Some of the Catholic women who attended the “Prelude to Nairobi” conference recently (see article by Nancy Pearcey elsewhere in The Interim) are highly critical of the way in which conference organizers, some of whom are Catholic, handled the abortion issue.


Guest speaker, Elizabeth Parker (head of the prevention program at Toronto’s Department of Health and a board member of Planned Parenthood) spoke in favour of women’s ”health clinics” which would include family planning and abortion services and abortion services. Ms. Parker complained that many women had to travel outside their communities to obtain an abortion under the present hospital-based system.


Conference sponsors included the Catholic Women’s League of Toronto (CWL), B’nai Birth Women of Canada, Canadian Council of Christians and Jews and the Women’s Interchurch Council of Canada. The conference’s theme was women’s health, education and employment.


Some of the speakers stressed their concern for women in the third world who do not have the kind of equality enjoyed by Western women. However, no mention was made that it is third world women who are used as “guinea pigs” for Western drug companies testing their latest contraceptive, nor the large numbers of women forced to abort their children and submit to sterilization.


Following the major speeches, the approximately 180 women attending the conference split up into groups of ten women to participate in round-table discussions on the ideas presented.     


One woman, a CWL member, wished to voice her objection to the pro-abortion position promoted by Ms. Parker. She was told by a conference committee member (herself a CWL member) who was the “facilitator” at that particular table, that the sponsoring organizations had agreed beforehand that abortion would not be a topic for discussion. The “facilitator” also said that Ms. Parker was not supposed to bring up the subject in her presentation.


To close the conference, the ideas discussed in the smaller groups were summarized and presented to the conference at large. No mention was made in the summary that, at one table at least, concern had been expressed over the pro-abortion presentation of one speaker. Indeed, approval was given to the concept of women’s health clinics, specializing in “family planning.” There was no qualification given that family planning does not include abortion.           


Catholic women present at the conference are extremely concerned that their women’s organizations would be seen publicly supporting a pro-abortion position. This concern does not seem to be shared by the CWL executive members who took an active parting organizing this conference.