Tony Gosgnach
The Interim

The alleged importance of “sexual and reproductive health” and “gender equality” to the alleviation of world poverty was a point constantly hammered home like a mantra when the release of the annual State of the World Population Report by the United Nations Fund for Population was heralded at a press conference in Toronto Oct. 12.

Paddy Torsney, parliamentary secretary to the minister of international co-operation, Yves Bergevin, a Canadian and the UNFPA’s senior program adviser for its Africa division, and Katherine McDonald, executive director of the non-governmental organization Action Canada for Population and Development, served as speakers. They returned to the theme again and again during their addresses, in which they extolled the UNFPA report entitled, “The Promise of Equality: Gender Equity, Reproductive Health and the Millennium Development Goals.”

On the theme of “gender equality,” the report claimed that, “Discrimination effectively squanders human capital by denying one-half of humanity the right to realize their full potential.” It harkened back to the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt, where a goal of “universal access to reproductive health services” was sought by the year 2015.

Torsney (incidentally, a Catholic) spoke on behalf of Minister of International Co-Operation Aileen Carroll (incidentally, another Catholic) in praising the federal government’s liaison with the pro-abortion and pro-population control group Action Canada for Population and Development.

“Canada has long supported, and spoken out about, the right of people everywhere to make informed choices about their own sexual and reproductive health,” said Torsney. “That means, among other things, helping women, men and adolescents plan their families.”

She added that Canada continues to provide core funding for the UNFPA every year and stepped up to the plate with more contributions – totalling a stunning $100 million in 2002 – when the U.S. yanked its support over China’s coercive one-child policy. “I think that investment is something all Canadians can be proud of,” Torsney said, adding that it “should spur further success.”

Bergevin also asserted “gender equality” and “women’s health” figure prominently in the work of the Canadian government through the Canadian International Development Agency. Interestingly, he attacked the notion that the UNFPA in involved with the provision of abortion.

“The UNFPA does not support abortion programs … The UNFPA, by providing services for ‘family planning,’ in fact contributes importantly to decreasing the recourse to abortion … Reduced funding to UNFPA means increased recourse to abortion … It’s hard to understand the logic,” he said.

However, an article written by the ACPD’s McDonald implied that abortion is, in fact, a plank in the general “reproductive health” agenda. In her piece, “Human Rights Trump ‘Moral Values,’” McDonald opined that human rights include “the right to a safe and satisfying sex life, where sexual pleasure is a key component.” Many opponents of such “rights,” complained McDonald, argue that “conservative positions on sexuality and, specifically, views on abortion and sexual orientation should be imposed on others.”

During her press conference address, McDonald gushed over the federal government’s apparent willingness to provide anything it was asked for in the realm of “reproductive health,” then spoke frankly about obstacles to her organization’s agendas.

“There’s a gag on sex workers’ (prostitutes’) rights, which is extremely important for NGOs to be in support of sex workers’ rights and protections … Ideology is taking over the negotiating system. I can say this because I’m an NGO and don’t quite possibly have to be as polite as our parliamentary secretary would have to be … We’re standing, holding a line against a (U.S.) government which is against women’s rights, and particularly, sexual and reproductive rights.”

“This is another example of how radical feminist NGOs are perverting UN language to pressure developing countries to legalize abortion,” explained Campaign Life Coalition international affairs officer Samantha Singson.  “Abortion has never been established as a right under ‘reproductive health services’ in any UN document.”

The UNFPA has been accused of complicity in China’s oppressive one-child-per-family policy, which has been reported to include various forms of coercion, including forced abortion. The late Pope John Paul II noted that, in the rush to secure “rights” for all, children should not be regarded as “a burden or inconvenience, but should be cherished as bearers of hope and signs of promise for the future.”

He also expressed wishes that the push for “gender equality” should not be a quest for “sameness with men.” That would only impoverish women and all society, he said, “by deforming them or losing the unique richness and the inherent value of femininity.” In related developments, Mark Malloch Brown, the chief of staff to UN Secretary-

General Kofi Annan flatly told U.S. congressman Chris Smith during a public briefing Sept. 28 that the term “reproductive health” is not interpreted by the UN as including abortion. Smith later said the assurance means that all parties can move forward to provide true reproductive health, which helps women and unborn children.

Elsewhere, the Population Research Institute attacked the UN for being more devoted to money, ideology and its “love affair with condoms” than to saving lives in Africa in the midst of the current AIDS crisis there. “The UN’s approach has failed and it’s own statistics show it,” Joseph A. D’Agostino, PRI’s vice-president for communications, wrote in the organization’s Oct. 13 Weekly Briefing. “HIV rates keep rising, to over 30 per cent in some countries. Two decades of pornographic sex education and massive shipments of condoms have sent millions of Africans to an early grave. But who on the left cares about the facts?”