With the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development on hand for September 1994, The Interim provides a background on past United Nations population conferences and documents how the resolutions for this year’s conference were formed. Karen Murawsky works for the Campaign Life Coalition and attended the 1984 Mexico conference as a pro-life observer.

1974 – The World Population Conference in Bucharest, … “affirmed that all couples and individuals have the right and should have the means to determine the number and spacing of their children.” Pro-life people from Canada and elsewhere, attended Bucharest, and foresaw the danger inherent in this statement. They predicted a worldwide, United Nations based promotion of abortion as the solution to population growth. From Bucharest, evolved a World Population Plan of Action which was further developed in Mexico in 1984.

1984 – The United Nations International Conference on Population held in Mexico City, was attended by 3,000 delegates with 149 countries represented. It was intended to promote the Plan of Action, which included abortions and sterilization, but was blunted by the then US policy on abortion. This policy stated that the United Stated would not allow funds to be contributed to nations which would used them to support abortion; that the US would not contribute to non-governmental organizations which performed or promoted abortion as a means of family planning; and that the US would not contribute to UNPFA (United Nations Fund for Populations Activities) unless it received assurances that UNFPA was not engaged in or did not fund abortion or coercive family planning.

That policy was especially aimed at the coercive methods used to implement the “one child” policy in China, and was thereafter known as The Mexico City Policy. It caused the withholding of many millions of dollars from population programs. The announcement of the US policy led to consensus on Recommendation #18 of the conference, which urged all governments to take appropriate steps to help women avoid abortion, which in no case should be promoted as a method of family planning. This involved much discussion and debate with over 50 delegates speaking to the amendment, originally proposed by the Holy See, but eventually unanimous agreement was reached.

Pro-lifer representatives were in Mexico City to persuade delegates that abortion as a method of family planning was not in their interest, and to support pro-life delegates. It was there that the newly founded International Right to Life had its first co-operative venture and disturbed a Press Kit to all delegates. The kit concluded that, “We must and will find better ways to solve population problems than those offered by the narrow factionalism that has dominated this conference,” and hoped that, “…the next world conference on population will show a much greater range of alternatives and creativity.” That hope appears unlikely to be borne out in Cairo in 1994.

1994 – The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) is expected to draw 17- 20, 000 participants from 170 countries to Cairo from September 5 to 13, 1994. The Draft Programme of Action promotes, “…reproductive rights for all people (as) the fundamental basis for government supported policies and programmes in the area of reproductive health and family planning.” The stated aim is, “…that all pregnancies are wanted pregnancies and all children are wanted children.” To achieve this, it would be required for all governments to remove “…unnecessary legal, medical, clinical and regulatory barriers to information and access to family planning methods, retraining only those necessary to ensure informed choice and a high quality of services” and to remove, “…legal and regulatory barriers to adolescents’ access to these services.” Acceptance of this Document would commit the world community to the Conference goals.

This Draft Document was conceived after a number of worldwide preparatory conferences and committee meetings beginning in 1991, and culminating with Preparatory Committee III (PrepCom III) at the UN Headquarters, New York City, in April 1994.

In 1993, the Clinton Administration reserved The Mexico City Policy, and the US delegation is now fully supportive of the 1994 Draft Programme of Action. Once a powerful pro-life ally, the US now sits on the other side of the fence.

Opposition to this Draft was voiced at PrepCom III, particularly from Rome. The Vatican, more correctly, the Holy See, which has observer status, strongly objected to the Draft Programme, because it promotes abortion as an accepted part of “reproductive health car,” and included it in the term “reproductive rights.” The Holy See further questioned UN statistics, which claimed 50 million illegal abortions take place every year.

Pope John Paul II has made his strong objections to the Draft Programme, and has sent a letter to world heads of state in this regard. Consequently, the president of Argentina has asked Latin American leaders to oppose the Document which, “…goes against the basic vales of most Latin America’s people,” especially the right to life. Six Roman Catholic Cardinals and the President of the US National Conference of Catholic Bishops have written, and released to the press, a letter to President Clinton protesting US support of the Draft, specifically the inclusion of abortion on demand, and the perception that economic aid to developing countries could be tied to their acceptance of abortions as a means of population control.

In Mat 1994, the Canadian International Development Agency sponsored a presentation in Ottawa called “The Challenge of Population and Development.” There Dr. Nafis Sadik, executive director of UNFPA, explained that, “very few delegations to PrepCom III insisted that certain terms in the Draft be placed in brackets.” (To be “placed in brackets” means that further and final debate on these terms will occur in Cairo because there was no consensus reached on their definition.)

Sadik said, “Definitions will be resolved in Cairo. The informal discussions are over.” These troublesome definitions, of course, deal with abortion. When asked if she foresaw any, “spoilers at the conference, such as The Vatican,” she reminded everyone that this was a government conference, and the countries (even though they may be Catholic) have no problem, except for abortion on demand. Dr. Sadik further remarked that, “All the brackets are because ‘reproductive health’ could lead to abortion on demand,” and that, “PrepCom III used the World Health Organization definition of reproductive health; that ‘fertility regulation’ included abstinence, contraception and abortion.”

A further forum held in Ottawa in June, 1994 was the “Population Activities 1974-1994: Canadian Perspectives.” The forum featured Margaret Catley-Carlson and Lorna Marsden.

Catley-Carlson, formerly Canada’s Deputy Minister of National Health and Welfare and formerly President of CIDA, is now President of The Population Council in New York. She listed three causes of population growth: unwanted fertility, high desired family size and population momentum. In a fairly reasoned approach, she outlined ways to deal with these issues, stressing the education of girls, and completely avoiding the apportion matter.

Former Canadian Senator and leader of the 1984 pro-abortion Canadian Delegation in Mexico City, Lorna Marsden, was asked for her impressions of that “most difficult conference.” Her response was that US president Ronald Regan has “reduced the muscle” of Mexico City. She warned that those opposed to abortion would, “try to make is feel guilty” about getting birth control to people. When questioned about the rise of religious fundamentalism, Marsden said that, “1984 was fundamentalism in action” but that most of the world pays no attention to those narrow views. We (Cairo 1994) should, “Just get on with it, pay no attention, this won’t delay us for one second!”

She relegated any opposition to Cairo conference to the Roman Catholic Church, with no concern for populations of whole countries that might object to the imposition of abortion.

Margaret Catley-Carlson later commented on the valuable work of the Roam Catholic Church in development, and the difficulty of keeping the Church “on side” while going ahead with the Draft Programme. She would wish to put contraceptives on the Essential Drugs List and combine family planning with the immunization programmes.

Why should Canadian pro-lifers even bother to attend Cairo? Canada’s current assistance lever in the population field is approximately $33.7 million. The US is close to $350 million, but our contribution still makes us a major world donor. The activities on UNFPA at Cairo will attempt to bring Canada, and all developed nations to a position of openly advocating abortion as a means of population control.

The pro-life movement can never support this and there is always the small chance that in out usual, uphill, fight-the-bureaucracy manner, we can make a difference in Cairo.

We should be able to delay things “for more than a second.”