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Monday, September 1, 2008

Arizona couple lobbies the UN for the unborn during the week Pope John Paul II died and was buried.

"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10).
By Susan Fox
New York, April 2-8, 2005 – It was the week that Pope John Paul II died and was buried. Shortly, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger would be elected Pope Benedict XVI.
Lawrence & Susan Fox 

During that critical week, my husband, Lawrence Fox, and I were in New York City at the United Nations, lobbying for the pro-life cause with the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute. We were secretly wearing St. Benedict medals (with the exorcism blessing) and openly handing out copies of “The Gospel of Life” by Pope John Paul II.

We had no idea how symbolic that would become for what occurred next both in the papacy and at the 38th session of the UN Commission on Population and Development. We were about to face what our future Pope Benedict would call the “dictatorship of relativism.” The conference was on HIV/AIDS, but the abortion lobby planned to use this conference and all UN conferences – no matter how unrelated the subject matter might be – to establish a universal right to abortion in every country on earth. We were there to stop them.

The week began at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Saturday, April 2, 2005. We were in line for confession when Pope John Paul II passed away. New Yorkers, who try not to show their emotions, were seen nevertheless with tears in their eyes.

The next day was Mercy Sunday, and at 3 p.m., the hour of Divine Mercy, we were holed up in the basement of the Salvation Army in New York City with our fellow volunteers -- Catholics, Protestants, and Mormons -- from all over the world. Pope John Paul II had asked for volunteers in the early 1990s to come to the UN and speak for the unborn child. 

Since then the Holy Spirit had stirred up countless ordinary people from all over the world to go to the UN conferences and work quietly to change the minds of the delegates, and to strengthen some in their pro-life stance.

We were moved to see around the table that afternoon what has been called the “ecumenism of the trenches”: a Baptist woman with 8 children, who works full time and uses Natural Family Planning, a young Catholic woman, who had paid for her own trip from Australia, two Protestant ladies, who are living martyrs in their own country of Canada for the pro-life cause, an Evangelical lawyer and three people from the pro-life Population Research Institute, and others. Later in the week we would be working with students from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, a Mormon lawyer and Capuchin brothers from Fr. Benedict Groeschel’s Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in the Bronx.

But the news wasn’t good. The lawyer told us that the pro-abortion lobby was using stealth to influence customary international law. Mere repetition of legal norms over time can result in the development of customary international law, which scholars believe is even more binding on countries than treaties – even if those nations do not formally consent to be bound by the law, thereby bypassing the democratic process and the national sovereignty of a country.

The U.S. Supreme Court has already begun quoting international customary law. On March 1 of this year, the U. S. Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty for youth under the age of 18, overturning the capital punishment law of 20 states. The majority decision included references to international opposition to the juvenile death penalty.

Justice Anthony Kennedy justified the use of international customary law in this Supreme Court decision by sayings, “The opinion of the world community, while not controlling our outcome, does provide respected and significant confirmation for our own conclusions."

While ending the death penalty for youth may be a good cause, the fact of the matter is that every voter in the United States is disenfranchised when the Supreme Court looks to world opinion rather than the U.S. Constitution to create new law.

In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned anti-sodomy laws in 13 states, possibly paving the way for homosexual marriage, and again referenced international customary law by quoting a 1981 decision in the European Court of Human Rights to justify the decision.

The week before we left for the UN, we had had to watch helplessly while Terry Schiavo, a vulnerable handicapped adult, was murdered by what pro-lifers now call “judicial homicide” even while our executive and legislative branches of government tried fruitlessly to save her.

Therefore, the information that the government of our country, and all the countries of the world, were falling into the hands of a small liberal elite was very disturbing news. But many pro-life delegates at the UN were largely asleep to this issue.
Our lobbying papers urged the delegates to clarify that the goals for world development approved at world conferences in Cairo and Beijing in the 1990s did not create a right to abortion. The amendment was necessary, we said, because those documents were being systematically misinterpreted to promote abortion worldwide.

We heard the echo of this push in the talks given by the European Union and others. They spoke of the need for countries to provide “safe motherhood,” while lamenting the fact that women die from “unsafe abortions.” It was an oxymoron.

But it proved an excellent arguing point for my husband, who asked many people what they would think if they went to an eye doctor and the first thing he did was poke out both of their eyes. That is what occurs when the world talks about “reproductive rights and services” and “safe motherhood.” You would think they are talking about bringing healthy, happy babies into the world, but they are actually talking about the children's murder.

Some countries did speak out in favor of human life, but they did not support our amendment because they felt that if another country interpreted reproductive rights to include abortion, that would not affect their national sovereignty. Our job was to tell them it would indeed. So we told them about the Supreme Court, and how our voters, living in what might be considered the greatest democracy in history, were being disenfranchised by “world opinion.”

On Mercy Sunday night before our actual lobbying began, I remember telling my husband, “Honey, I feel alone and abandoned by the whole world.” It was a kind of spiritual trial, but God had not forgotten us.

My husband, Larry, and I, have been doing door-to-door evangelization for the Catholic Church for over 20 years. So we began to meet and greet people on Monday morning. 

Many of the friendships we began on Monday continued through the week, and enabled us to hand out critical lobbying documents to certain countries as late as Thursday.
Lobbying is the fine old art of “waiting around in the lobby for an opportunity” as one seasoned pro-life activist told us. On Tuesday morning, Larry stationed himself outside the conference room where the Commission on Population and Development would meet, and began to pass out our first official lobbying document asking the nations of the world to clarify that the Cairo and Beijing conferences did not create an international right to abortion.

When I came out of the conference room to watch Larry work in the hall, I was amused to see that Lawrence already knew many people, and was making his second contact. Although they were very friendly to his face, later when Lawrence wasn’t watching one Japanese delegate began making fun of the document he had given to her. 

I reflected that one day this delegate would not be laughing. Japan –like most of Europe and parts of Asia – is witnessing a complete demographic meltdown – perhaps the end of its race.

For the first time in human history, mankind has deliberately reduced his fertility. Worse than a nuclear bomb, the culture of death may cause whole populations to disappear. According to UN statistics, 61 countries now face “below replacement fertility,” which means their population is aging and declining through death, abortion and contraception. This is going to create problems in the short run with the nations’ pension funds and health care systems when there are more retired than working people to support them. 

But in the long run, it’s going to mean no more Japanese, no more Swedes, no more Italians, Spanish, French, and fewer South Americans. The United States currently does not have an imploding population. We are teetering at a replacement level birth rate – 2.08 children per woman, which is enough to give us a stable population.

But Japan’s fertility rate is only 1.4 children per woman, well below the required birth rate of 2.1 children per woman just to keep the population from decreasing. Japan recently became the first country to have more people over age 65 than under age 15. The New York Times called Japan “one of the world’s least fertile and fastest aging societies.” The aged are expected to make up one third of the Japanese population in just 50 years.

But Japan is not alone in this problem. Italy’s fertility rate, for example, has dropped to 1.15 children per woman, making one wonder if there will be any Italians left from which to chose a bishop of Rome should the Church decide to resume that practice. One Italian population expert, studying a recent report of the Population Division of the UN Secretariat, questioned “whether Italy can stand up to a reduction by nearly half of its working age population in (the next) 50 years.”

I am one-quarter Norwegian, so I made a point of introducing myself to the Norwegian delegate, a demographer. Larry and I asked him if he wasn’t concerned about his country’s decline in population, and he defensively told us that Norway had the most pro-family policies in all of Europe. Still their birth rate is well below replacement level, and the delegate shrugged when it was pointed out that Norway’s indigenous population was dying out, and handing the country over to its immigrants.

Our allies in the war against abortion proved to be delegates from the Middle East and some, but not all South American countries as well as the United States itself. It actually seemed easier to talk to Muslims than Roman Catholics on the issue of abortion. My husband and I humbly introduced ourselves to the delegate from Jordan on Tuesday morning. He proved to be a very interesting man. All of the conferences began at least 45 minutes late, but he was always in his seat behind the sign, “Jordan,” promptly when the meeting was officially scheduled to begin.

He was pro-life, but his complaint was that you could not trust the United States to continue to be pro-life because we had all just lived through eight years of a Democratic presidency. President Bill Clinton had done much to export abortion around the world.

The means he used was the UN Population Fund. President Reagan and now President Bush have managed to cut off all U.S. funding to the UN Population Fund because Steve Mosher’s group, the Population Research Institute, did undercover investigative reporting and found the UNPF responsible for human rights violations -- forced abortions in China and forced sterilizations in Peru.

Ironically, however, the delegate from Jordan was also upset because his country was not receiving the funding it needed for contraception from the UN Population Fund because of the U.S. pull-back. Larry and I represented a coalition of pro-life, pro-family NGOs (non-governmental observers). But we were not officially anti-contraceptive. So having gotten to know the Jordanian delegate fairly well, I told him, “This is not official. But personally, I have used Natural Family Planning in my marriage for 21 years, and it works.” And it’s great because it requires no money, no doctor, and it can be taught couple to couple.

I was not prepared for his response. He was astounded. “But I thought NFP didn’t work!” he said. I assured him it was actually more effective than artificial contraception. I didn’t realize that suggestion would create such a revolution! For everything in the UN runs on money and to suggest that someone could get something done without money was incredible.

Larry and I also enjoyed talking to many members of the Gambian delegation, all of whom were pro-life. They have in their culture the practice of spacing their children naturally through periodic abstinence. After the child is born, the wife moves back in with her mother for two years! When the Gambian delegate told us this story, I said, “Why, you don’t have to abstain for two years with Natural Family Planning!” He looked at my husband, and said, “How long?” And my husband said, with satisfaction, “Five days before (ovulation), and two days after!” His eyes widened and he looked very enthused.

In the encyclical the “Gospel of Life,” Pope John Paul II, calls abortion and contraception “fruits” from the same tree. “It is frequently asserted that contraception, if made safe and available to all, is the most effective remedy against abortion. The Catholic Church is then accused of actually promoting abortion, because she obstinately continues to teach the moral unlawfulness of contraception,” the pope wrote, adding, “When looked at carefully, this objection is clearly unfounded.”

“Indeed, the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church's teaching on contraception is rejected. Certainly, from the moral point of view contraception and abortion are specifically different evils: the former contradicts the full truth of the sexual act as the proper expression of conjugal love, while the latter destroys the life of a human being...Still such practices (contraception) are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfillment. The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.”

I speak French, but my Spanish is very limited. However, one of the delegates from Bolivia did not speak much English, and he wanted to question me on the Church’s position on contraception and abortion. He – like Larry and I – was Roman Catholic. But he apparently worked in the government promoting contraception.

The conversation was carried out in pantomime, although my husband later suspected the delegate knew more English than he let on. The delegate explained to us that the Bolivian women had many, many children, and they needed information on how to limit their families.

I picked up on the word, “information,” and I explained Natural Family Planning. No money, no doctor, no government and it is taught couple to couple. In the process, I had my husband as a teaching tool, and I showed my friend from Bolivia that I sent my husband to the couch (as in “Sleep on the couch, honey.”) In actual practice, this doesn’t happen, because the couple communicates. But it got the idea across. My husband dutifully lay on the couch to show him what I meant, and then I said, “seven days” in Spanish.

This was a critical moment for my friend. He looked at my husband questioningly. And my husband looked him in the face, and said, “Yes, we practice Natural Family Planning.” The Bolivian was visibly impressed. Then I explained to him that God had called him to teach Natural Family Planning, to give the information to Bolivian couples so they could limit their family size – if they wished.

In the end, he accepted a copy of the “Gospel of Life” in Spanish, and a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We even had to explain to him by pantomime that Our Lady was pregnant with Jesus in that picture, and that’s why she is called the “Patroness of the Unborn.” 

The humiliation we endured to communicate paid off handsomely. For after that anytime my friend met my husband in the hall, he asked for me, and looked very disappointed if I was not there.

Another delegate friend of ours, who was passionately pro-life, had difficulty with Natural Family Planning. He was Muslim. He didn’t believe the men in his country could practice periodic abstinence. He also labeled our interest in this as a religious point of view (i.e. Roman Catholic). I realized by the choking sensation in my throat that I did not practice Natural Family Planning for religious reasons, but for human reasons. I may have gotten into the practice with the encouragement of my church. But I reflected that if men have available contraception and abortion, and won’t use periodic abstinence, a woman is trapped -- always at the disposal of the male.

In fact, a delegate from South Africa addressed this issue when he spoke about his country’s solutions to the AIDS crisis. He said the government there has developed a life skills program to “empower women to manage sexual relations and to be able to assert themselves appropriately, for instance in situations requiring negotiation for the use of the condoms.”

“Negotiate for use of the condoms??” I thought, “What’s the matter with telling your partner with AIDS to sleep on the couch?” Everyone agreed that condoms are absolutely ineffective against AIDS transmission. Needless to say, the delegate had to admit that in 1990, less than 1 percent of pregnant women in South Africa were HIV positive. But by 2004, 28 percent were HIV positive. And this happened while condom use increased 34 percent in that country during the two decades ending in 2002. This basically supported my husband’s argument at the UN that abortion and contraception in the United States have not helped empower women. In fact, since Roe vs. Wade made abortion legal in 1973, sexually transmitted diseases have increased, the rate of illegitimacy has increased, and so has abuse against women and children.

There has been one stunning success against the AIDS epidemic in Africa: Uganda. The country promoted abstinence and monogamy as a means of stopping AIDS. Bill boards in Uganda remind the population, “Graze in your own field, not in your neighbor’s.” The abstinence campaign was so effective; the infection has almost disappeared from their landscape.

South Africa, on the other hand, is watching its population growth come to a dead stop, according to its representative. They’ve been hit with a double whammy: AIDS and Contraception. The latter has reduced family size to 2.7 children per woman, while AIDS has shortened the life expectancy of South Africans to age 50.

So in the Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II wrote, “The close connection which exists, in mentality, between the practice of contraception and that of abortion is becoming increasingly obvious. It is being demonstrated in an alarming way by the development of chemical products, intrauterine devices and vaccines which, distributed with the same ease as contraceptives, really act as abortifacients in the very early stages of the development of the life of the new human being.”

And in some countries these very things have a two-fold effect on the population. While the parents are using abortion and contraception to kill their offspring, they also are spreading the AIDS virus and killing off themselves.

However, abstinence was not on the agenda at the UN. In fact, when the week started, we lobbyists all wondered what the connection was between abortion and AIDS. We found out to our horror that the pro-abortion lobby wanted the right to continue to have sex even after they contracted AIDS without adverse consequences. And they wanted the right to abort the product of that encounter, the baby.

Our Muslim friend was a very feisty fighter behind closed doors where most of the negotiating on the final document went on. While he didn’t like the idea of Natural Family Planning, he was also passionately against abortion, contraception and homosexual marriage. It was he who told us that the pro-abortion countries tried to get pregnancy declared a cause of AIDS. He said the pro-life countries nipped that in the bud because in another year they would have demanded abortion become a universal right for humanity as a means of combating AIDS.

But our fellow lobbyists from the Population Research Institute told us that AIDS is not transmitted in pregnancy. It is transmitted at birth and by nursing, and anti-viral drugs can be administered to the pregnant woman at birth to prevent the transmission, while canned baby formula can be given to the family. No baby need ever be born with AIDS nor contract AIDS from his mother if all the resources dedicated to worthless condoms and contraception were given over to these other two options.

Lawrence and I talked all week non-stop from early in the morning to late at night with anyone who would listen to us. When we were tired we went to the UN cafeteria, and while sitting down found more people to talk to. At first, I would pray and let God guide us where to sit. We met important delegations this way. But as my feet grew more tired, I learned to take advantage of the New York culture, which is to only approach people you know. I realized I could sit in the cafeteria with two empty seats, and as people came looking for a seat, I would look them in the eyes, smile and beckon them to come sit with us. It worked! One person from South America, who got to know us this way, explained that he came over because no one talks to strangers in New York, so by implication he thought he knew us already.

But another stranger who did not come over to meet us, turned around repeatedly as he left the cafeteria looking at me trying to figure out how I thought I knew him. I still don’t.
On Thursday, they told us the lobbying was over, and now our only option was prayer. Plus we were to stay all night at the UN Thursday as a witness while the delegates struggled with one another behind closed doors. Larry and I went back to our hotel for showers and then returned to the UN about 9 p.m.

The pro-abortion lobby -- about 12 to 13 young women who self identify as lesbian -- sat in one corner of the room with a table of goodies that attracted the delegates whenever they came out of the room. We – about 10 men and women from Canada, the United States and Australia -- sat in the other corner of the room, some of us holding our Rosaries.

Surprisingly, the Rosary attracted another kind of person, a U. S. delegate, Roman Catholic and a member of the Bush team, who was fighting against the abortion language in the document. He asked Larry and me for our prayers for his sick child and his wife, who was without him that night.
About 11 p.m. I suggested to our group that we pray to Pope John Paul II to help us. His funeral was scheduled to begin in Rome at 3 a.m. New York time. 

We had no idea whether we were winning or losing except that one of our lobbyists had overhead a pro-abortion delegate on her cell phone. She was telling someone that her side was getting discouraged, and they were about to give up, but she wanted to keep fighting. We prayed for their continued discouragement.

Our veteran pro-life lobbyists told stories about how they stayed up until 7 a.m. in a similar situation at another conference. I have fibromyalgia and diabetes, and I thought to myself, I cannot make it to 7 a.m. So I remembered what St. Faustina, the Catholic Church’s apostle of Divine Mercy, had written in her diary. During a drought in Poland she had felt sorry for the drooping plants. She began to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy non-stop for rain. After three hours of such prayer, the heavens broke lose with a torrential downpour. Faustina Kowalska was the first saint Pope John Paul II canonized in the new millennium, and he reportedly loved her very much.

So it must have tickled him when I prayed for his intercession, and began to say the Chaplet from St. Faustina’s Diary non-stop starting at 11:30 p.m. Three hours later -- at 2:30 a.m. about an hour before the pope’s funeral would begin -- the delegates all walked out of the room, and went home. We still didn’t know what had happened.

The conference was to resume the next day at 10 a.m., but the start was stalled until 6 p.m. as last minute negotiations continued almost to the end. At that point, they handed out the final negotiated document in English. The European Union, which had helped negotiate it, refused to ratify or approve the document until it was translated into French some time the following week. Once, the language was explained to me by our pro-life Muslim friend, I could easily see why.

The Beijing and Cairo conferences did not create an international right to abortion, but the strongest anti-abortion language was contained in the reservations filed by individual countries and attached to the main document. Therefore to refer to these conferences without the reservations was to take a pro-abortion stance. The Population Commission’s final negotiated document referred to the Cairo conference “in its entirety” (including the anti-abortion reservations of individual countries). That was a whopping success for the pro-life cause.

But the document also sidestepped any implied right to abortion as a means of stopping AIDS. And the wording, “reproductive health services,” often interpreted to include abortion, was completely absent. In addition, the document avoided creating any implied right to homosexual marriage by referring to the people who get AIDS as “individuals with vulnerabilities.” If they had said, prostitutes, drug users and homosexuals, as the EU had done in its speech, it would have created a new group within the human family with the potential right to well . . . marriage.

The final negotiated document was approved by the UN Commission on Population and Development the following week. It was a complete victory for the pro-life, pro-family cause.

But we have another Catholic saint to thank besides Faustina and John Paul the Great. We also handed out pictures of St. Gianna Beretta Molla. She must have been one of the last saints Pope John Paul II canonized as she was declared a saint May 16, 2004. And she only died in 1962. She was an Italian physician, who pregnant with her fourth child, refused treatment that might save her life so that her unborn daughter could live instead. Gianna died nine days after the birth. Greater love hath no man than he give his life for a friend.

Lawrence met members of the Italian mission at the UN. After hearing Larry speak about the problems caused by abortion and contraception, they asked, “How can we change our culture?” 
Later in the cafeteria I gave one of them a picture of Gianna Molla with her children, and he asked me, “Oh, is she an American saint?”

“No,” I said, “She is Italian.”

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