Member States Object to UN Reproductive Rights Agenda*
The United Nation’s 48th annual Commission on Population and Development concluded April 17 without any adopted resolutions after two weeks of negotiations at UN headquarters in New York City. Participation of many pro-life organizations, including Human Life International, yielded opportunities to promote respect for human life from conception to natural death as delegates discussed plans and recommendations for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The commission’s theme, “Realizing the future we want: integrating population issues into sustainable development,” was in preparation for slated adoption of the United Nation’s post-2015 agenda goals this September. However, no resolutions were agreed upon.
Reproductive rights, comprehensive sex education, and access to contraception were controversial topics. Several member states opposed language that promotes sexual and reproductive rights and comprehensive sex education because of their incompatibility with their country’s laws and ethical norms.
Despite member states’ requests to remove such language, their requests were disregarded and negotiations were suspended several times by Commission leaders. The chair of the Commission, Ms. Bénédicte Frankinet, focused on resolutions that would reflect the concerns of all member states. Nevertheless, every updated version of the drafted resolution contained language promoting abortion and contraception — practices considered scandalous and unethical in many parts of the world. The chair chose to suspend negotiations regarding “sexual and reproductive rights” to focus on common concerns of all member states, and return to reproductive rights at a later time.
Of course, this strategy often results in late night negotiations. Many delegates from more traditional countries would not be present to dissent anti-life and anti-family language. Western nations are prepared for this, as they can afford larger staffs, unlike many African nations. Thus, delaying negotiations of controversial resolutions, including abortion, is a strategic decision, as less people are present for the conversation.
Yet on the last night, the Commission presented a final draft which did not recognize the rights of unborn children. Instead, the language called for abortion and contraception to be guaranteed as reproductive “rights” to all people in the developing world as a legitimate means of family planning. Many delegates voiced strong objections. Ms. Frankinet withdrew the draft, despite many delegates being open to removing language about reproductive rights and comprehensive sex education. Refusing to consider a compromise, the chair ruled that no resolution would be passed this year and called for the committee to re-examine the purpose of the Commission before next year.
Member states expect continued debate regarding Sustainable Development Goals before the General Assembly gathers for a special session this September. Delegates from pro-family and pro-life countries will, no doubt, raise their objections to the reproductive rights agenda once again.