Pro-life groups are sounding the alarm that the United Nations is, in the words of Campaign Life Coalition’s global policy and research coordinator Emily Price, who was present at the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women, “being dishonest and making a complete mockery of national sovereignty and the legitimate process of consensus-building.”
At the beginning of the commission, a draft document contained 189 references to “gender,” 56 references to “sex”/“sexual” and 27 references to “reproductive” health/rights, etc., which many countries found problematic. Those with pro-life inclinations, to varying degrees, attempted to remove such language, which can be used to advocate for abortion and comprehensive sex education domestically.
Midway through the second week of negotiations, however, Campaign Life Coalition was already warning that, “this year’s negotiation process, as well as the document itself, are both very concerning.” The Kenyan ambassador facilitating the negotiations, Koki Muli Grignon, reportedly disregarded requests that abortion and gender ideology-related provisions be deleted. Strong affirmation of the traditional family was left out and a paragraph on respecting national sovereignty and religious and cultural values was cut despite support from the African voting bloc and many other member states.
As the Commission came to a close, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia stated they would withhold consensus, which is needed for any resolution document, because of the unfairness of the negotiation process, and even bullying (which was alleged from both sides). They specifically cited the “multiple references to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights,” the “promotion of sexual rights and related issues that have never garnered consensus,” the “refusal to recognize parental rights’ language” and “the family as the natural and fundamental group unit of society,” the “failure to fully reflect the role of the family in protecting women and girls,” the “promotion of sexuality education for children,” the “focus on ambiguous terms such as multiple and intersecting discrimination,” and the “lack of language on national sovereignty.” Guatemala also noted its opposition to the paragraph on sexual and reproductive health and rights, due to its belief in the value of human life from the moment of conception.
The Irish commission chair, Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, immediately proposed the adoption of the “agreed conclusions,” paused, professed that she heard no objections, immediately gavelled, and declared the adoption as having been decided upon. When Bahrain and Saudi Arabia subsequently raised points of order, Nason said that there were no objections or requests for a vote when she asked, disregarding the fact that there was a lack of translators and Bahrain and Saudi Arabia had clearly objected to the adoption of the agreed conclusions prior to Nason’s request that they be adopted. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia both plan to make formal complaints to the Commission on the Status of Women and the Economic and Social Council.
There was a number of positive reviews of the agreed conclusions from various countries like Mexico and Tunisia, but others countries, like China and Iran, while they did not formally reject the adoption of the document, still asserted their national sovereignty and the primacy of their laws over anything in the adopted text. A delegate from Comoros read a joint statement signed by 18 member states, mainly African and Arab countries, but also Russia, articulating their concerns with the negotiations process, especially in respect to discussions about the family, and asking for clarification about Saudi Arabia’s and Bahrain’s objections, saying that “our understanding of agreed conclusions is that they are agreed by all.” Nigeria, Brazil, and the United States indicated their preferences against “sexual and reproductive health” and for stronger language on family. On the other hand, Nason, in her closing remarks, said that she would have liked a greater inclusion of sexual and reproductive health.
UN Women mentioned nothing of the dissent in their press release, proclaiming, “After two weeks of intense dialogue, the 63rd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) concluded today in New York with a strong commitment by UN Member States to safeguard and improve women’s and girls’ access to social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure, ensuring that their design and delivery is transformed to prevent discrimination and create a ‘level playing field’ for women and girls.”
The reaction from pro-life and pro-family representatives was harsh and swift. Austin Ruse, president of the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), called the Commission “extra dirty this year,” the reason being, “the left simply cannot gain genuine consensus when such controversial topics as abortion and homosexuality are included.”
Sharon Slater, president of Family Watch International wrote: “The outrageous, deceptive tactics and methods used this past week both at UN headquarters in New York and at the UN Human Rights Council are beyond compare.” She predicted, “The radicals have finally gone too far, and they are going to regret what they did at CSW this year as the backlash is going to be strong.”
CLC’s Emily Price told The Interim, “I hope this debacle will be a wake-up call for the international community to see just how far pro-abortion officials are willing to go to push their agendas, including trampling on free speech, national sovereignty, and authentic democratic process. If the UN is ever going to be able to create a ‘level playing field’ for women and girls, it may want to first consider the mountainous playing field of its own.”