Abortion, LGBT Advocates Frustrated by Slow Progress at UN

By | July 27, 2018

NEW YORK, July 27 (C-Fam) Environmentalists, abortion groups, and LGBT advocates expressed frustration at the slow pace of progress at UN headquarters during the recently concluded High-Level Political Forum.

“Do not let what is happening in my country fool you. Donald Trump is not our future. He is a road bump,” Alex Steffen reassured diplomats, government ministers and experts at the start of the two-week forum to measure progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, an eclectic list of development objectives on the environment, the economy, and social goals adopted by the General Assembly in 2015.

Steffen, a journalist who asks to be presented as a “planetary futurist,” gave the keynote address at the start of the forum. He urged governments to act fast to give sustainability a snap forward by creating conditions for new sustainable technologies to disrupt businesses and industries that rely on coal and oil.

“Speed is the answer,” Steffen said, adding that “if sustainability is not disruptive now it is not sustainable” referring to the political conflict between new sustainable industries and older ones that rely on fossil fuels.

“Winning slowly in this situation is the same as losing outright,” he sounded the alarm.

Steffen is not the only one worried that the global agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals is not progressing sufficiently fast. Abortion and LGBT groups have repeatedly been thwarted from making the rapid progress they hoped for and expressed their frustration during the forum.

During a review of Poland’s progress on the global agenda, abortion groups accused Poland of translating the objectives of the agenda on sexual and reproductive health to “procreative health.”

They also accused the government of Poland of “excluding” LGBT populations and “undermining reproductive rights” by among other things, creating barriers to access emergency contraception, plans to restrict access to abortion, and failure to implement comprehensive sexuality education.

The Government of Poland mostly shrugged at the suggestion it had any international obligations in these areas and said Poland’s constitution “settled” the issue by “protecting life from its earliest stages.”

The General Assembly rejected the inclusion of any language that might be interpreted as making abortion and LGBT rights part of the global agenda. Nevertheless, UN agencies and donor states included these elements in a comprehensive framework of over 300 statistical indicators to measure progress on the agenda. Also, non-governmental organizations creatively interpret the goals to make these issues relevant in every possible context.

Indicators developed by the UN bureaucracy to measure goals on access to sexual and reproductive health included whether countries ensured children as young as 10 had access to abortion and contraception without parental knowledge.

Earlier this year the General Assembly adopted a modified indicator framework to measure progress on the Agenda. The indicator on access to sexual and reproductive health was changed to only apply to adolescents 15-year-old and up, and not to children as young as 10, as UN agencies initially planned.

Even so, UN agencies charged with developing the indicators continue to count legal barriers to abortion, contraception, and comprehensive sexuality education against progress on the global goals, including among such restrictions as marital status, third-party authorization, and age.

Abigail Long and Abigail Hoisington contributed to the reporting in this article.