Did we win or lose in Cairo?
To answer this question, one has to make a full study of the Final Draft Document, delving into the language that the Conference agreed upon, the intensive behind-the-scenes negotiations, and all the confused media coverage.
At the outset, I must caution that I did not have day-to-day access to the Governments’ side of the Conference. I could have followed the goings and comings on that central scene as a passive observer from the public gallery. I felt, however, that the best contribution I could make was to see to it that as many government delegates and media professionals as possible would receive the very revealing documentation the pro-life delegation possessed on the dubious background of the activities of the United Nations in the field of population.
Part of that documentation was a study of Henry Kissinger’s secret memorandum NSSM 200 dated December 10, 1974 and entitled: “Implications of Worldwide Population Control for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests.” (This decision proved to be a sound one, as all the delegates we talked to and lobbied “one on one,” most of them Africans and Latin Americans, were completely unaware of the U.S. Government’s hidden blueprint to “abort” their continents in order to maintain their economic and strategic supremacy in the world.)
My experience was drawn from the frequent exchanges with other pro-life NGOs or government delegates known to be pro-life. It is based also on a compilation of newspaper articles and a great number of press briefings organized by the two principal protagonists (the U.S. and the Vatican) throughout the session. Following then is a review of the main issues in Cairo.
Women’s right to abortion. The original Document was put together by the feminists in the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) working in close liaison with their allies and former employees in the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA, whose Secretary-General, Dr. Nafis Sadik, is herself a former IPPF official.) The Document affirmed the existence of “reproductive rights”; the right to control one’s “own body” and one’s “own fertility”; the right to “safe motherhood” and the right to “sex equality,” which, according to Mrs. Brundtland, the Prime Minister of Norway, can only be achieved by allowing women to abort their children should they choose o do so.
The compromise arrived at after a full week of intense discussions in the Main Committee and on the initiative of the Delegation of the European Community, states that: “In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning.” This represented a ‘major victory,’ said the Vatican Delegation which had been missing (by obvious design) from the Cairo proposals. Such reinstatement, said Archbishop Renato Martino, the Head of the Vatican Delegation, produced a clearer sense that the Cairo “Program of Action” was not meant to call for a new internationally recognized right to abortion – and full note was being taken of that, he said.
The positive gain, however, has to be balanced against other expressions in the Final Document that seem to present “safe abortion where it is not against the law” as an acceptable element in population policies and even in primary health care. According to the same Vatican statement, this was “the most dangerous outcome of the Conference.”
In the last session, Martino reiterated with force that “together with so many people around the world, the Holy See affirms that human life begins at the moment of conception: that life must be defended and protected.”
Martino’s statement was greeted with warm applause by a good number of Government Delegates on the floor and the pro-lifers present in the gallery. The retention of “safe abortion” as part of the European compromise led the Vatican and a number of Catholic and Muslim countries (Argentina, Nicaragua, Guatemala, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, etc., some twenty delegations altogether) to read strongly-worded reservations into the verbatim records of the conference for transmission to the General Assembly of the UN.
Sexual rights. This “concept” was eliminated at the urging of the Vatican which assailed it as “vague and unprecedented”…in any culture, (except in our own decadent Western one.) The removal of “sexual rights” was not, however, conceded as a Vatican victory by the pro-abortion Chairman of the Main Committee, Nicholas Biegman of the Netherlands. He said: “The World needs time for new concepts to filter through…I think this conference has helped bring this about…the world must move as a whole in the area of sexual rights. The basic approach of sexual rights has been maintained.”
Other unions. This expression was dropped, also at the urging of the Vatican, who were vigorously supported in this by a number of Islamic States. The rejection was based on the grounds that it undermines the value of marriage…and marriage, of course, was to be understood as being a permanent union between two persons of the opposite sex.
Family planning. This concept was retained, including the implied reference to contraceptive birth control. The Vatican registered its strong disagreement with this surviving feature, as being morally wrong. It also refused to endorse an “expanded distribution of condoms” in AIDS-prevention programs, on the grounds that such wording could be interpreted as accepting extra-marital sexual activity, especially among adolescents.
