Perilous Provisions Removed from Commission on Population and
BY Raimundo Rojas
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Finland and Norway expressed regret that the over-reaching
pro-abortion language of the original document could not have been
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.”
for all the ages.