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UN Commission Ends with Delegations Saying No to Abortion
By Samantha Singson
(NEW YORK – C-FAM) As the sun rose on the last day of negotiations at the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) at the United Nations (UN) today, delegations were still embroiled in a contentious debate over language concerning “sexual and reproductive health and rights,” which some radical NGOs and UN committees have interpreted and used to promote abortion. As UN member states came together at the closing meeting to adopt the document, delegations took the floor to define abortion out of the document.
Up until the eleventh hour, the contentious term “sexual and reproductive health and rights” remained in the draft document. Just prior to adoption, Iran took the floor to object to the phrase which has never before been included in any negotiated UN document. Iran stressed that the term remained problematic for a number of delegations and urged the Commission to revert back to previously agreed upon and carefully negotiated language from the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Program of Action, which is understood not to create any right to abortion.
In an attempt to get consensus, the chairwoman from Mexico suspended the meeting and after twenty minutes, returned to the room and announced that Iran’s proposal would be accepted and that the term “sexual and reproductive health and rights” would be removed from the text. The document was then adopted by consensus.
Several delegations, however, went further and made statements to explicitly define abortion out of the CPD document and to reiterate that the document created no new rights. Comoros, Peru, Poland, Ireland, Chile, the Holy See, Malta, and Saint Lucia spoke out against the other remaining reproductive health-related terms such as “reproductive rights,” “reproductive health services” and “sexual and reproductive health” and emphasized that these could not be construed to “support, endorse or promote” abortion.
Malta’s ambassador stated that his delegation was finding it more difficult in accepting the resolutions of UN bodies like the CPD where there were consistent attempts to expand “reproductive health” to include abortion.
Saint Lucia made an explicit objection to the term “safe abortion” because the term could “give the impression that abortion was a procedure completely free of medical and psychological risks.” Saint Lucia also highlighted a provision in the CPD document which called on states where abortion was legal to “train and equip health service providers and should take such measures to ensure that such abortion is safe and accessible.” The Saint Lucian representative stressed that her delegation understood this provision did not impact the right of healthcare providers to refuse to perform or be complicit in abortions as a matter of conscience, stating, “Again, no new rights are created or acknowledged in this document, and the universal right to conscience can in no way be overridden or weakened.”
Only the representative of Norway expressed regret that the term “sexual and reproductive rights” was not accepted in the text, saying that his country had widespread access to abortion and virtually no negative effects on women.
The CPD will next meet in April 2010.