The recent meetings of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) illuminated some of the issues at stake in the negotiations on the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Led by the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Ipas, abortion advocates and their allies have been pursuing an aggressive and coordinated effort to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in every conference and document along the way to the creation of the new SDGs.
When the CSW convened last month, delegates and attendees were barraged with calls for expanded access to contraception and abortion in the name of gender equality. At the United Nations, “reproductive rights” has become a significant subset of the development framework, thanks in no small part to the decades-long efforts of Hillary Clinton, who remarked, “You cannot make progress on gender equality or broader human development without safeguarding women’s reproductive health and rights.”
The U.N. and its various entities continue to pursue a population control agenda, highlighting the “unmet need” for contraceptives across the developing world. In time to commemorate International Women’s Day, the World Health Organization issued new guidance on contraceptives, insisting that contraception is a human right. This was a prominent theme throughout the two-week conference, which resulted in a negotiated outcome document that no side could claim as a complete victory: Radical feminists continued their push toward a stand-alone goal in the SDGs on gender equality and bemoaned the lack of reference in the final document to sexual orientation or gender identity; pro-life and pro-family delegations sought unsuccessfully to eliminate language calling for “comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care services, information and education” but succeeded in identifying the family as a contributor to sustainable development.
The CPD met earlier this month to continue discussing the development framework that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Perhaps more than any other U.N. commission, the CPD meetings are typically dominated by proponents of a radical feminist agenda with a heavy dose of population control policies, and this year was no different in that regard.
On site at the U.N., side events such as “Uniting for Safe Legal Abortion” and “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Human Rights Priorities beyond 2014” were at overflow capacity, while an event down the hall on aging and its implications—which is clearly relevant to a conference on population and development—was barely attended. Similarly, maternal mortality—another major topic within sustainable development, and its own MDG—has been co-opted by abortion advocates.
The U.S. and its European allies attempted to use this year’s CPD meetings to advance abortion and so-called sexual rights at every turn, in spite of opposition to these controversial subjects from much of the developing world. The U.S. praised the U.N. Population Division for its work in building “an important foundation for developing strategies for achieving [the] objective of universal access to reproductive health.” Meanwhile, the Holy See urged a “more sensible approach [that] should focus less on reducing fertility and more on programs and values which support integral human development,” such as “access to education, economic opportunity, political stability, basic health care, and support for the family.”
The document that emerged from the CPD, much like that at the CSW meeting, failed to advance the cause of SRHR as far as its proponents had hoped. However, their success in dominating the development agenda at the U.N. sets the stage for an uphill battle for conservatives to make the new SDGs effective in meeting the basic needs of individuals and families throughout the world.