- The Washington Times - Friday, March 4, 2005

NEW YORK — Facing overwhelming opposition, the United States yesterday abandoned attempts to amend a declaration reaffirming the blueprint to achieve equality for women, saying it was satisfied the document did not guarantee the right to abortion.

Hours after the United States backed down, the 45-member U.N. Commission on the Status of Women unanimously adopted the declaration endorsing the platform for action adopted at the 1995 U.N. women’s conference in Beijing.

The U.S. attempt to amend the declaration has taken the spotlight at the two-week review meeting, angering many governments and some 6,000 representatives of women’s and human rights organizations. They had hoped to focus on obstacles to women’s equality in the economy, the family, education and political life — not on the abortion issue.

U.S. Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey said the United States sought to amend the declaration because of concerns that advocacy groups were attempting to hijack the term “reproductive health services” in the Beijing document and define it in a way that guarantees the right to abortion.

The proposed U.S. amendment would have reaffirmed the Beijing platform and a declaration adopted with it — but only “while reaffirming that they do not create any new international human rights, and that they do not include the right to abortion.”

But the United States, a member of the commission, found itself virtually alone. Nations from Africa, Europe, Latin America and Asia all opposed opening up the one-page document drafted by the Commission on the Status of Women.

On Thursday, Mrs. Sauerbrey announced at a closed-door meeting that the United States was prepared to drop the last phrase of the amendment referring to “the right to abortion” but still wanted a reaffirmation that Beijing did not create any new human rights.

The reaction was again overwhelmingly negative.

Nilcea Freire, Brazil’s minister of state for women’s affairs, said not a single country supported the revised U.S. amendment, and every speaker insisted that the declaration be left untouched.

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