Even as the world watches in shock and horror while the Russian military targets Ukrainian civilians, certain activists are taking advantage of global concern for Ukraine to push radical agendas. On March 17, the same day that survivors were being rescued from the wreckage of the Mariupol theater bombing, Amnesty International and the International Planned Parenthood Federation joined dozens of European organizations in signing a statement urging the countries helping Ukrainian refugees to prioritize—of all things—abortion.
The “Call to Action” recommends that European Union (EU) countries “take swift and effective measures to facilitate and support urgent access to early medical abortion” for refugees. It singles out Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia as countries with strong pro-life protections who are taking in Ukrainian refugees and calls on the EU to provide “urgent political support, guidance and technical assistance” to the governments of these countries “to facilitate the removal of legal and policy barriers that are impeding the provision of essential sexual and reproductive health care.”
While the Russian military continues to kill thousands in Ukraine, Amnesty International and Planned Parenthood are campaigning for more abortions, which will kill even more innocent Ukrainians.
The coercive tone taken by European activists is far from unusual. Many Western elites are quick to criticize Poland, Hungary, and other Central and Eastern European countries that, after gaining independence from the oppression of communist regimes, have worked to protect life in the womb. These same countries have been a shining example of hospitality to Ukrainian refugees; governments are taking unprecedented steps to welcome Ukrainians, and many citizens are opening their homes to refugees. These countries are the heroes in this story, but the Call to Action is treating them like villains because they value both women and unborn children.
The reality is that pregnant Ukrainian women and unborn children do need increased assistance. Within Ukraine, there has been a spike in premature births, and the stress of war is taking a physical toll on pregnant women. Some doctors have guided their patients through labor at home when fighting made it impossible to travel to the hospital. The difficulty for doctors to access certain medication or medical equipment also poses a risk to women and children’s well-being.
Thankfully, some are already working to support expectant mothers. Private organizations and even UN agencies are sending medical kits into Ukraine designed to help midwives support mothers giving birth. This is increasingly necessary, as births are often taking place in homes, shelters, and other less-than-ideal situations. Even hospitals aren’t always safe; Russian forces have attacked over 100 hospitals and medical facilities. The bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol produced one of the war’s most striking images; it showed a pregnant woman on a stretcher gripping her bloodied belly as she was carried across rubble. Sadly, neither she nor her baby survived.
A writer for WIRED asserted that among Ukrainian women, “Pregnancies that were previously desired may no longer feel sustainable.” This view illustrates a failure to uphold human dignity. In times of war, the birth of a child is a sign of hope for the future. As Ukrainian Ivan Korol, whose baby girl was born in a bomb shelter this February, said, “Last night under the roar in Gostomei, my wife gave birth to me a daughter, like a star in the dark in such a difficult time!”
Indeed, pregnant Ukrainian women, whether they remain in the country or flee as refugees, are encountering many challenges that could not have been foreseen a few months ago. They need Western countries and NGOs to offer robust assistance—food, shelter, and medical attention—not pressure to kill their own children.
Amnesty International knows the gravity of the situation faced by Ukrainians. Their own investigators document allegations of war crimes committed by Russian soldiers. This is valuable work. However, it’s beyond comprehension that during these ongoing tragedies, Amnesty International and other European organizations that purport to care about human rights would seize the opportunity to criticize democratic countries over their social policy. Human rights groups should be focused on ensuring accountability for the many human rights violations Russia is committing in Ukraine, not pressuring other countries to violate the right to life.
Russia is bombing maternity hospitals—an act that is recognized as especially egregious because it kills both mothers and children. Our response should not double down on that death and destruction by encouraging mothers to kill their own unborn children. Rather, we should do everything in our power to save lives, including the most vulnerable lives—those in the womb.