Longtime UN Pro-Life Advocate Publishes a Memoir of His Life and Stories from the Field
WASHINGTON, D.C. August 2 (C-Fam) Earlier this year, a longstanding champion of the pro-life movement at the UN published a book compiling stories, reflections, images, and documents from nearly a quarter-century of work on behalf of unborn children and the family at high-level international meetings.
From his first visit to the UN in 1995 to the present, Peter Smith has carefully documented his experiences and now offers a unique behind-the-scenes view into the history of the international pro-life movement, as well as his own personal history.
Born in Tasmania, Australia and descended from an English convict transported for the crime of stealing two shirts, Smith experienced a profound conversion to Christianity as an adult and became a Reformed Baptist pastor and moved to the UK. In 1995, he visited the UN on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). Later that year, he traveled to Beijing for the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women, where pro-life advocates hoped to maintain the consensus against an international human right to abortion that had been achieved the previous year in Cairo at the International Conference on Population and Development.
These global conferences were a rallying point for the pro-life movement at the UN, and ultimately led to the founding of C-Fam in 1997. In his book, Smith provides a rich narrative of the day-to-day work of a pro-life civil society actor at high-level meetings of governments. From late nights hunched over drafts of proposed texts in UN coffee shops to papal audiences, Smith takes his readers deep into the corridors and meeting rooms of the UN and introduces them to a broad cast of characters. Some are well-known leaders and advocates on both sides of the abortion debate, while others are members of the pro-life movement whose efforts Smith ensures are not forgotten.
One of these champions is Smith’s longtime friend and colleague, Jeanne Head, who worked for over forty years as a nurse delivering babies before getting involved at the UN on behalf of the International Right to Life organization.
Smith is a diarist and blogger who has kept extensive notes and documentation of his work, which has included attending over 150 UN meetings despite not being headquartered in the United States. His book includes an appendix of many fliers, articles, and other artifacts of past UN debates that would be impossible to find elsewhere. It also includes many photographs, including ones of Smith shaking hands with Pope John Paul II and receiving a stern finger wag from a prominent feminist.
Engaging in front-line battles on sensitive social issues means the work never stops, and the constant need to respond to new threats and opportunities leaves little time to record the history of the movement. Smith’s book is an invaluable contribution to the institutional memory of the pro-life movement at the UN. It is also the deeply personal account of a humble and affable man who loves to educate young activists about the history of the UN, tell them how to identify a delegate’s badge, and show them pictures of the fish he caught on his latest trip to Australia.