NEW YORK, February 14 (C-FAM) Senior UN officials disparaged the Holy See and dismissed nations as subordinate to UN bureaucrats at a controversial conference in the Philippines. Pro-lifers picketed outside and filed a lawsuit against the conference for advocating a criminal act.
A judge declined to halt the meeting, calling it an academic discussion. According to the ruling, “[i]t was not shown by plaintiff that abortion is being practiced, tolerated, or encouraged.” Abortion is illegal in the Philippines.
James Imbong, attorney for Pro-Life Philippines, disagreed. “Most of the talks are about right to abortion. How can there be right to abortion when abortion is a crime based on Philippine laws?"
One speaker criticized the Holy See for blocking an international right to abortion at the landmark 1994 Cairo conference on population. Nafis Sadik, former head of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and current special advisor to the UN Secretary-General, obliquely referenced the Holy See as the reason abortion was not accepted as a right: “I won’t name the particular country, but maybe all of you know it, that particular country with a very small population of only men.”
There is a “rational discussion to be had in every society about the conditions under which abortion is permissible,” Sadik allowed. “But whatever the outcome, whenever abortion is legal, it must be safe.” This is the “minimum consensus position” from Cairo. But, she complained, this “consensus does not address the rights of women who need an abortion where it is not legal.”
Yet another high-level UN advisor said sex education should be evaluated not by its success but whether it follows UN directives. Gita Sen, a founding member of the feminist group DAWN said tracking of comprehensive sexuality education has “emphasized evaluations of impact, which is technically challenging and costly.” It would be better to “assess the extent to which curricula and teaching use the UNESCO guidance that already exists.” UNESCO’s guidelines drew controversy when it was introduced in 2010 for promoting masturbation for young children and abortion.
The Deputy Executive Director of the UN Population Fund dismissed the process to replace the Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015. “Millions of hours, dollars, and miles have been spent to generate an enthusiastic discussion,” Kate Gilmore said. “But just between you and me, quite frankly, the post-2015 exercise was more or less completed twenty years ago,” with the Cairo Programme of Action, “whose heartbeat is sexual and reproductive health and well-being.”
If the heartbeat of the Cairo agenda is sexual and reproductive health, the blood it circulates is billions of dollars for “population activities” like family planning, policy research and advocacy – which includes conferences like the one in the Philippines. While Cairo’s “minimum consensus position” fell short of declaring abortion an international human right, it ensured a steady flow of money to advocacy groups pressuring governments like the Philippines to liberalize their abortion laws.
The picketers outside had no illusions about the conference’s agenda. “It's an abortionists' conference. Plain and simple,” said AJ Perez of Pro-Life Philippines. “They would try to sneak in abortion in the country little by little, which is illegal.”