UNITED NATIONS: by Babette FrancisNews Weekly
UN body seeks 'universal human right' to abortion
, April 17, 2010
Beneath the fanfare of the UN's Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 54th session in March, marking the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Women's World Conference, raged the usual battle over a "universal human right to abortion".
While there was agreement on the need to reduce maternal mortality, government delegations and UN officials stressed the importance of achieving the UN's eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, and many lamented lack of progress on MDG 5 to improve maternal health, citing legalisation of abortion as a panacea for maternal mortality around the globe.
Pro-life delegations and non-government organisations (NGOs) quoted World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics showing that maternal mortality was higher in countries with permissive abortion laws than in countries with restrictive laws, e.g., Ireland and Poland (ever since the latter restricted abortion), which have among the lowest maternal mortality in the world.
Dr Elard Koch, epidemiologist at the University of Chile's faculty of medicine, quoted a groundbreaking study showing that "access to legal abortion does not appear to be necessary to achieve low rates of maternal deaths".
Chile, a "developing nation", offers a unique opportunity to examine the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality. Abortion was legal from 1931 until 1988, but was outlawed in 1989. Chile now maintains one of the strictest abortion bans in the world. Unlike many nations - including the USA - Chile has maternal health data from the beginning of the 1900s.
The study, which examined maternal deaths from 1960 to 2007, reveals that maternal mortality peaked in 1961, in the midst of legalised abortion. That year, abortion caused 34 per cent of maternal deaths. By 2007 (after 18 years of an abortion ban), maternal mortality rates were reduced by 97.9 per cent.
The CSW session eventually closed with delegates deleting any reference to abortion from a resolution on maternal mortality. Even US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a fairly muted address and did not refer to abortion (although a month earlier in Brazil she had said women have "a fundamental right to abortion"), but stressed problems of female circumcision, HIV/AIDS, child marriage, "gendercide", and a pandemic of violence against women.
A number of states, including Chile, Saint Lucia and Iran, made explanations of their position to ensure that "reproductive rights" and other "health services" terms of the CSW resolution would not be later misinterpreted to include abortion.
A split within the European Union over abortion became public when Poland and Malta made statements explicitly rejecting abortion. Poland interpreted "the reference to reproductive and sexual rights and services in the resolution as not constituting an encouragement of abortion".
Malta stated that it did not "consider abortion a legitimate form of family planning or other services". Malta also criticised the notion of "unsafe abortion" which was included in the resolution, as it "implies abortions could be free of any physical or psychological risks and ignored the rights of the unborn".
In a message to the CSW session, the Vatican's permanent observer to the UN, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, asserted: "Global development work is too often ideologically driven, delaying the true advancement of women. To link achievement of personal, social, economic and political rights to a notion of sexual and reproductive health and rights which is violent to unborn human life is detrimental to the integral needs of women and men within society. …
"The Holy See reiterates its commitment to improving the situation of women globally, especially the poorest, and has called on all Catholic institutions for a concerted and prioritised strategy."
While member states were embroiled in heated negotiations over "reproductive rights", the cultural battle continued in six different venues near the UN, where dozens of NGOs hosted "parallel events" addressing issues central to the policy debate, hoping to catch the ear of delegates and policy-makers.
Amnesty International's panel addressed "Maternal mortality: rights of critical concern". Carmen Baroso, regional director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the world's largest abortion-provider, claimed that maternal mortality rates can be reduced only by securing a universal right to abortion.
Ana Christina Gonzalez Velez, social affairs officer at the UN Division of Gender Affairs, added: "States must avoid any religious influence in public policy. The Church cannot continue to be the moral tutor of society unless we want that morality to include the deaths of women."
Sonnie Ekwowuski, a lawyer from Nigeria, questioned their vision. "I am a husband, a father and a Nigerian. In Nigeria our women and daughters die in childbirth because of a lack of basic primary care. At all levels of Nigerian government it is undisputed that Nigeria needs primary health care for our women and children. Why do you have to link maternal mortality to abortion? Why does the IPPF come here pushing its agenda? Nigerians do not want your abortion clinics. Nigerians want health care."
