If you thought President Biden had finished appointing radical pro-abortion activists to key posts in his administration, think again. The president's frustration with HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra has evidently not deterred him from promoting other figures who put politics over law and sacrifice every norm to advance abortion. Yet on Tuesday the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations voted 11-11 on just such a nominee, Sarah Cleveland, as Legal Advisor for the Department of State. Although the vote was tied, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can bring her nomination to the floor with a discharge vote.
While on the U.N. Human Rights Committee, Cleveland demonstrated a commitment to abortion over and above all other principles. She and her colleagues released a guide to interpreting the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, an international treaty which the U.S. has ratified. That treaty guarantees a "right to life," and says nothing about either "abortion" or its most popular euphemism, "reproductive health." Yet somehow, Cleveland and her colleagues concluded in General Comment 36 that the "right to life" meant a right to abortion.
In a beefy paragraph, they catalogue all the restrictions and barriers to abortion which they believe sovereign states must eliminate, including "criminal sanctions" against abortion providers and "barriers... caused as a result of the exercise of conscientious objection by individual medical providers." There go all conscience rights for healthcare providers. They assert states have a positive duty to "prevent the stigmatization of women and girls seeking abortion," presumably including statements like "abortion is wrong."
There goes the right to free political speech. They also demand that states ensure abortion "for women and girls, in all circumstances, and on a confidential basis." This statement both prohibits parental notification and enables abusers of young girls to erase the evidence and continue exploiting them. They require state sponsorship of abortion in all circumstances "where carrying a pregnancy to term would cause the pregnant woman or girl substantial pain or suffering" -- that is, all pregnancies and all "labor" (Genesis 3:16). Their proposed "solution" of ending an unborn child's life does nothing but cause more suffering for both the mother and the baby. While technically allowing pro-life protections, there is no protection for life innocuous enough to survive the prohibitions of Cleveland and her U.N. colleagues, all in the name of protecting the "right to life."
Cleveland's move is an attempted end-run around the American people. If, after nearly 50 years of grassroots pressure, the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade and relinquishes its usurpation of legislative authority regarding abortion, General Comment 36 contends that the U.S. is still bound to uphold abortion by an international treaty that lacked any mention of abortion when we signed it.
Equally indefensible with her abortion extremism is Cleveland's disregard for law and national sovereignty. The U.N. Human Rights Committee had no authority to alter the substance of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, nor could it interpret it to impose new obligations on participating states. Yet that is precisely what Cleveland and her colleagues did by interpreting the "right to life" to mean that states must enable the killing of unborn children. It's unclear how such upside-down legal advice would help the State Department; they may as well argue that The Law of the Sea applies to the Sahara Desert, or something.
No, the only certain "benefit" the Biden administration would gain from the confirmation of Sarah Cleveland would be another abortion ideologue given authority to advance it at all costs to ourselves and our allies. Given President Biden's record on abortion, such a pick shouldn't surprise us, but it should be a wake-up call for senators to thoroughly examine each and every executive nominee.