A split in the European Union (EU) over abortion continued to shape negotiations at the UN this week during the annual meeting of the Commission at the Status of Women (CSW) in New York. Last week non-EU member Norway, likely acting as a stalking horse for pro-abortion EU countries, proposed inclusion of the term "sexual and reproductive health and rights" in the draft agreed conclusions. Norway's move caused increasing dissent among EU members.
Last week Poland and Malta spoke out against Norway's proposal causing Slovenia, the president of the EU, to announce that the normally unified EU bloc would not have a common position on the Norwegian proposal. While the majority of the EU member states strongly supported inclusion of "sexual and reproductive rights" in the document, Poland, Ireland and Malta broke ranks from their EU colleagues and called for the deletion of the Norwegian language.
The term "sexual and reproductive health and rights" has never been agreed to in any negotiated UN document but certain UN committees and officials have misinterpreted the term "reproductive health" as including abortion. During negotiations, the United States stated that the term was extremely problematic for many delegations and that insistence on its inclusion might prevent a consensus. El Salvador, Syria, the Holy See and Iran also called for deletion of the term. Kiribati called for deletion of the term and proposed "access to basic maternal and newborn health care as necessary to promote a healthy outcome for mother and child."
Pro-life and pro-family groups have been closely monitoring parallel negotiations where attempts to insert abortion and homosexual marriage into other documents are happening behind closed doors. The draft resolution entitled "Women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS" includes references to "sexual and reproductive health and rights" but also takes note of another document entitled the "Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights." The Guidelines, which date back to a 1996 meeting in Geneva, call for "safe and legal abortion" and for protective law "to reduce human rights violations against men having sex with men… These measures should include providing penalties for vilification of people who engage in same-sex relationships, giving legal recognition to same-sex marriages and/or relationships with consistent property, divorce and inheritance provisions."
A draft resolution called "Ending Female Genital Mutilation" contains a controversial reference to the Maputo Protocol, an African regional document which mentions female genital mutilation, but also contains abortion rights. The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) helped draft the protocol which stipulates that "States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to… protect the reproductive rights of women by authorizing medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or the life of the mother or the fetus." The majority of African nations have not ratified the protocol.
Pro-life lobbyists are also reporting that UN security personnel are closely monitoring their activities. One lobbyist told the Friday Fax, "There are hardly any lobbyists from the other side this week and it is obvious that some pro-abortion delegation complained about our presence, so security is closely watching us." The lobbyist added this is "par for the course at the UN."
Negotiations on the CSW draft agreed conclusions and draft resolutions are expected to wrap up at the end of the week.