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Pro-life leaders laud U.S. stance at U.N. population conference

WASHINGTON (BP)–Southern Baptist ethics leader Richard Land and others have commended President Bush for his administration’s commitment to pro-life and pro-family values in the international arena.

The commendation came shortly before the United States stood alone against abortion rights and lost at a United Nations meeting in Thailand.

The administration “has steadfastly protected unborn life and the traditional family during United Nations negotiations,” thereby delaying efforts “to advance a radical social agenda,” Land and five other pro-family leaders said in a Dec. 12 letter to Bush.

“We appreciate this unambiguous and unqualified commitment, as do the people of many nations of the developing world, who have felt increasing pressure over the past 10 years to conform to this radical social agenda,” they said.

Land and the others said they recognize this stand has produced “great criticism” but reminded the administration “there are so many people, both in the United States and around the world, who appreciate your efforts, admire your fortitude and pray for your continuing success.”

Others signing the letter were Ken Connor, president of Family Research Council; Charles Colson, chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries; Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women for America; Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute; and Phyllis Schlafly, president of Eagle Forum.

The U.S. delegation, seeking to delete language that it said would promote abortion, lost two votes on the issue Dec. 17 at the U.N.-sponsored Asian and Pacific Population Conference in Bangkok.

The Bush administration called for the removal of terms such as “reproductive health services” and “reproductive rights” from the proposed 22-page plan of action of the conference, according to CNSNews.com. Short of deletion of the terms, the United States wanted footnotes inserted to clarify the terms did not encompass abortion, CNS reported.

The votes on two chapters — one on reproductive health and rights, and the other on teenage reproductive health — went 31-1 and 32-1, respectively, against the United States. The U.S. delegation expressed its concerns in a separate document, but it agreed on the plan’s final adoption, U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Thoraya Obaid said, according to CNS.

Among its qualms, the United States said, were that “reproductive rights, reproductive health, reproductive health care and services, family planning services, and sexual health should not be interpreted to constitute support, endorsement or promotion of abortion or abortion-related services or the use of abortifacients,” CNS reported.

In their letter to Bush, Land and the others cited not only the administration’s stand in the Bangkok negotiations but two other actions it took this year:

— At the U.N. General Assembly Special Session on Children in May, the United States helped lead a successful campaign to reject an attempt to include abortion rights for children in a statement. The Vatican and some Muslim countries joined the U.S. delegation in turning back an effort to incorporate the phrase “reproductive health services” in the final document. A member of the Canadian delegation had admitted the phrase included abortion services.

— The Bush administration announced in July it would not release $34 million to the UNFPA, which it says provides support to China’s coercive population-control program. The funds approved by Congress were withheld because the administration determined contributions to the UNFPA would violate a 1985 law that prohibits family planning money from going to any entity that, as determined by the president, “supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”

Last December, China’s National People’s Congress placed into law a population-control policy that had been in effect for more than two decades. The policy limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl. Other exceptions have been made in some provinces, and the enforcement of the policy has varied among provinces. Not only has the program resulted in coercive sterilization and abortion, but infanticide, especially of baby girls, also has been reported.

The U.N.’s two-day mid-December conference in Thailand was designed to consider the impact on poverty of population, family planning, reproductive health and HIV. The U.N. has set a goal of cutting in half by 2015 the number of people living on less than $1 a day. The Bangkok plan of action includes proposals on implementing the 1994 accord at the International Conference on Population Development in Cairo, Egypt.

The U.S. delegation contended it was not retreating from commitments made by the Clinton administration to the Cairo document, CNS reported. The other delegations, however, were not willing to specify in a footnote that the terms objected to by the U.S. delegation did not promote abortion, U.S. delegate Arthur Dewey said, according to CNS.

“If the [Cairo document] does not promote abortion, why is there such unwillingness to affirm this in the draft document?” Dewey questioned, CNS reported. “We have been asked to reaffirm the entirety of the [Cairo] principles and recommendations, even though we have repeatedly stated that to do so would constitute endorsement of abortion.”

The conference was seeking to require the United States to “violate its principles and accept language that promotes abortion,” said Dewey, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration.

The UNFPA’s Obaid said “reproductive health services” is “not code for the promotion or support for abortion services,” CNS reported.

Asian and American pro-lifers applauded the U.S. effort at the conference, according to CNS.

“It is good to see a large and powerful nation like the U.S. exercising moral leadership in these times when the world is blinded by a materialistic and hedonistic culture of death,” said Andrew Kong of Celebration of Life, a Catholic organization in Singapore.

Scott Weinberg of the Population Research Institute called the U.S. delegation “very courageous and heroic.”

Population-control groups criticized the United States, however.

“The Bush administration is now proving to be completely out of touch not just with America but with the rest of the world as well on family planning,” said Population Connection President and former Democratic congressman Peter Kostmayer, CNS reported.