Battle Over Abortion in UN Treaty Continues, Nicaragua Leads Pro-Life Advocates

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 18, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Battle Over Abortion in UN Treaty Continues, Nicaragua Leads Pro-Life Advocates

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 18, 2006

New York, NY ( — The battle to keep abortion out of a United Nations treaty on the disabled continues as ambassadors from Nicaragua led a coalition of pro-life nations objecting to ambiguous language that could be interpreted as providing for an international right to abortion. The battle is the latest over the phrase "reproductive rights."

UN delegates began gathering on Monday in New York to begin work to finalize the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

As previously reported, Susan Yoshihara of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, said that pro-life advocates were particularly concerned about the language in the treaty because it will be considered “hard” international law.

On Friday, C-FAM reported in its Friday Fax newsletter that Nicaragua led a group of 23 nations in objecting to including “sexual and reproductive health services” in the document saying it was vague and undefined and could be used to promote abortion in pro-life nations.

C-FAM indicated that a diverse group of nations agreed with the Central American nation, including the United States, Honduras, Egypt, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Tunisia, Qatar, Kenya, and the Philippines.

Surprisingly, according to its Friday Fax report, Norway, which backs abortion, joined in objecting to the phrase as well.

The "reproductive rights" phrase has only been defined as abortion once by the United Nations, in a non-binding document produced at the Cairo population conference in 1995. But pro-abortion non-governmental organizations and some UN committees have interpreted it as promoting abortion.

Yoshihara wrote last week that "most documents negotiated at the UN are non-binding. Treaties, such as this one, require governments to change their domestic laws based on the treaty."

Despite the number of nations opposing inclusion of the phrase, C-FAM’s Friday Fax reported that the committee chair, Ambassador Donald McKay of New Zealand, insisted that negotiations continue.

Normally when a large group of nations object, controversial phrases are removed and eventually the Egyptian delegate commented that McKay being partial by not removing the language from the document.

While a large contingent of nations opposed the vague language, the European Union, Canada, Peru, Cuba, and Brazil backing including "reproductive rights." C-FAM’s Friday Fax also said that McKay was taking the unusual move of allowing NGOs to participate in the discussions of the language. Normally they are allowed to lobby delegates but not participate in negotiations.

C-FAM expects the negotiations to continue into next week and doesn’t expect a final decision until very late on the final day. The meeting lasts until August 25.

Should abortion make its way into the treaty that’s bad news for pro-life nations that prohibit abortions and the majority of the world that has laws protecting the disabled and the elderly from losing lifesaving medical treatment.

UN pressure on nations to confirm with the pro-abortion ethic of most industrialized nations is nothing new.

Since the Cairo conference on population control in 1995, abortion advocates at the UN have attempted to pass a treaty forcing pro-life nations to accept abortion. This new treaty is seen by pro-life advocates as the latest step in that decade-long lobbying effort.

United Nations organizations such as the UNFPA and UNICEF already use existing language in some treaties to bully nations into accepting the pro-abortion language in them.

The UNFPA has long been complicit in China’s family planning program that involves forced abortions and sterilization and harassment of offenders and family members.

In October 2004, UNICEF officials wrote members of the New Zealand parliament telling them to oppose efforts to require abortion business to tell parents when their teenage daughters are considering an abortion.

And UN committees have long tried to coerce officials in countries in South America and Europe to ditch their pro-life laws and legalize abortion in some or all cases.

Other documents have had similar ambiguous language in them, but pro-life nations have made sure that the language is not used to promote abortion.

Last year, Ellen Sauerbrey, the U.S. representative to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, lobbied other nations to include language in a document reaffirming the Cairo conference statements, to ensure that it did not back abortion.

The U.S. eventually agreed to drop the request for the language when other nations agreed that they would not use the document to promote overturning laws against abortion in dozens of countries.

Sauerbrey told reporters in March of last year that nations agreed abortion decisions should be made at the national and not the international level.

"I think one of the things that has been very clearly established that should give a lot of comfort to concerned Americans is that virtually every country said we interpret it the same as you — we interpret that these are issues of national sovereignty," Sauerbrey said.

However, such agreements are fragile and abortion advocates continue to push abortion at the international level.

Related web sites:
National Right to Life –