UN women's commission rejects expansion of 'reproductive rights'

A wide view of the meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women March 3 2012 Credit UN Photo Evan Schneider CNA US Catholic News 4 2 12 A wide view of the meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women, March 3, 2012. | UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

Amid controversy over the “rights” to contraception and abortion, the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women concluded its 56th annual meeting without reaching the necessary agreement for a concluding document.

A Holy See delegation which attended the gathering argued that expanding the definition of family planning “amounts to a wholesale attempt at rewriting history to advance an agenda disrespectful of marriage and the family.”

The U.N. Commission’s closing meeting, held on March 15, ended without adopting the normal “agreed conclusions.”

This unusual outcome was due to the U.S. delegation’s attempt to expand the definition of “family planning” that has been used for nearly two decades to include “modern forms of contraception.”

The Obama administration has been pushing expansive “reproductive rights” within the United States as well.

The Department of Health and Human Services has recently included abortion-causing drugs as “preventive services,” calling them “FDA-approved contraceptives” and requiring employers to offer health insurance plans that cover them under the new health care law.

However, numerous states at the Commission meeting – including Muslim nations, southern African countries and the Holy See – objected to the attempt to establish an international consensus on the “right to contraception.”

Several states, including Poland, Chile and Malta, also clarified that they did not interpret the term “reproductive rights” to include abortion.

The U.S. delegation had worked to expand the term from its past definition, which excluded abortion.

The Holy See delegation joined in criticizing the move, noting that there is “no international consensus” regarding the inclusion of abortion in the term “reproductive rights” and observing that numerous states across the world remain firmly committed in their opposition to abortion.

The Holy See stressed the need to "respect conscience and the freedom of religion” in developing international policies.

The delegation also strongly criticized a U.S.-supported maternal mortality resolution calling for “comprehensive sex education” for young people and “youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health care services, including family planning.”

“It is the sacred and solemn responsibility of parents to care for their children and no one – including the state – has a right to advance an agenda which does not respect the natural moral law,” the delegation said in a statement.

It warned that the resolution “undermines international law” and conflicts with the state’s duty “to promote the common good of the family and society.”

The Holy See emphasized the need to fight maternal mortality through “adequate healthcare,” including the availability of “skilled birth attendants, prenatal and postnatal care for mother and child, and emergency obstetric care.”

"In authentic rights-based approach to eliminating preventable maternal mortality and morbidity respects fully all human persons and thus all women,” it said.

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