UNFPA Meeting of Lawmakers in Istanbul Debates Abortion

International   |   Marie Smith   |   May 31, 2012   |   4:18PM   |   Istanbul, Turkey

Nearly 300 members of parliaments from 110 countries gathered in Istanbul, Turkey under the auspices of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey for a meeting organized by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (EPF).

The Fifth International Parliamentarians’ Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (IPCI/ICPD), was a follow-up to evaluate progress in matters related to population, reproductive health, women’s empowerment and development resulting from the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo (ICPD). The meeting was also intended to further the pro-abortion agenda through parliamentary support expressed in the contentious 3,000 word Istanbul Statement of Commitment, Keeping Promises-Measuring Results.

Inter Press Service reports: “The debate on the final text of the declaration was reportedly a heated one, lasting until 1 a.m. on Friday. North and South did not see eye-to-eye on several points of the proposals put forward by subcommittees and working groups. Although reducing maternal death at giving birth, improving sexual health, particularly HIV and AIDS prevention, and fighting abuse received wide support, other subjects remain taboo, meeting resistance, both from emerging and from a handful of Western countries. Birth control, the freedom for a woman to decide how many children she should have and, more particularly, voluntary interruption of pregnancy through abortion, even when such action would be the only medically sound option, are still non-negotiable for many societies.”

Cairo was the infamous UN conference where an international right to abortion was advanced by the United States and other donor countries but was defeated by a coalition of countries from Latin America and the Arab world with leadership from the Holy See. The Istanbul meeting is evidence that pro-abortion activists and organizations still attempt to distort the Cairo conference to promote the legalization of abortion and view parliamentarians as a key target.

The debate on abortion in Istanbul occurred after a number of speakers presented pro-abortion views. Dr. Fred Sai, a Ghanaian physician who chaired the original drafting of the ICPD Programme of Action (PoA) in Cairo and served for six years as president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), presented a message that was critical of laws against abortion calling pro-life laws “obstacles”, “antiquated”, and based on “old customs and religious beliefs” and called on parliamentarians to be involved in the ICPD process in order “to initiate necessary legislative changes on the ground.” The key role of lawmakers to legislate on abortion is recognized in the PoA: “Any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process.” Para 8.25

United States Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney spoke during the opening session, and disparagingly portrayed pro-life lawmakers in the US Congress as “competing with each other to propose and enact even more harmful legislation and rules against women both in the US and overseas”. She spoke of increased US funding for population control, “In 2012, the US will provide $610 million for international family planning including $35 million for UNFPA. In 2013, the President has requested more than $642 million. By contrast, in 2007 the US was providing only $458 million, had eliminated all funding for UNFPA, and prohibited funds from being provided to IPPF and other very effective providers [reference to Mexico City Policy which blocked US funds to international organizations which performed or promoted abortion] …advocates and supporters in Congress like myself are working hard to increase US funding for international family planning to $1 billion.”

Neil Datta, secretary of the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development, asserted that the ICPD agenda is “still controversial in many parts of the world which is a major obstacle” and incredulously criticized the Catholic Church for its core belief that “sexual relations should only take place between heterosexual couples for the sole purpose of procreation, and preferably within the boundaries of marriage.” His views have previously been expressed including in an opinion column entitled: Politics and religion should have no influence on population policy.

The host country’s prime minister rattled the pro-abortion activists during his address. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated, “I consider abortion as murder. Nobody should have the right to allow this. You either kill a baby in mother’s womb or you kill it after birth. There’s no difference.” Erdoğan further remarked that society should be more sensitive to the issue of abortion and that “we have to be together against this.” The Prime Minister also announced that Turkey is about to consider legislation to begin restricting abortion; it currently has a very broad access to abortion policy.

Lawmakers and national laws continue to be a prime target for pro-abortion ideologues. The Istanbul Statement of Commitment sets a course of action for implementation of the Programme of Action beyond 2014 and “confirms parliamentarians’ commitment to achieving ICPD’s objectives, which include: HIV and AIDS prevention; decreasing by 75 percent mothers’ mortality at giving birth; having states allocate 10 percent of their respective national development budgets and third-country assistance funds to population and reproductive health programmes; and ensuring that countries dedicate 0.7 percent of their Gross National Product (GNP) to securing sexual and reproductive rights of their citizens.”

Regrettably, despite the debate on abortion, the declaration promotes abortion but does acknowledge the sovereignty of national laws. It states the commitment of parliamentarians “to raise awareness, advocate and take action in priority areas” including to ensure “… universal access to post abortion care, and access to safe abortion where not against the law.” Such language to qualify the promotion of abortion- where not against the law or where legal- was acknowledged in the Programme of Action, Para 8.25 and has taken on global significance as many pro-life countries believe that it secures the right to sovereignty despite efforts by donor countries, UN treaty bodies and NGOs to promote universal access to abortion. During the recent UN negotiations for CPD 45, donor countries sought to remove language referencing national laws on abortion but were opposed by a coalition of countries that respect and protect the lives of unborn children.

PNCI urges pro-life parliamentarians to be extra vigilant as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) near the deadline of 2015 and activists seek to use the health MDGs to advance their pro-abortion agenda. The intensity and duplicity of the anti-child agenda cannot be underestimated as we witness the re-interpretation and re-invention of international law, treaties and conventions to promote the legalization of abortion in the name of human rights. Pressure on lawmakers and governments to directly or indirectly advance the culture of death will increase despite national laws on abortion.

Abortion, the destruction of the child in the womb, ought not to be included in any measures, statements or declarations. “Safe abortion” is the ultimate oxymoron. It is never safe for the child whose life is ended and for the woman who may suffer physical, psychological, emotional or spiritual injury. Abortion must always be opposed and not just qualified with language that references national laws.

LifeNews.com Note:  Marie Smith is the director of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues.