There was much enthusiasm at the beginning of the UN’s 52nd Commission of the Status of Women held in New York Feb. 25 -March 7. An important annual meeting, the CSW is a central concern for the members of the pro-life/pro-family UN coalition. The coalition is composed of non-governmental organizations from around the world, including Campaign Life Coalition, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, United Families International, the Society for the Protection of the Unborn and REAL Women of Canada to name a few.

Every year, the UN is flooded with delegates and NGO representatives from all over the world. Everyone is trying to get a say in what will be incorporated in the agreed-upon conclusions document negotiated mainly throughout the second week of the event. The choice of language incorporated in UN documents is always a concern for pro-lifers, who consistently battle to ensure that pro-abortion, anti-life and anti-family terminology, such as “sexual and reproductive rights,” are not incorporated in official UN documents.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressed the assembled delegates at the opening of the session, using the opportunity to launch a multi-year campaign to combat violence against women. Listing various types of violence against women, he declared: “Through the practice of prenatal sex selection, countless other (women and girls) are denied the right to even exist.” Pro-lifers seized this opportunity to distribute educational pamphlets on sex-selection abortion and to promote financing the true health needs of women, including the negative effects of abortion, as the first agenda item.

In her March 10 Friday Fax, Samantha Singson of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute credited the governments of Poland, Ireland, Malta, El Salvador, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Kribati, the Holy See and the United states for their efforts and successes in ensuring that “sexual and reproductive rights” terms did not find their way into the final document.

It was particularly noteworthy that the delegation from Malta stood up to the rest of the European Union throughout the CSW meetings. During the first week of the commission, Saviour F. Borg, ambassador and permanent representative of Malta to the U.N., delivered a statement in which he said: “Malta would also like to clarify its position with respect to the language relating to the issue of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the (E.U.) statement. Malta firmly continues to maintain that any position taken or recommendations made regarding women’s empowerment and gender equality should not in any way create an obligation on any party to consider abortion as a legitimate form of reproductive health rights, services or commodities.”

Campaign Life Coalition representative at the UN was present at the moment the statement was made. She told The Interim, “It was a wonderful and uncommon event to see a member of the European Union break ranks and pronounce in favor of life.”

A representative of one pro-life organization at the UN said that, “Through the tireless efforts of supporting pro-life organizations, pro-life delegations were able to counterbalance the push for ‘sexual and reproductive rights’ coming out of the E.U.”

The coalition is concerned that a new American administration following the U.S. election in November could reverse course and become a leading voice for abortion at the UN, in a return to the Clinton-era policy of encouraging socially radical ideas under the guise of women’s health and women’s rights. One coalition member told The Interim, “It will be a major concern and we will watch how the U.S. affects next year’s Commission on the Status of Women.”