- The Washington Times - Friday, August 31, 2001

Some are calling it the battle of the three words.
That's what the debate over abortion rights language has come down to in a proposed 36-page U.N. document on children.
During negotiations that have dragged on for several days in New York, U.S. delegates have refused to insert any language allowing abortion counseling for children. Their opponent is a coalition of delegates from 15 European and 17 Latin American countries campaigning to include the phrase "reproductive health services," which means access to abortion.
"We are a family-oriented delegation," says Terry Miller, the State Department official heading the U.S. delegation, "and we don't want anything that endorses abortion." But other countries are insisting that children be given access to the procedure; the standoff between them was expected to drag the debate into the early morning hours today.
The document being debated is called "A World Fit for Children," which will set U.N. policy on treatment of minors around the world. It is slated for a vote during a unique U.N. Special Session on Children Sept. 19-21. The document is wider-ranging than the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of the Child, signed in 1995 by President Clinton but never ratified by Congress.
The current document gives position statements on children and human rights, child labor, slavery, education, the death penalty, child trafficking, armed conflict, sale of organs, migrants, refugees, the environment and other issues. As one source described negotiations, "It comes down for swapping one word we like for one word they like. It's diplomatic blackmail, that is what it is."
Coming into this week's negotiations, delegates had struck an informal agreement to not include the "reproductive health services" language in the document, said a source close to the negotiations. But European and Latin delegates broke that agreement, insisting such language must be included while opposing the term "dignity of the human person."
When U.S. delegates, many of them brought in by the Bush administration, resisted, progress on the document ground to a halt.
"Maybe the domestic governments of these [Latin American] countries don't realize how dangerous it is here at the U.N., and they don't send delegations that appropriately reflect the beliefs of the people they represent," one source said.
Delegates from the countries of Chile and Brazil lead the Latin group, he added.
Abortion is illegal in much of Latin America.
"The Bush administration is doing a super job fighting to keep out abortion language while helping children," the source said. "I think the rest of the world has been waiting for the United States to show leadership on family and life issues and the Europeans are scared of that. So they've enlisted [the Latin Americans] on their side."
The Europeans, led by Swedish and Belgian negotiators, represent countries with birthrates below replacement level.
U.S. allies include the Vatican and various Third World countries, many with Muslim governments that oppose abortion.
Sources were confident that a compromise could be reached soon to prevent the United States from boycotting the September session.


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