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NRL News
Page 4
April/May 2010
Volume 37
Issue 4-5

UN Commission on Population and Development, 43rd Session

By Jeanne E. Head, R.N. and Rai Rojas

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 2009.

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 agenda.

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.

However, several 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 document.

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 as well.

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.