A pro-life coalition of 23 nations led by Nicaragua objected to the adoption of “sexual and reproductive health services” among the human rights enlisted in a United Nations document on the rights of the disabled. The coalition even made pro-life gains during deliberations at the first convention on the rights of persons with disabilities in August.

Pro-life delegates objected to the inclusion of “reproductive health” in the new International Treaty on Disabilities, since the language – undefined by the UN – has often been used by radical feminists and the abortion lobby to push an anti-life and anti-family agenda. It is feared that the pro-abortion movement will use it to overturn the laws of pro-life nations, since the treaty will be binding law on ratifying nations.

The resilience of the pro-life coalition forced the liberal International Disabilities Caucus, a powerful disabilities lobby, to admit defeat and call for the expurgation of such purported rights to “experience … sexuality” and to “sexual and reproductive health services.” However, the conference chair, New Zealand’s ambassador McKay, adamantly refused to give way, employing his staff to maintain relentless pressure on the coalition to give in to the undefined language.

Approval of the convention’s document, to be considered this fall by the General Assembly, was delayed by the insistence that the document ensure provision of “sexual and reproductive health services.”

Twenty-three nations objected to the inclusion of the phrase “sexual and reproductive health services.” Even the International Disabilities Caucus agreed to the deletion of that phrase, in the hopes of moving the deliberations beyond the impasse. However, Canada, along with Europe, insisted on the inclusion of the abortion-promoting language.
Due to this opposition, during the course of the debate, numerous delegates and the chair stated that the term does not include abortion and no delegate implied that it did.

In order to help avoid misinterpretation, the U.S. made the following statement at the time of adoption of the convention by the ad hoc committee for the convention: “The U.S. understands that the phrase ‘reproductive health’ does not include abortion, and its use in paragraph 25 (a) does not create any abortion rights and cannot be interpreted to constitute support, endorsement or promotion of abortion.”

Pro-life forces gained another important victory when the UN convention successfully adopted “dignity and worth” of the person into the treaty’s preamble. The Holy See and Uganda led the initiative to include the term after having discovered that “dignity,” without mention of “worth,” appeared alone in the draft, an omission apparently meant to tacitly support the “death with dignity” euthanasia movement.

Other positive aspects of the final document included language reaffirming the inherent right to life of every human being and the calling for states to take all necessary measures to ensure that right for persons with disabilities language – which is part of the Charter of the UN and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which reaffirms the “worth” as well as the dignity of persons with disability – was restored. Also included was language protecting persons with disability from denial of food and fluids and health care on the basis of their disability;  and language affirming the importance of the family, particularly for persons with disability, and its need for protection and assistance. Language detrimental to marriage and the family was deleted – the phrase “including sexual and reproductive health services” was deleted and replaced by health care and programs “in the area of sexual and reproductive health.” This last statement received partial qualification, which tempered the problems inherent in the language.

In a move that left observers shocked, the European Union, through the  Finland delegation, objected to referencing the family as the “fundamental group of society,” a phrase firmly supported by nations in UN treaties ever since the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, 11 Muslim states, including Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, Syria and Qatar, led the charge for the pro-family language, maintaining the family is the “natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members.”

Finland also opposed an initiative led by Qatar to ensure the disabled have a right to lifesaving medical treatment, food and fluid.

Unfortunately, the Canadian delegation is on-side with the EU in promoting sexual rights and opposing pro-family and pro-life language. While pro-life Canadians did not expect that the new Conservative government would be pro-life, it did have hopes that the radical promotion of a global right to abortion by Canadian delegates at the UN would cease.

Such radicalism has seen several important United Nations documents held up by Canada’s insistence that a right to abortion be included in the wording, a position that is intolerable to numerous Muslim and developing countries in Africa and Latin America.