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Abortion: An Issue of International Contention throughout this Year’s Commission on the Status of Women

IMG_0307The Commission on the Status of Women concluded earlier this month with the adoption of six resolutions on a range of issues, including gender equality, maternal mortality, and HIV-Aids.  For the first two weeks of March, delegates from countries across the world, as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), gathered at the United Nations in New York City to assess what has been achieved since the Beijing Conference in 1995, as well as to identify priority actions and future strategies.

A particular focus of this year’s international gathering concentrated on how to effectively prevent maternal mortality.  Radical feminist groups invaded the UN Headquarters to convince delegates to expand abortion and access to family planning.  At the conference in 1995, governments refused to establish a “right” to abortion.  This year, abortion proponents fought with added vigor to establish abortion rights through the maternal mortality resolution.  Abortion advocate Ipas asserted that “safe, legal and voluntary” abortion will eliminate “unsafe abortion” and “ensure fewer maternal deaths and better reproductive health, especially for women in developing countries.”

Lobbying at the CSW on behalf of a pro-life, pro-family coalition, we encouraged countries to propose language in the maternal mortality resolution that would increase women’s access to life affirming healthcare options, sanitary environments, better support structures, and greater assistance to young and single mothers.  This strategy, we stressed, is the most effective means of reducing maternal deaths.  Statistics bolstered our message because broader access to abortion has been shown to only lead to higher maternal mortality rates and greater health risks to women.

Member states disputed the maternal mortality resolution, introduced by the United States, until the last day of the conference.  Despite an Associated Press comment to the contrary, abortion was a pivotal point of contention.  The US delegate asserted that their resolution on maternal mortality recognized the importance of ensuring all of women’s human rights, including sexual and reproductive health rights.  According to the current US Administration, reproductive rights include access to abortion.[1]

Resisting pressure from the United States and the European Union, some countries stood solidly behind the truth that abortion kills a human person and is irreversibly harmful to women.  Although “reproductive rights” and other “health services” language was left in the final resolution, several countries, including Poland, Chile, Iran, and Saint Lucia, voiced reservations to ensure that this language would not be interpreted to include abortion in the future.  These countries made strong explanations of position to reiterate the understanding that no new rights, particularly no new right to abortion, could be inferred from the text.

Poland’s delegate stated that her Government “did not view reproductive and sexual rights and services as including abortion.”  Chile recognized a need for improved health care for pregnant women around the world, as long as this health care plan excluded abortion.  Iran’s representative emphasized that Iran has made “significant progress in reducing maternal mortality and morbidity” over the past thirty years without legalizing abortion.

Santa Lucia expressed a key reservation, noting that a “safe abortion” is an impossibility.  Legalizing a dangerous procedure does not render its impact on a woman’s physical, emotional, and psychological health harmless.

Malta also expressed its disagreement with the phrase “unsafe abortion” because it implies that abortions can be free of any physical or psychological risks to the woman, “not to mention it ignores the rights of the unborn child.”

In conclusion, abortion and greater access to family planning destroys a woman’s health and causes her immense suffering.  In order for next year’s CSW to successfully promote the woman and her rights, countries must pass resolutions that respect authentic womanhood, including her procreative abilities.  Governments and activists must propose policies that laud the courage, nobility, and sacrifices women make daily.

[1] http://www.opposingviews.com/i/hillary-clinton-supports-abortion-as-reproductive-health.