In a nod to the fact that their definitions are illusory, the manual confesses, “The international conference and human rights documents cited above do not explicitly assert a woman’s right to abortion, nor do they legally require safe abortion services as an element of reproductive health care. … Despite these qualifications, however, the conference documents and human rights instruments - if broadly interpreted and skillfully argued - can be very useful tools in efforts to expand access to safe abortion.”
By the end of the Commission on Population and Development, the pro-life group C-FAM reported:
“Twenty-three countries opposed ‘sexuality education’ for children as young as 10 years old, which was proposed by the U.S., while only two other countries supported it. Yet there were five references to it or to ‘sex education’ throughout the document. Twenty-two Arab states, joined by Malta, Poland, the Holy See, and various other nations objected time and again to ‘reproductive health services,’ a term often used by U.N. staff to include abortion, but it was included nonetheless.”
The document demands new funding and for governments to “prioritize universal access to sexual and reproductive information and health-care services,” particularly for children, with no restrictions or parental involvement.
One addition, however, undercuts the gains for abortion groups. A hard-won section recognizes national sovereignty and the right of countries to determine their priorities and respect religious and ethical beliefs.
Delegates who argued for the sections on “reproductive rights” reportedly were visibly angry that this affirmation of national sovereignty and respect for ethical values made it into the final document.
Wendy Wright is president of Concerned Women for America.