Abortion Activists Hope to Advance Their Agenda at Generation Equality Forum

By | January 22, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. January 22 (C-Fam) Organizations that have been campaigning at the UN for a right to abortion for decades are hoping to make progress at the Generation Equality Forum in the first half of 2021.  A global gathering convened by the UN’s women’s agency and hosted by the governments of Mexico and France, this event marks the 25th anniversary of the landmark 1995 women’s conference in Beijing.

Already delayed once by the COVID-19 pandemic, the forum’s official schedule is yet to be announced.  Its official website declares that it will “launch a set of concrete, ambitious and transformative actions to achieve immediate and irreversible progress towards gender equality.”  Similar to the conference held in Nairobi in late 2019 to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1994 conference on population and development in Cairo, this event is being hailed by feminists as an opportunity to move forward the “unfinished business” of Beijing.

Given the concerted efforts at both the Beijing and Cairo conferences to establish an international human right to abortion, which ultimately failed, this issue remains high on the agenda.

Most of the members of the core group organizing the event have been outspoken in favor of abortion, including France’s ambassador to the forum, Delphine O, who Tweeted that abortion is a “fundamental right for women” and Mabel Bianco, who founded an abortion advocacy organization in Argentina.  Another member is Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, which campaigns for LGBTQ issues and helped to secure the mandate of the UN’s special independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Representatives of several pro-abortion groups serve on the forum’s civil society advisory group, including Ipas, International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), and others.

Last summer, it was announced that the forum would focus on six themes, one of which is “bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights.”  Among the civil society organizations selected as leaders for the “action coalition” for that issue is the International Planned Parenthood Federation, IWHC, Bianco’s Argentine abortion advocacy group, and ARROW, which promotes abortion in the Asia-Pacific region.

Pro-abortion and LGBT organizations are also among the leaders of the other five “action coalitions.”  The forum has been described by feminist activists as having been “curated very carefully to be a champion’s only space.”

U.S-based pro-abortion groups have expressed hopes that the incoming Biden administration will use UN events like the Generation Equality Forum and the Commission on the Status of Women to promote their agenda, possibly announcing a U.S. “feminist foreign policy” similar to those championed by Sweden, as well as the forum’s co-sponsoring countries France and Mexico.

The forums “Action Coalitions” will launch “a targeted set of concrete, ambitious and immediate actions within the period of 2020-2025” which will be among its most tangible outcomes, as opposed to a document negotiated by national governments.

In much the same way as the Nairobi Summit of 2019, the Generation Equality Forum is a carefully-curated venue that has been designed to reliably deliver a predetermined outcome.  In the end, its legitimacy will depend on the willingness of nations, their governments, and broader civil society beyond feminist groups, to take up its agenda.