Part 2 of 5-part series from Washington Women Deliver conference
The 2010 Women Deliver conference in the U.S. capital this week offered a rare glimpse into the heart of the pro-abortion, pro-contraception, and population-control movement in its many facets. The conference drew international UN and political leaders to a 3-day marathon on several topics tied together by one ambitious theme: using Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5, the reduction of maternal mortality, to promote contraception and the dismantling of pro-life laws around the world.
The opulence of the movement was on full display: high-profile guests were treated to Douwe Egberts coffee kept fresh by tuxedoed attendants. An array of wines and gourmet dishes, including cut-to-order beef tenderloin, rounded out Monday and Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, the 3,000 conference guests were invited to a lavish dinner on Capitol Hill hosted by Ted Turner with the promised attendance of several U.S. congressmen.
Yet a slightly muted approach was apparent in the conference’s countless speeches and sessions. It became clear they were geared toward a full-throttle push for more abortion and population-control funding by invoking a high maternity mortality rate as caused by lack of contraception and by “unsafe” illegal abortions in pro-life countries. But there was a problem.
Pro-life observers, including C-FAM, concluded that the problem was the publication of a study by the prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet, in April. That study deflated exaggerated maternal-mortality numbers constantly flogged by the U.N. and pro-abortion lobby groups.
It was perhaps due to the dispute over The Lancet study that the conference’s push for abortion was more veiled and muted than the 2007 Women Deliver conference in London. Observers relate the 2007 event was much more aggressively pro-abortion.
This year’s conference barely mentioned abortion directly. However, it became clear over the 3 days that despite the fact that the respected Lancet study did not mention abortion as a factor in reducing maternal mortality, pro-life laws must be dismantled in order to reach MDG 5.
Contraception was also heavily promoted. One panelist even touted the spread of contraception as the key to reaching “all 8” MDGs.
Organizers remained almost entirely silent on the fact that the highest maternal mortality rates can be found in countries with liberal abortion laws – such as India – and the most drastic drops in countries where it remained illegal, such as Sri Lanka, whose progress on maternal mortality has been taken as a model for the MDG 5 goal. When one audience member questioned this disparity, presenters simply called the low maternal mortality rates of deeply pro-life countries such as Chile “anomalies” that were “sort of proof that it’s not just the law, it’s the availability and women’s access.”
In the opening session, Women Deliver president Jill Sheffield hailed the abortion-expanding U.S. health care bill as “a big victory for America.”
U.S. health secretary Kathleen Sebelius later confirmed Obama’s commitment to “a women and girls-centered approach” to foreign aid. “I don’t think there’s any question that access to reproductive health services has a lot to do with this issue,” added Sebelius, who was a staunch supporter of George Tiller’s late-term abortion business when serving as governor of Kansas.
The themes of the sessions, while largely paying at least token tribute to achieving MDG 5, included several maternal health topics. More notable were the sessions on topics ranging from using HIV intervention as a vehicle for expanding contraceptive use, to engaging youth in the spread of contraception and abortion, to influencing society and culture toward accepting such practices.
Dutch politician Bram Van Ojik admitted that “there is a very long way to go” to convince taxpayers to invest in “family planning” worldwide, but urged the creation of broad coalitions involving civil society, business, and government to aid in that goal.
Ethics panels discussed questions such as legal disputes over surrogacy and female genital mutilation performed by doctors – which one panelist, University of Toronto professor emeritus Bernard Dickens, supported – and weighed the conflict of abortion “rights” with the interests of a “fetus who may come to be born as a child.” Francis Kissling, former president of Catholics for a Free Choice, responded to a question about Australian women regretting abortions due to a lack of information by stating that informed-consent laws are “based on a stereotype” of weak women.