Catholic students lobby at UN commission on women

Opening of 57th Session of Commission on Status of Women on March 4 2013 at UN Headquarters in New York Credit UN Photo Rick Bajornas CNA 3 19 13 Opening of 57th Session of Commission on Status of Women on March 4, 2013 at UN Headquarters in New York. | UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Students at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio worked to educate delegates at a recent United Nations commission about the importance of life and family in protecting women's interests.

"The work at the U.N. makes an impact. It's important for Catholics in the U.S. to realize how important it is," said Monica Krason, a junior from Richmond, Ohio majoring in legal studies and British and American literature.

Krason was one of 15 Franciscan University students, faculty and staff who attended the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations headquarters in New York City from March 9-15.

The students hoped to stress the importance of human dignity and the family to members of the commission, which has met yearly to discuss women's equality and other issues.

Krason told CNA on March 19 that some lobby groups in favor of abortion and a redefinition of marriage "try to promote very dangerous, expansive language, like reproductive rights, that sounds very good but is actually really bad."

She explained that this language often amounts to "the right to push abortion and contraception," even in countries where it is not wanted.

"The work they're doing there is really important. People need to pay attention to the U.N. so that abortion does not become a 'fundamental human right,'" she stressed. "It would be a disaster if that happened."

Krason said that if the U.S. recognized an international treaty declaring abortion to be a fundamental right, it would negate any efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The delegation from Franciscan University was led by Prof. Brian Scarnecchia, a professor of human life studies and legal studies.

The students lobbied as non-governmental organization representatives for the Society of Catholic Social Scientists and the International Solidarity and Human Rights Institute, the latter of which Scarnecchia founded.

The professor has taken more than 200 Franciscan University students to the Commission on the Status of Women sessions in the last nine years.

The students' statement to the Commission on the Status of Women, titled "The World We Want," was submitted on behalf of the university's St. Thomas More Society, a student group which focuses on politics and faith.

It called for "an enhanced regard for the natural family," including more regulations on divorce and support for troubled marriages to help secure the best interests of children.

The statement opposed abortion based on gender or undesirable genetic conditions while advocating basic health care to reduce child mortality and aid maternal health.

Krason said she was surprised by the "strange bedfellows" the pro-life, pro-family movement works with at the U.N.

The students were advised not to bother talking to western countries "because nine times out of ten they are going to be very opposed to your viewpoint."

"The people you want to talk to and try to encourage in their work are people from the African countries, the Muslim countries, and maybe the most surprising, Russia," Krason explained. "Russia is having a demographic crisis. So they have become very pro-life."

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Students also attended sessions on violence against women and girls in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa.

In a March 12 report about the lobbying effort, Scarnecchia and undergraduate student Sara Hartung said developed nations, including the U.S. under the current Obama administration, use such gatherings to try to push poor countries to accept documents enshrining abortion "as a fundamental right" and classifying restrictions on homosexual sex as "crimes against humanity."

They said many delegates from the developing world complain that the Commission on the Status of Women "has lost its direction and is simply focused on forcing abortion and unrestricted homosexual sodomy on the third world."

In the view of these delegates, the real issues affecting women in the developing world include providing "potable water, sanitation, and basic health care such as antibiotics and blood banks," though they believe these receive "little attention."

Krason said pro-life, pro-family organizations need to have a stronger presence at the United Nations in order to encourage other like-minded countries.

"The pressure they're under is immense," she explained.

She suggested interested student volunteers contact the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, the International Solidarity and Human Rights Institute and the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute to learn more.

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