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Pro-life advocates see dangers in push to ratify U.N. treaty

WASHINGTON (BP)–A controversial women’s rights treaty may have gained new life in Congress, but pro-life and pro-family advocates have initiated an effort to contest the treaty’s pro-abortion implications.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D.-Calif., has circulated a letter to other members of the House of Representatives seeking their support for a non-binding resolution asking the Senate to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Woolsey wants the House measure approved on March 8, the International Women’s Day.

Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., and multiple pro-life organizations have circulated their own letters declaring their opposition to the treaty.

“CEDAW will be distorted and used against provisions like parental involvement laws, the ban on barbaric partial-birth abortions and conscience protection for people of faith — not to mention promoting taxpayer funding for abortion,” Smith said.

The treaty does not refer to abortion, but the United Nations CEDAW Compliance Committee has established a pattern of using the document to pressure countries to force pro-life, healthcare professionals to do abortions in violation of their consciences, Smith said.

Supporters of the treaty have asked Sen. Joseph Biden, D.-Del., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to schedule a vote on the treaty March 8, according to Lifenews.com. They are seeking a Senate floor vote after the committee signs off on it. The treaty would need a two-thirds vote to be ratified.

Only the Senate will vote on CEDAW. Though the House does not ratify treaties, some of its members are seeking to influence the other chamber in this case.

Article 12 of the treaty is the primary focus of social conservatives’ concerns. It says state parties shall take appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of healthcare, including those related to family planning. State parties also should ensure women have appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, granting free services where necessary.

“Not only is the … treaty not necessary, its ratification would challenge and undermine the laws and culture of the United States,” said Janice Shaw Crouse of Concerned Women for America (CWA).

Smith said legalized abortion is not sufficient to satisfy the extreme views of the CEDAW committee and “common sense laws” in the U.S. will be under attack. Since the U.S. Constitution says treaties have the force of law, the comments and recommendations of the committee will override pro-life laws in American courts, Smith said. He added the CEDAW will be used against parental involvement laws and the ban on “barbaric” partial-birth abortions.

CEDAW was written by the Commission on the Status of Women, a U.N. human rights group, in 1980. President Carter signed the treaty soon after it was introduced, but the Senate has refrained from ratifying it. Since then, 184 countries -– more than 90 percent of U.N. members -– have ratified CEDAW. The U.S. is the only industrialized country that has not ratified it, Woolsey said.

The topics covered in the treaty, in addition to family planning, include trafficking, domestic violence, workplace harassment and rape as an act of war. Woolsey’s letter stresses the impact failing to ratify CEDAW will have on America’s own human rights efforts around the world.

“It’s time to move beyond this embarrassing and shameful distinction,” Woolsey said. “If the United States prides itself on being a global leader and an example to the world, how can we truly champion the cause of human rights until we ratify CEDAW?”

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) sent a letter to the Senate voicing its concerns about the committee behind CEDAW. The NRLC listed examples of criticisms the CEDAW committee has expressed of at least 37 U.N. member countries. The committee has pressured the countries to weaken or repeal pro-life laws. The committee told Ireland it was “concerned that, with very limited expectations, abortion remains illegal in Ireland.” It told Mexico that its states should “review their legislation so that, where necessary, women are granted access to rapid and easy abortion,” according to NRLC.

“Should the U.S. ratify CEDAW, people of conscience and unborn children in the U.S. will be attacked by the committee,” Smith said. “The U.S. should not be a party to such a treaty and thereby subject our country to the pro-abortion ideology of this United Nations treaty body.”

Many conservative groups, including CWA, also are concerned about the broad cultural implications in the CEDAW text. Implementing CEDAW would undermine the traditional family structure in the United States, Crouse said. The text says the traditional role of men and women in society needs to change in order to “achieve full equality” between the genders.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is one of the organizations opposing CEDAW.

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  • Dustin McNab