Population conference says 10-year-olds have right to contraception and ‘safe’ abortions

Between June 30 and July 2, a special session of the General Assembly of the United Nations reviewed the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development.

Planners of Cairo+5, including the pro-abortion United Nations Population Fund and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, sought to expand abortion rights and contraception access, as well as promote sexual freedom and “reproductive rights” for adolescents. In many ways, they succeeded in their agenda, but as Austin Ruse, director of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute in New York, told The Interim, “It’s not as bad as it could have been.”

Jeanne Head, the UN representative for the International Right to Life Federation, told The Interim that the original intent of Cairo “was eroded by the West, although not fatally so.” She said pro-life developing countries, mostly Catholic countries in Latin America and Islamic countries in North Africa and the Middle East, joined the Vatican in a successful fight to retain language in the final resolution that recognized the rights of parents and opposed the declaration of abortion as a universal human right.

Measures to promote “emergency contraception” (the abortifacient “morning-after” pill) were also defeated. The conference did support the idea of the sexual and reproductive “rights” of adolescents, however, and encouraged countries that permit abortion to guarantee “safe” access. The conference also aggressively promoted contraception.

The original 1994 Cairo conference clearly did not recognize abortion as a right, so the UNFPA and IPPF attempted to use the Cairo+5 process (the special session and six months of preparatory meetings) to promote their agenda. As American civil rights lawyer Kathryn Balmforth noted, the aggressive push to make abortion more accessible is a “180-degree turn from the Cairo Program of Action, which was meant to try and limit the use of abortion.”

An effort by Western nations to have abortion labelled a human right was defeated. In fact, Ruse said that “there were no strides toward making abortion a universal human right. There was nothing near that in the final document.”

In an article for Right to Life News, the IRLF’s Jeanne Head explained that the mandate of the review did not include re-negotiation of the Program of Action. However, the West “did not hesitate to attempt to reinterpret the document to advance their deadly agenda.”

Cairo “focused on decreasing ‘the need for abortion,’ not increasing access,” she argued. Increasing access was indeed at the top of the agenda this time around.

At the last minute, Brazil was successful in including a new paragraph on abortion that said “where abortion is not against the law, health systems should train and equip health service providers and should take other measures to ensure that abortion is safe and accessible.” Pro-lifers are worried that this could be construed to expand abortion services in countries that allow abortion, and pressure governments that don’t already do so to pay for abortion.

Ruse said that about 90 per cent of all counties in the U.S., for example, do not have abortion services. Pro-lifers fear pro-abortion groups might use the new paragraph to pressure the U.S. government to make abortion accessible in all counties.

Jeanne Head says this paragraph contains “the most dangerous language” in the document and that it “clearly goes beyond Cairo.” The very fact that “accessible” is not defined means pro-abortion groups will use the document to expand abortion where it is now legal.

Abortion was not the only issue at stake. Ruse said Western countries wanted complete adolescent “sexual and reproductive freedom,” and that the U.S. fought to remove any reference to parental rights. The World Health Organization considers a ten-year old child to be an adolescent, so parental rights would be vitally important in balancing any rights granted to adolescents. The final document contains just one reference to the rights of parents.

The original Cairo conference sought only “guidance” for adolescents, but now countries are urged to “safeguard the rights of adolescents” for the panoply of sexual and reproductive rights adults have.

Gilles Grondin, president of Campagne Québec-Vie, told The Interim that the UN is actively pushing contraception on children as young as 10 years of age. The document calls for sex and reproductive “education” at all levels of schooling.

Pro-lifers were expecting a difficult three days at the UN because the conference was largely orchestrated and attended by pro-abortion representatives, most prominently from the UNPFA and IPPF. The job of pro-lifers in such situations, as both Ruse and Grondin explained, is made more difficult by the fact that the West ties foreign aid to developing nations to family planning policies. So far, most pro-life success has come by convincing previously silent, pro-life delegates from developing nations to speak out against the West’s deadly agenda.

Another difficulty was the chairmanship of Anwarul Chowdhury of Bangladesh, who was criticized for pro-abortion bias in the prepcom meetings in March. According to Head, during the March prepcom meetings he didn’t allow pro-life NGOs to speak, and he tolerated ridicule of pro-life delegates. At the special session, he disallowed consideration of conscience protection for health care workers.

American lawyer Balmforth criticized Chowdhury’s decision, noting that conscience clauses are a part of several human rights treaties and are recognized in law in many countries.

Ruse explained that although the document has no real legal force because it is a non-binding resolution, it is still dangerous because it gives further weight and momentum to the leftist policies of the UN and its favoured lobby groups. “It can creep into international law,” he said, or be used in domestic debates to legitimize anti-life, anti-family initiatives.

Grondin said that these conferences are all a part of a Western agenda to reduce the developing world’s population in order to retain global hegemony. As a Campaign Life Coalition lobbyist at the United Nations, Grondin informs delegates from the developing world about the infamous Kissinger memo NSSM 200 which spells out “The Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests.”

He also educates them about the real meaning of the document’s coded language, which often hides the UNPFA’s and IPPF’s anti-life agenda.