poor judgment, but ignores the real and serious conflicts such a promotion can create with real constitutional rights. As Americans have witnessed in Obamacare’s anti-conscience mandate, the idea that contraception access should be governmentally ensured has trampled on religious freedom. The mandate’s requirement that almost all employers provide and pay for abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization—regardless of moral or religious objections—represents an unprecedented assault on religious liberty.
Alexander Hamilton asserted, “The sacred rights of mankind…are written…in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by moral power.” UNFPA has no authority to devalue “human rights” by ever expanding them, and the international community would do well to ignore the organization’s self-serving opinions.