Part 4 of 5-part series from Washington Women Deliver conference
Although the message was rarely overt, population control via contraception and abortion (i.e. “family planning”) was a driving concern in many of the conversations and events at the Women Deliver conference in Washington last week.
Swedish population control expert Dr. Hans Rosling explained that, while many countries have drastically reduced their fertility rate in recent decades, there remains an “unfinished agenda” in Africa, where families continue to welcome many children. A handful of sessions were also dedicated to the “ethical issue” of mitigating climate change by reducing the number of people impacting the environment through population-control methods.
Even several panels on HIV/AIDS, including one moderated by UNFPA deputy executive director Purnima Mane, brought abortion and contraception into the conversation by noting that “linking sexual and reproductive health and HIV can promote the uptake of family planning.”
But despite the inclusion of the names of many high-powered individuals on its guest list, the conference apparently fell short of the $30 billion fundraising goal for “family planning” initiatives. The largest financial commitment came from Melinda Gates, who pledged $1.5 billion from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates called the lack of comprehensive inundation of contraceptives worldwide “reckless.”
“A woman’s first need is planning for her family,” said Gates. “As a woman, I cannot imagine being denied access to the tools I need to plan. It’s my basic right to decide how many children I’m going to have.”
In addition, the parliamentarians and ministers who participated in closed-door meetings for much of the conference failed to produce a joint document, as they did in 2007.
But despite the fundraising “shortfall” and the lack of a document to show, the conference still served as a powerful rallying point for anti-life and anti-family activists. In the final session of the conference, the organizers strongly urged attendees to make their voices heard at the UN and their home governments. “We have the G8 and the G20 in just a few weeks, we have the heads of African states meeting, and we have the September meeting at the United Nations. We’re going to take your messages from this conference to them, and they will hear it, because they need to hear it, and they will do something,” said host Jill Sheffield.
Sheffield ended by offering an award to UNFPA director Thoraya Obaid. Obaid took the occasion to recall the words of friend Fred Sai, a leading pro-abortion advocate and co-host of the conference, who once said that “the uterus is the only human organ that entered the penal system.”
“And he’s really talking about how sexual and reproductive health has become criminalized – and that is the real truth that we’re talking about,” she added.
The conference brought together some of the biggest names in the worldwide abortion and population-control movement to pressure the world’s ministers and parliamentarians, including: Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund; Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services; Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization; Gill Greer, Director-General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation; and Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, who gave the keynote address.
Conference sponsors included several UN agencies, government departments from the UK, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the U.S. (USAID), and Canada, as well as fortune-1000 companies such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, and Merck & Co.
Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, told LifeSiteNews that she was concerned about the conference’s power to energize people to push for funding from governments worldwide. Nevertheless, she pointed out, its argument for “safe abortion” based upon “maternal mortality” in large part appeared to fail because, she said, “the science doesn’t back it up.”
Many pro-life leaders who attended the conference concluded that organizers were left without a clear message thanks to a Lancet study published in April that showed, contrary to what the UN and the international pro-abortion lobby long claimed, that maternal mortality around the world had dropped drastically in recent years. In addition, the study nowhere mentioned legal abortion as a significant causal factor in the reduced death rate.
“This is a classic case of their ideologies trumping the science,” said Wright. She pointed out, however, that “even when the science contradicts their goal, they don’t change their ideology.”