Advocates for abortion at the UN are vocally frustrated with their lack of advancement since the Cairo conference on population twenty years ago. This becomes increasing evident as they gear up for two big events in the coming year.
Next year will see not only the twentieth anniversary of Cairo but the negotiation of a whole new set of development goals to replace the last set that are retiring in 2015. Both negotiations are opportunities for abortion advocates to gain ground but for a whole host of reasons they see their chances slipping away.
The head of a powerful abortion advocacy group tweeted out her frustrations during a just concluded “sexual and reproductive health and rights” conference in Berlin. The EuroNGOs Conference brought together leading proponents of abortion including the head of the UN Population Fund, and a plethora of non-governmental organizations including the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
Francoise Girard, president of the International Women’s Health Coalition, spent part of the meeting telling her Twitter followers that she expects the UN to take a dive on sexual and reproductive health at the upcoming negotiations.
She complained that her close allies at the UN Population Fund are about to “issue a Global Review Report on [Cairo] framed around Dignity and Health – not human rights, [sexual and reproductive rights, sexual and reproductive health]. “ She tweeted, “Is this where we have come to in 20 years?”
That is the nub of the problem for abortion advocates. While they have been able to convince UN committee there is a right abortion, they have never been able to convince the General Assembly. Not only have they failed to advance their agenda in twenty years, they have spent hundreds of thousands of hours and hundreds of millions of dollars and what they face at the UN is not only a shut out but perhaps a rollback.
Girard wondered how her side could get the UN General Assembly to pay attention “to the great results in regional [Cairo] meetings?” Over the past year, the UN Population Fund hosted a series of meetings around the world in preparation for next year. The meetings tended to be packed with abortion advocates including a conference in Bali for young people. The Bali document was barely acknowledged by the General Assembly a few weeks ago. The problem with these regional documents is they were not authentically negotiated and therefore represent only a narrow swath of opinion. These documents are meant to inform the UN debate except such documents would never make it through the General Assembly.
And that is the problem now being faced by the sexual left. The Member States of the UN have grown weary with what many see as the obsession with abortion and attendant “rights” that the UN Population Fund and the constellation of abortion groups foist constantly on UN negotiations.
As evidence of this consider a few years ago the sexual left actually faced a rollback of language. At the 20th anniversary of the Rio Conference on the Environment, negotiators rejected the term “reproductive rights,” a term that had been largely unremarkable for years. But, UN diplomats have told the Friday Fax that they are committed to fighting these terms in UN negotiations and certainly in the Sustainable Development Goals that will be negotiated next year.
The frustration of the reproductive health and rights establishment at the UN will continue to grow.