UN Population Commission Avoids Controversy, but Leaves Backdoor Open to Abortion

By | April 4, 2019

NEW YORK, April 5 (C-Fam) The UN population commission has adopted an agreement for the first time since 2016. In recent years, controversies over abortion, sex-education, and homosexual/trans ideology prevented the commission from reaching an agreement.

The UN Commission on Population and Development adopted a short one-page declaration without controversy and no negotiations. The declaration leaves out the controversial issues that prevented an agreement in the past. But it keeps enough ambiguity on abortion so that abortion groups and their supporters at UN headquarters are still claiming a victory.

“A simple declaration of a page or so must be construed as a success in this highly polarized environment,” said Natalia Kanem, the head of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) at a press briefing on Monday.

The political declaration recommits countries to the 1994 Cairo conference on population, but it does not mention the favorite term of the population control establishment: sexual and reproductive health. The 1994 conference famously included abortion as a component of “sexual and reproductive health,” but with caveats that exclude an international right to abortion.

Developing countries resent the incessant focus on sexual mores in UN policy and appreciated the toned-down approach of the agreement. They stress the importance of the entire agenda of the 1994 Cairo conference, which includes economic development, infrastructure, education, health care, and migration, alongside the population control agenda.

Their concerns were vindicated by the the Secretary General’s report to the commission. His report shows the overall share of international aid for infrastructure, including access to water and sanitation, declining over the past twenty years. The share of aid for sexual and reproductive health, on the other hand, has increased eightfold.

Abortion groups and their supporters at UN headquarters followed UNFPA’s lead. They welcomed the adoption of the political declaration and claimed it as a victory, continuing to emphasize population control and women’s sexual autonomy.

Kanem described the political declaration as a global reaffirmation of “women and girls’ rights to sexual and reproductive health, just as it was said twenty-five years ago in Cairo.”

In their official statements, Nordic countries and socially progressive nations from Europe and Latin America emphasized sexual and reproductive health policies, expressly mentioning “safe and legal” abortion as a component of these.

Abortion supporters, above all, stressed the political declaration’s mention of “regional reviews.” This refers to agreements and reports prepared by the UN system that tend to be more progressive than what UN Member States approve. They erode the caveats on abortion in the Cairo agreement, and include topics rejected by the General Assembly, including sexual rights, comprehensive sexuality education, and access to abortion and contraception by children without parental consent.

The political declaration allows ambiguity about these agreements and reports. It explicitly recognizes that such reviews can constitute “region-specific guidance,” opening the door for UN agencies to promote abortion and those same controversial issues that prevented an agreement from the commission in recent years.

Moreover, these reviews undermine the normative guidance of the General Assembly in 1994. While the 1994 conference is not binding on states, it is binding for the UN system.

Kanem promised that these regional reviews will be summed up at a UNFPA conference sponsored by Denmark and Kenya in Nairobi on November 12-14, 2019.