Ekwowuski's comments prompted such loud booing and unrest that he had to relinquish the microphone. Visibly upset, he said: "I am not even a Christian. This is not a religious issue. This is about real concern for our women and children. I cannot understand their way of thinking."
Literature distributed by the New York-based National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund and the Minnesota Concerned Citizens for Life Global Outreach (MCCL GO!) supported his claim. One document stated: "The lack of modern medicine and quality health care, not the prohibition of abortion, results in high maternal mortality rates. … Women generally at risk because of lack of access to a doctor, hospital or antibiotics before abortion's legalisation will face those same circumstances after legalisation."
One highlight was a workshop conducted by Miriam Grossman MD, author of the book, Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student
(New York: Sentinel/Penguin, 2006), which shows how radical "safe sex"/permissive sex agendas are aggressively promoted through campus health and counselling services, with dire consequences for young people.
In her workshop, Dr Grossman slammed the IPPF-inspired program of seeking to combat maternal mortality by promoting abortion: "It is the Karl Marx approach to infectious disease. Their enemies are not viruses, disease, malnutrition or lack of health care. Their enemies are religion, Judeo-Christian values and traditional sexual ethics."
A low point was a Girl Scouts event at which copies of the IPPF's teen-sex guide, Healthy, Happy and Hot
, were distributed. The quasi-pornographic brochure contained graphic details on the promotion of casual sex in many forms. It says: "Many people think sex is just about vaginal or anal intercourse. … But, there are lots of different ways to have sex and lots of different types of sex. There is no right or wrong way to have sex. Just have fun, explore and be yourself."
A highlight for the many Endeavour Forum Inc.-accredited women (and some teenagers) from the United States was Endeavour's own "parallel event" on "women's reproductive health", at which breast surgeon, Dr Angela Lanfranchi, president of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, explained how full-term pregnancy and breast-feeding reduce women's risk of breast cancer, while induced abortion increases risk. (Castle Connolly Medical Ltd's consumer guide to doctors has declared Lanfranchi to be one of the top doctors in the New York metro area).
Professor of endocrinology, Dr Joel Brind, cited statistical studies showing that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer. Only last year there were studies from Turkey and China confirming this, and an admission from the National Cancer Institute (USA) researcher, Louise Brinton, on the increased risk caused by abortion.
Molly White, founder and director of Women for Life International, Inc., and leader of Endeavour Forum's US group, described how abortion had damaged her, physically and emotionally.
Attending the Endeavour Forum event were a man and a woman from the Australian Women's Health Network (AWHN), who said that the pro-life speakers were engaging in "scare-mongering". Professor Brind asked each of them politely, "And your PhD is in…?" The couple said they would not debate the science but complained that Endeavour Forum had "a moral agenda". Apparently they consider it immoral to have a moral agenda.
Another highlight was a meeting that Molly White arranged with William Odisho, the Iraqi chargé d'affaires. He undertook to pass on our pro-life literature and contact details to women's groups in Iraq.
A major concern for pro-life and pro-family groups is the campaign by radical feminists to establish GEAR (Gender Equality Architecture Reform), a new UN super-agency with a billion-dollar budget which would consolidate four existing UN women's rights entities. It aims to eradicate traditional gender roles and promote abortion. This is a serious development and I will report on it in a future article.
Finishing two weeks of deliberation and debate, participating UN member-states voted on a concluding document to be revealed shortly to what they presume will be an eagerly awaiting world. The document, while not legally binding, will nonetheless exert considerable political influence and pressure on nations.
After the hot-house atmosphere of the UN, it was refreshing that Millie Lace, who runs a US helpline for pregnancy support, arranged for Endeavour Forum's delegates to be in the audience for the first taping of former Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's documentary series, Real American Stories
, at the Fox News Channel studios in New York.
Sarah Palin stayed after the taping session and met all of us - I told her I was from Australia and admired her courage. Her youngest daughter, Piper, was running around the studio; Sarah is a hands-on mother.Babette Francis is Australian and international co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc., an NGO having special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC).