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Monday, September 1, 2008
The International Struggle for the Unborn Continued
by Susan Fox
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. (Matt.5:8)
New York, April 3-7, 2006 -- One might hesitate to begin a story about the United Nations’ 39th session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) with such a quote, but I really did meet CPD delegates who shone with this beatitude – perhaps not perfectly, but they shone. They were all pro-life.
The delegate from Haiti, for instance, was Catholic and pro-life, quite willing to talk to me, but because his country was not pro-life, he could offer little help. Nevertheless, he accepted a copy of The Gospel of Life by Pope John Paul II and promised to give it to his wife -- a Catholic physician.
One South African delegate was pro-life, while her country was not. I gave her a red rose, affirming human life, and she received it readily. But when I asked for her help, she told me she was part of a delegation which led the Group of 77, mostly composed of Third World countries. Not only that, but her delegation was charged with impartiality because of their leadership role. I asked her if she was a person of prayer. She nodded shyly. “Then do that,” I said. She agreed.
This was the third UN conference I participated in as a non-governmental observer (NGO) for a coalition of pro-life, pro-family NGOs under the leadership of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-Fam). Members of my family did not accompany me on this trip, but fellow home-schooling mother Kim Kunasek of Phoenix did. I was privileged to be able to travel with her. It made the week so much more enjoyable.
The 39th session was on migration. So from a lobbying perspective our goal was to initially remain hidden. If we made too much noise right off the bat, we might inadvertently bring in language that promoted abortion. So early in the week I focused on meeting the delegates, and then I could use my contacts later in the week when the lobbying was underway. Our goal was to get them to reaffirm “the report of the ICPD” in its entirety. It’s probably a difficult lobbying position to explain outside the UN.
But in 1994 in Cairo, Egypt, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) created the Commission on Population and Development and charged it with the task of monitoring the implementation of its “Programme of Action.” By itself, the “Programme” is ambiguous on the issue of abortion. It recommended that women be given access to “reproductive health services.” The pro-abortion lobby always says that doesn’t include abortion, but then UN agencies use the term, “reproductive health services” to pressure countries to legalize abortion.
However, the ICPD report in its entirety, that is, the ICPD plus 47 reservations submitted by numerous countries was a very pro-life document. In order for the UN to create new international law, every country involved has to approve of the final wording of the document. Reservations on specific issues mean that there is no agreement on that issue. The pro-life issue had 20 reservations, so the ICPD in reality did not create a new human right – the right to abortion. Yet many UN agencies use the ICPD to pressure countries to legalize abortion, prostitution, overturn parental rights, prosecute medical workers who won’t perform abortions, etc.
Here are some of the pro-life reservations of the 1994 ICPD:
The reservation of the Latin American countries, which were at that time overwhelmingly pro-life, read, “Because our countries are mainly Christian, we consider that life is given by the Creator and cannot be taken unless there is a reason which justifies it being extinguished. For this reason …we consider that life must be protected from the moment of conception.”
The country of Jordan clarified in its reservation that when the ICPD mentions “couples,” they understood it to mean “married couples.” The Vatican and other countries did also affirm the sacrament of marriage as the basis for referring to two people as a “couple.”
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya expressed a reservation about the term, “unwanted pregnancies” “because our written Constitution does not allow the State to undertake abortions unless the mother’s health is in danger.”
Nicaragua said it accepted the concepts of “family planning,” “sexual health,” “reproductive health,” “reproductive rights,” and “sexual rights” except “when they include abortion or termination of pregnancy as a component.”
Paraguay didn’t mince words: “The right to life is the inherent right of every human being from conception to natural death.”
Needless to say, in 1994, the United States made no reservations to this document because under President Bill Clinton, we were promoting abortion worldwide.
Now it is 2006, and the U.S. is pro-life and some Latin American countries are emerging as socialist nations on the Castro model and they are therefore pro-death. The African nations are allowing restricted abortion, and the Muslim countries are some of our staunchest allies on the issue of abortion. In this and past conferences, it was Syria, Lebanon and Egypt that really fought for the world’s children. Egypt hosted the 1994 ICPD, and was greatly embarrassed when it produced a document that could be interpreted as pro-abortion. Therefore, ever since, the representatives of this country have been fierce fighters for the pro-life cause.
One of the proposed resolutions for the 39th session of the CPD was to reaffirm the 1994 ICPD “Programme of Action.” While that might seem like harmless boilerplate language, it actually was an aggressive pro-abortion statement because a reference to the “Programme of Action” does not include the pro-life reservations. A reference to “the Report” of the ICPD does. Therefore our lobbying went something like this: Defend your national sovereignty. Make sure the final document this week includes the whole report of the ICPD, a document subject to 47 written and oral reservations, 20 of which related to reproductive health.
Actually, we started by lobbying them to keep the focus on migration by reaffirming only the relevant chapters of the ICPD relating to migration because that was, after all, the topic of the session. But that idea was discarded by the delegates early in the week.
You may ask why we didn’t try to get positive pro-life language into the document. Well, that’s a very interesting question. During this week, our lobbying team included a gaggle of Mexican school girls, a young Canadian, who headed one of the biggest pro-life lobbying groups in Canada (I was accredited under that group), Jeanne Head, R.N., the UN representative of National Right to Life, four men and one young woman from United Families International and Samantha Singson, who now heads the New York office of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute. I was also there with Kim Kunasek, and my old friend, Janet Cook also of Phoenix. I met Janet in 2000 at my first UN lobbying experience in New York. Kim, Janet and I were all from Arizona. So were the four gentlemen from United Families. It was a coincidence.
And those four gentlemen led by Doug Clark did create a pro-family resolution, which the delegates from the United States agreed to try and put it in the final document. It was a very simple paragraph stating that the family is the basic unit of society: “Recognizing the ICPD’s emphasis on the family as the basic unit of society and noting the effect of international migration and development on the family…” Some members of our pro-life team feared that introducing something like that could provoke the opposite response, that is, the world could be pushed to put pro-abortion language in the document. But by the grace of God, that didn’t happen. Neither did the family language make it despite strenuous efforts by the U.S. representatives. Now this is very shocking because even the Programme of Action of the ICPD, which was literally drafted by a consensus of the whole world in 1994, referred to the family as the basic unit of society.
In just 12 short years, the world has lost its direction. No one can agree that the family is the basic unit of society. But we have to applaud the courage of United Families for making the effort, and the Bush Administration for fighting for it.
Most of the meeting was about international migration. So we heard talks on the so-called “brain drain” – that is educated medical and other personnel from Third World countries moving to developed nations. We heard talks on remittances, that is, money that immigrants send home to their families. The socialist countries wanted to figure out how to tax this money. The (American) capitalists showed how this money actually produces new investment in the home country because the recipient uses it to buy groceries. And another citizen can open a grocery store for the migrant’s family. From the capitalist point of view, even the brain drain was good for developing countries because the people left behind filled the positions in their countries left by the departing “brains,” and therefore the whole population developed.
The best talk at this conference was given by the papal nuncio appointed by Pope Benedict XVI. Archbishop Celestino Migliore has been given the UN as his sole responsibility. That means the United States now has two apostolic nuncios in residence, one for the UN and one for the U.S. It was a treat to be at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Sunday morning on April 2nd as Archbishop Migliore concelebrated Mass with New York Cardinal Edward Egan. Then during the week the archbishop could be seen walking around the UN very informally.
On April 4th, he delivered an indirect sermon against abortion and contraception: “Dire predictions as to the future composition and sustainability of the projected human global population led to radical population polices, which have been responsible for different but equally grave dilemmas … falling birth rates, and the creation of imbalances between men and women… If the development of the world’s peoples is to be …sane, such flawed policies will have to be replaced by truly people-centered ones.” In other words, in the 1970s, we were all told to fear the “population explosion,” but three decades later, we are coping with the effects of a population implosion. Through sex-selection abortions, China is raising a generation of men without women, and Europe’s populations are shrinking rapidly, making them heavily dependent on immigration. “Due to low fertility, net migration counts for three quarters of the population growth in developed countries and by 2030, migration may account for all population growth in those countries,” the archbishop said, predicting “radical consequences” for the composition of entire nations.
Delegates from each country split into two closed committees, one working on the substance of the document and the other working on the methods of work. This latter committee was very contentious because the UN Population Fund, a big source of pro-abortion activity in the world, was looking for a larger role in the work of the Commission on Population and Development. That would have been disastrous for the pro-life side.
I remember praying to God to help us with the final document during the week, but if we couldn’t get something pro-life then let them get nothing. It was interesting because on Friday the best we got on the substance was that they did reference the whole “Report of the ICPD” in a footnote (not good according to our leaders). And we heard that Egypt was going to add a reservation saying that the final report should reference the whole report of the ICPD. We were rejoicing about that much, but then the whole Group of 77 walked out of the meeting and went home, and it looked like there would be no document produced by the Commission of Population and Development. But the rest of the countries continued meeting Friday night and then on May 10.
I have since obtained a copy of the final report of the 39th session of the Commission on Population and Development. We did get our footnote referencing the whole report of the ICPD. The word family does not appear anywhere in the report. They really didn’t create any new methods of work. They did not give the UN Population Fund a bigger role in the work of the Commission. That is interesting because we --- the pro-life lobbyists -- were escorted from the closed meetings when we tried to break in (yes, I crashed a closed meeting). But the UN Population Fund lobbyists – pro-abortionists par excellente – were always inside these meetings.
From the perspective of evangelizing the world, it was a wonderful week. First there was Esther from Ghana. She was a devout Protestant with four sons and holding the highest position in her country in charge of population. She asked me why Catholics – who oppose contraception -- own a contraception factory. Mystified, I responded that many Catholic don’t practice their religion properly, but that the Church does not officially own a “contraception factory.” She understood the concept of individuals not following their own faith, but promised to get back to me with the information on the factory we owned. The end of the week I gave her a red rose (symbol for pro-life) and we hoped to talk together again, but never could because I was lobbying, and she was in meetings.
This past summer Esther called me from Africa. By the grace of God, I was in the shower, and my husband, Lawrence, answered the phone. He said she asked him if Natural Family Planning was a pill. He explained Natural Family Planning to her. When I got out of the shower, I heard him shouting into the bad connection on the phone, “No, there are times during the month when your husband respects you, and leaves you alone so you won’t conceive.” “It’s because of his love and esteem for you,” he added. I could have hugged him! How wonderful to have a good Christian man answer her questions. She was still confused though, and he recommended she speak to a Catholic priest. We must pray for Esther.
We had a beautiful young woman on our lobbying team. Marin was reading the Da Vinci Code in her spare time. The movie was not yet released. She knew I was Catholic, and so she asked me about Opus Dei, the Catholic lay organization started by Msg. Jose Escrivá. Some of you may know that Opus Dei is the evil villain in the tortured anti-Catholic plot of the Da Vinci Code. I explained to her that Opus Dei means “Work of God,” and it was a wonderful Catholic organization dedicated to teaching lay people to give their ordinary daily work to God. The very next day after this conversation, when I was standing in the lobby outside the meeting of the Group of 77, Kim, who was helping me hand out red roses, said, “Look at that man. He was at Mass this morning.” So in a pause of the lobbying I approached “that man” and found out he was a member of Opus Dei, in fact a widower, who had dedicated himself to God and would never remarry. He was an economist from the University of Cadiz in Spain, attending a conference at the UN on international trade. We, of course, told Marin right away of the encounter.
During most of the week, the lobbying seemed more difficult than usual. Many times, Kim and I would be the first on the scene in the morning to lobby as people went into their meetings because we were staying across the street at the UN Millennium Plaza Hotel, and the others lived some distance away or had found cheaper digs at some distance. They always told horror stories of being in cabs stuck in traffic jams. Kim and I walked a block to daily Mass at the UN’s parish, Holy Family, every morning and were already at the UN by 8:45 a.m.
On one such morning, we parked ourselves outside the door of a critical migration meeting, which would be closed to us, and greeted everyone on the way in. Surprisingly, I had not seen these delegates before. Their cards showed they were higher up in the delegation than the ones we were meeting earlier in the week. This therefore was an important meeting. I was careful to say nothing to France. France is on the opposing side, and we were not supposed to tip off the enemy to our presence. But then I met Andrei from Belarus, and he was pro-life. I begged him to stand up for the pro-life cause in the meeting and told him that while many supported the right to life, they were afraid to say anything. He promised to try. The problem was that Belarus probably didn’t have much clout in that meeting. That was the story of the whole week – the pro-life delegates were from countries without power or countries that were pro-death. The U.S. was pro-life, but seemed to be isolated. A South African delegate told me it was actually fashionable to be against the positions of the United States. Everyone wanted to be accepted by their peers. How funny that sentiment did not afflict the world when Bill Clinton was president. Then everyone was happy to be on the U.S. side on abortion.
The U.S. delegate is Roman Catholic and works for the Bush Administration. He is often our source for what is going on in the closed meetings. You have to understand that we often sat in a group, and this was dictated by Jeanne Head of National Right to Life. She has been lobbying at these conferences for decades, and acts as the younger lobbyists’ mentor and leader. It is not easy to stay in a group outside closed meetings from early in the morning to late at night especially since these meetings are held in the smoking area. The world has not embraced the American distain for smoking. However, sitting in a group really pays off. The U.S. delegate showed us this.
He told us of a conversation he had with an anti-life German delegate. The delegate looked at us--sitting in a big group (including many young people)—and complained about the size of our group. (The anti-life lobbyists were present at this meeting but did not sit in a group.) The U.S. delegate basically told him he hadn’t seen anything yet because of the demographics. Only pro-lifers are having children, so there are tons of young people growing up pro-life. The German man groaned.
I had a similar experience later in the week. The radically pro-life Egyptians weren’t on the CPD this year, and so I tried to find a Middle Eastern substitute and settled on the delegate from Lebanon, also pro-life, but very unsure of himself. Nevertheless, he proved helpful at the end of the week in terms of telling us what happened with the Group of 77 leaving, and as we were talking he pointed at our group and asked me who all those people were. I said, “Why, they are all here to support the pro-life cause.” And he expressed his amazement that all those Americans/Canadians/Mexicans were pro-life! I introduced him to Jeanne.
It was the same story with the Indonesian delegate. He read my pro-life business card, looked at me, and said skeptically, “You are against abortion?”
I said very firmly, “Yes.”
“You believe in marriage between one man and one woman?”
“Yes, absolutely,” I replied. He looked shocked. Some Muslims, unfortunately, do not have a very good opinion of the American woman. Just being there with my wedding ring and my little pro-life, pro-family business card was a very important witness.