UN Commission on
Population and Development, 43rd Session
By Jeanne E. Head, R.N. and
The 43rd session of the
Commission on Population and Development (CPD) convened at the
United Nations in New York City on April 12 and ended on April 16,
2010. The initial working draft document seemed to be more balanced
and reasonable than others in past years, and certainly less
contentious than the one from the 42nd session of the Commission in
On the first day of the
meetings this year it appeared that it would certainly not be as
chaotic as last year. But things quickly changed.
The theme of last year’s CPD
was the 15-year review of the 1994 International Conference on
Population and Development held in Cairo. As expected, there was a
clear attempt to push the pro-abortion agenda beyond previously
agreed-upon language in United Nations documents.
Although flawed, the
Programme of Action established at the Cairo Conference did not
establish a right to abortion. In fact, that document states that it
does not create any new human rights and that abortion cannot be
promoted as a method of family planning.
Last year, because of the
outrageous and numerous attempts to insert language in order to push
the abortion agenda beyond the Cairo agreements, there were marathon
negotiating sessions of the delegates from member nations which
ended in deadlock and no agreement between the delegates.
In order to avoid total
failure, the chairwoman of the 2009 commission and her facilitator
produced a hastily formulated and very problematic draft for
approval by member states, which was not the result of consensus by
the delegates in their negotiations. It was ultimately approved only
after crucial amendments, which were demanded by one delegate who
refused to join consensus without them. With those amendments the
document was in agreement with the abortion-neutral language from
the Cairo conference.
At this year’s meeting,
initially it appeared that there was going to be a genuine attempt
to produce a final document that would truly reflect the theme of
this year’s Commission meeting: Health, Morbidity and Development.
There didn’t seem to be a big push to further promote the abortion
The draft document wasn’t
perfect, but it was sensible. Moreover, unlike last year, the
speeches from the podium to the delegates also reflected a balanced
approach to improving health care and to achieve the UN’s goals of
reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and combating
HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.
Dr. Carissa F. Etienne,
Assistant Director General for Health Systems and Services for the
World Health Organization, gave a speech with a very reasonable
approach to reducing maternal mortality and morbidity. Her speech,
as did the proposed working document, focused on measures to
decrease maternal mortality which have saved women’s lives in the
developed world for over 70 years. These include strengthening of
health systems to make good maternal health care available, as well
as prenatal, and postnatal care, skilled birth attendants, emergency
obstetric care, antibiotics, clean blood, and good nutrition.
In other words, the lack of
modern medicine and quality health care, not the prohibition of
abortion, results in high maternal mortality rates. Even the
pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute once admitted that legalized
abortion actually leads to more abortions. It has been documented
over and over that in the developing world where maternal health
care is poor, legalization of abortion increases the number of women
who die or are harmed by abortion.
However, the statements and
pleas from the Americans and European Union countries signaled what
was to come, and how far they would go in promoting the abortion
agenda. The focus of these countries was on “reproductive health”
and rights (which they claim includes the legalization of abortion)
as the way to save women’s lives. Their speeches were so wrought
with propaganda and sometimes blatant inaccuracies, that Jeanne Head
requested and was granted the opportunity to make an intervention
(speech) with the strategic aim of steering the Commission back on
track and to clear up the misinformation.
There were many proposed
amendments to the document during the first two days of the
Commission, and they were disproportionately related to reproductive
health and reproductive rights and abortion. This turned the initial
six-page document into a 20-page document that contained over 30
references to reproductive health, sexual and reproductive health
and rights, reproductive health services, or abortion.
Then we experienced déjà vu
all over again. Just as in the previous year’s negotiations, this
year’s went into the early morning hours. The marathon sessions
lasted until 4:15 a.m. on Friday—the last day of the meeting—and
again ended in failure to produce an agreed document. The meeting
was recessed until noon.
This is when, once again, a
hastily written document was produced by the Chairman of the
Commission. But this time, although flawed, it was more reasonable
and—like the original document from the start of the week—provided a
fairly balanced approach in keeping with this year’s theme.
delegations, most notably those from Cuba, South Africa, and Brazil,
refused to accept this new document presented by the chair.
Incredibly, at the last hour, the document was opened for debate. An
hour passed and an agreed upon “package” of paragraphs were added to
the document after frantic negotiations.
There were fourteen new
paragraphs in all, five of which related to sexual and reproductive
health and reproductive rights. Some were taken from last year’s
In the end, however, the
United Nations Population Fund and other pro-abortion organizations
and member states (including Obama’s hand-picked pro-abortion
American delegation) failed to advance their abortion agenda. This
was in part due to the persistence and endurance of many pro-life
delegates and the pro-life NGOs (non-governmental organizations)
including NRLC’s own representatives.
But sadly, as has been the
case since the new American Administration took hold, ideology
trumped common sense and the more balanced and reasonable approach
was lost. Many delegations and pro-abortion NGOs showed us that they
care more about promoting their abortion agenda than actually saving
the lives of women and children.
Jeanne E. Head, R.N., is
NRLC’s Vice President for International Affairs and UN
Representative. NRL’s Educational Trust Fund has Special
Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
as a Non-Governmental Organization—a subsidiary body of the UN
General Assembly. Jeanne was the first representative at the UN in
New York for the International Right to Life Federation when it
received its ECOSOC status in 1987 and still serves in that capacity
Rai Rojas is NRLC’s
Director of Hispanic Outreach and he has worked with Latin American
delegations at the United Nations since 1993 in his capacity as a
NGO representative for National Right to Life.