Communications Department

Most Perilous Provisions Removed from Commission on Population and Development Document

Jun 15, 2009 | 06-June 2009 NRL News

by Raimundo Rojas

Editor’s note. Rai Rojas is NRLC’s director of Hispanic outreach. Mr. Rojas was an NRLC non-governmental organization representative at the UN Commission on Population and Development.

Comoros is a small island nation off the eastern coast of Africa. It is a member of the African Union as well as the Arab League. The population of the Comoros Islands is less than 800,000, but it was the head of that delegation who spoke a truth for all time during the closing remarks of the 42nd session of the United Nation’s Commission on Population and Development (CPD) held in New York City March 30–April 3, 2009.

The main agenda item for this year’s CPD was a 15-year review of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo (ICPD) which former President Bill Clinton tried—without success—to use as a vehicle to achieve his goal of making abortion a fundamental human right worldwide.

In the days leading up to the 2009 conference, NRLC and other members of the Pro-Life and Pro-Family Coalition of UN non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were wary and rightly concerned about what would transpire at this most important conference. We faced a hostile American delegation, sent by Obama’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that was in complete contrast to the delegations sent to the UN by pro-life President George W. Bush, plus a pro-abortion lobby emboldened by the prospects of making unprecedented gains under this new pro-abortion American administration.

Pro-life NGOs’ worst fears that there would be an attempt to expand on the carefully negotiated Cairo document—which definitely does not create a right to abortion or any other new human right—became reality when the draft document was finally circulated. The language being proposed was so far-reaching that even the most experienced pro-life NGOs were shocked at the unbridled pro-abortion expanse of the document.

It didn’t help that the chairwoman of the committee for this session was Mariana Zuniga, a long-time foe of the pro-life movement. We faced a challenge not seen since the height of the Clinton Administration.

Without the U.S. on our side, pro-life NGOs, as we did during the Clinton Administration, had to rely on delegations from nations that have laws protecting the unborn. These delegates were reminded of the crucial importance of preventing an expansion of the carefully negotiated Cairo document and of eliminating the most dangerous language that would most certainly be defined to include a right to abortion by the enemies of the unborn.

The NRLC NGO delegation, led by Jeanne Head, R.N., National Right to Life’s vice president for international affairs—working closely with other pro-life and pro-family NGOs—went to work. However, as each day passed and with each new revision the most dangerous term “sexual and reproductive health and rights” was continuously maintained in the document. Pro-life NGOs realized these were code words for a right to abortion.

Negotiations went late into the night and early morning hours and yet this term—that had to date never been defined or accepted in any UN negotiated document—remained. Several delegations tried to bring the document back to the previously and carefully negotiated language of the ICPD, but to no avail.

As we reached the final hours of the conference on Friday, April 3, all attempts at achieving a negotiated document had failed. Chairwoman Zuniga urged the delegates to accept her “Chair’s Text” by consensus. She suspended the meeting for nearly a half hour for consultation when one delegate of the 47-member commission—the delegate from Iran—refused to join consensus unless this new and undefined language was removed or altered to comply with the ICPD. When she resumed the meeting, Zuniga—who was faced with no document at all or compromise—announced that the proposal from Iran would be accepted. The term “sexual and reproductive health and rights” would be altered to conform with previously agreed abortion-neutral language of the ICPD.

What had started as one of the most dangerous documents to the unborn children of the world had lost its most perilous provisions. Pro-life delegations and NGOs, although not entirely pleased with the document, realized that a major loss had been averted. The pro-life delegations held their ground, and were able to remove the most troubling parts of the document.

Nonetheless, during the closing remarks, several delegations went even further and expressed their concerns about the document. Poland stressed that this document should be read in the context of the International Conference on Population and Development—and that no new language should be construed to mean abortion. Syria pointed out that the language that enabled the consensus should be interpreted into the broader consensus of the original Cairo conference, which remains abortion neutral. The Syrian ambassador went on to reiterate that any new language should always be studied carefully.

St. Lucia went even further, asking why a document coming out of the Commission on Population and Development didn’t include more instruction on how to deal with poverty without having abortion as a solution. The delegate from St. Lucia also stated that there was no such thing as a safe abortion, because the procedure is never completely free of medical and psychological risks to women being aborted.

She went on further to say that the conscience rights of health care professionals who practice medicine in countries where abortion is legal should be respected when they opt to withhold their involvement in abortion practices. Most importantly she underscored that this document created no new rights.

Only Finland and Norway expressed regret that the over-reaching pro-abortion language of the original document could not have been implemented.

There were pro-life concerns and reservations to the document also raised by Malta, the Holy See, Peru, Chile, Ireland, and the small African Island nation of Comoros. It was the delegate from Comoros who began his remarks by saying, “In our nation a child is a source of wealth and abortion is in contradiction with our culture and our morality.”

A truth for all the ages.