The annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meeting continues at the United Nations (UN) this week and delegates have begun the arduous task of negotiating the “outcome document” – a non-binding agreement on HIV/AIDS and care-giving that is the focus of this year’s session. While the meetings have been closed to non-government organizations (NGOs), the United States (US) delegation has openly stated that “sexual and reproductive health and rights” would be a priority issue for the Obama administration.
At a briefing hosted by the United States, a member of the US delegation, Ellen Chesler, stated that it was a specific priority of the US delegation to ensure that “comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights” are included in the document. She added that they are a “fundamental part” of the Beijing Platform for Action of the 1995 UN women’s meeting held in Beijing, China, where countries ultimately rejected attempts to make abortion an international “right.” The idea of sexual rights was rejected at the Beijing conference. Additionally, the term “sexual and reproductive health and rights” has been interpreted by radical feminist NGOs and some governments to include abortion.
Chesler, who authored a biography praising the work of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, also included “comprehensive sexual education, rights and services,” promotion of a new UN gender office, as well as US commitment to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)” as priority issues for the Obama administration at this CSW.
At the end of the briefing, an audience member questioned the Obama administration’s support for abortion despite the myriad scientific evidence which shows how detrimental it is to the lives and health of women. Chesler dismissed the woman’s question stating that the evidence is “unreliable because it has ideological elements.”
Another contentious provision in the draft CSW document calls on states to support the CEDAW committee’s non-binding “concluding comments.” 185 countries have ratified the convention, but language supporting the CEDAW committee’s concluding recommendations remains controversial. The CEDAW committee has questioned more than 70 nations on their abortion laws even going so far as creating their own "general recommendation" that reads abortion into the document even though the nations that negotiated the treaty made sure that controversial issue was never mentioned.
Delegations are expected to battle it out over the CEDAW paragraph in negotiations this week over concerns that the committee is pressuring countries on abortion. Some feminist NGOs at the CSW, however, already consider abortion an accepted part of CEDAW and have now set their sights on using the CEDAW committee to protect “lesbian rights” and same-sex “marriage.”
At an event commemorating 30 years of CEDAW, the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership claimed that CEDAW successfully established a “right to abortion” by linking it to “reproductive health.” Organizers argued that now the CEDAW committee should focus on protecting a “woman’s right to choose their partners,” which is not limited to members of the opposite sex.