Special to The Interim

As the 50th session of the Commission on the Status of Women met for its closing ceremony March 10, delegates were uncertain whether a set of agreed conclusions would be adopted. Negotiations went down to the wire, as delegates struggled to come to a consensus on the contentious health section of the draft text.

The original draft of the agreed conclusions’ section on women’s health focused almost solely on “sexual and reproductive health services and rights.” As C-FAM’s Friday Fax has reported in the past, pro-abortion advocates have tried to establish a so-called international human right to abortion on demand using this terminology.

The European Union, joined by Turkey, Canada (under its new Conservative government elected in January), New Zealand and Norway, fought to keep the focus on sexual and reproductive health by referencing the reported 500,000 maternal deaths every year.

As negotiations wore on, many states expressed mounting frustration at the narrow focus on the sexual and reproductive health of women. Costa Rica, Egypt, the United States, Pakistan, El Salvador, Nigeria, Syria and Sudan were among those countries calling for the commission to address women’s health in a more comprehensive way, bearing in mind the myriad of health concerns faced by women throughout the courses of their lives. Much to the consternation of delegates, the draft agreed conclusions contained no references to the top causes of death of women in the developing world; namely, malaria and tuberculosis.

The NGO pro-life and pro-family coalition presented statistics on the major causes of death of women and girls that were released by the World Health Organization in 2002’s World Health Report. The report attributed only 1.9 per cent of women’s deaths to maternal conditions. As stated in a fact sheet distributed to UN delegates by members of the pro-life and pro-family coalition, fully 89 per cent of deaths of women and girls are attributable to causes unrelated to sexual and reproductive health.

The fact sheet caused an immediate stir among negotiators, forcing states to begin discussions on the other health care needs of women. At the end of the conference, consensus was finally reached on the agreed conclusions and the resulting health paragraph looked nothing like the original draft. In the end, reproductive health language was largely muted in the document, while a broader understanding of the health needs of women was included.

This article originally appeared as a C-FAM Friday Fax and on LifeSiteNews.com on March 17. It is reprinted with permission.