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Pro-Abortion Language Blocked at UN Status of Women Meeting

Interim Staff,

NEW YORK, NY, April 2, 2009 ( – The 53rd UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was held in New York March 2-13 and representatives from pro-family/ pro-life NGOs, including Canada’s Campaign Life Coalition, were present to distribute information to delegations and monitor the negotiations of the "Agreed Upon Conclusion," the outcome document of this annual commission, which this year examined the theme of AIDS/HIV.

Anticipation had been building up and the pro-family/ pro-life forces were gearing up for battle following the election of Barack Obama last fall. Beth Brooke, global vice-chair of public policy, sustainability and stakeholder engagement at Ernst & Young, as well as a member of the U.S. delegation, spoke to a pro-life NGO representative and explained that the American delegation was still awaiting instructions from Washington.

Although Obama has appointed some figureheads in his administration, including well-known pro-aborts Susan Rice as the new U.S. ambassador to the UN and Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, many deputies and high-level diplomats have yet to be appointed by the State Department.

During this year’s CSW, the U.S. delegation decided on its own to revert to positions from the Bill Clinton era, rather than maintain the positions from the Bush administration, until the chain of command is established and they are advised otherwise. In spite of the lack of instructions to the U.S. mission, it was expected that the U.S. would align itself with Canada, the European Union and other countries pushing for the creation of an international "right" to abortion.

A pro-life/pro-family observer reported that during the closed negotiations, the Canadian delegation opposed a suggestion by Iran and Qatar to incorporate language that would emphasize respect for the sovereignty of nations and for their cultural heritages. The two Persian Gulf countries suggested the addition of the words "with full respect for the various religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds of each country’s people" to an article that spoke of "the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men."

It is unclear whether the Canadian delegation is acting on the direction of the Conservative government or whether the Harper Conservatives are closely following what is happening at the UN. One observer at the UN noted that there has been little change in the activities and worldview of the Canadian delegation since the Conservatives took power in Ottawa in 2006. During the long reign of Canada’s previous Liberal government, Canadian delegations were often lead players in anti-family, anti-life initiatives at the UN. This still appears to be the case.

Unsurprisingly, the U.S and the European Union countries also opposed this pro-sovereignty language.

Along with the E.U., Brazil and a few others, the Canadian delegation worked to incorporate language about sexual and "reproductive" rights in the Agreed Upon Conclusions. Historically, "sexual and reproductive rights" has been interpreted as including abortion.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation hosted a side event during the first week of the CSW. In an opening statement, Swedish Ambassador Lennarth Hjelmaker stated that women should "decide over their own body, sexuality and reproduction." Hakon A. Gulbrandsen, state secretary of Norway, declared that the "IPPF was the single most important partner of Norway." Pro-abortion forces made a concerted effort to tie the HIV/AIDS pandemic to other "sexual and reproductive rights," which would divert funds from treatment of HIV/AIDS and reallocate it to the promotion of abortion and family planning.

Other noteworthy events included a demonstration against the Harper government by Canadian feminist NGOs. NDP MP Nikki Ashton joined the crowd of about 30 protesters.

The pro-family/pro-life coalition was successful in keeping negative language out of the Agreed Upon Conclusions. Many members of the coalition worked double shifts and overnight during the meetings, encouraging and materially supporting friendly delegations, while demonstrating to the opposition that they are ready to push back, even if they no longer have the support of the U.S. delegation.

This article has been republished with permission from the April, 2009 edition of The Interim newspaper.