Reproductive health services. “Pregnancy termination” was removed as one of the listed services. The Document still recommends information for adolescents on family planning, but the term “including contraceptive services” was eliminated and the role of parents was stressed in guiding the sexual behaviour of their children, a principle the Vatican had actively defended.
Coercive implementation of the final Document: This was another front where the birth-controllers of the UN and the US had to draw back for sheer survival. In the words of the Holy See’s statement, “the Document is (now) notable for its affirmations against all forms of coercion in population policies.”
The Cairo statement is nothing more than a political document. The many negotiating forces present at the conference decided to find out just how far the international community would be prepared to go to control the expanding population of the world. The “all-out” birth-controllers have certainly left convinced that there are limits to their capacity to impose their agenda on the rest of the world. These limits have been clearly and vigorously defined, thanks to the heroic stand taken by Pope John Paul both before and during the conference in Cairo.
Because the Document is political it is therefore imperfect. “Darnel and good seed” (Mt. 31:24-30) are blended in this Document and as Martino gave us to understand, he would accept the good seed and reject the darnel through the technique of reservations.
Martino approved the Document’s recognition of the necessity of extending the “protection and support required by the basic unit of society, the family founded on marriage.” He approved women’s advancement and the improvement of women’s status, through education and better health care services and he also approved the greater respect evinced throughout for the religious and cultural beliefs of persons and communities.”
But he rejected abortion, extra-marital sexual activity (especially among adolescents), and contraception. It was therefore, he said, only in an incomplete or partial manner that he could associate himself with the consensus, and in order to be perfectly understood by the conference, the media and the whole world, he repeated at the end that “nothing that the Holy See has done in this consensus process should be understood or interpreted as an endorsement of concepts it cannot support for moral reasons. Especially nothing is to be understood to imply that the Holy See endorses abortion or has in any way changed its moral position concerning abortion or on contraceptives or sterilization nor on the use of condoms in HIV/AIDS prevention programmes.”
To the servants in Jesus’ parable who asked whether “you want us to go and weed out (your field),” the master replied: “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”
I came away from Cairo convinced that harvest time is near at hand. Never has the world heard that equality may entail giving women the facility of killing their children; that “safe abortion” is good in itself and that we have the right to live the sexual life of our choice, no matter the consequences on others. All of this from a public forum, whose messages were resounding around the planet.
How much is left to be traveled down the road of perversity, that leads into Hell? Let us leave such questioning in the Hands of our merciful God. And let us also give thanks to Him for having made it possible for His heroic servant, Pope John Paul II, unswervingly to stand up for the Truth, for the innocent unborn child and for the poor countries of this world in full obedience to the eternal wisdom of His Son.
Seven steps to success
- Anyone planning to attend the UN-sponsored Copenhagen and Beijing conferences on Women in 1995 should start preparing immediately in the following ways:
- Gather information about registration
- Find out how the meetings will be organized and run
- Arrange funding
- Select the support material, documentation, handouts, for use at the conferences.
The Beijing Conference is seen as the culminating point in the women’s movement. The Women’s Caucus will attempt to introduce there what they didn’t get in Cairo.
- The negative effects of contraceptives on women’s and men’s health should be widely publicized. Include the abortifacient effects of contraceptives such as the pill and IUD. Information about Natural Family Planning must be produced and widely distributed. Most people are not aware of NFP and its high reliability.
- Maintain ties with pro-life contacts around the world.
- Brush up on your French. It is the second most spoken language at international conferences. It is especially useful when speaking with African delegates.
- It is imperative to continue the pro-life work at the local level, but it is imperative to win the battle at the international level. If pro-lifers had not been present at Cairo, the full programme of action would have been approved. The lobbying by pro-lifers was instrumental in aiding the pro-life government delegations in opposing some of the worst aspects of Cairo.
- Steps must be taken to stop the tying of foreign aid to the implementation of population control policies in Third World countries especially.
- We must go to Third World countries and build coalitions if we are to have influence with them.