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U.S., U.N. also tangling over children’s summit

NEW YORK (BP)–As the United States withdrew from the United Nations Racism Conference in South Africa, the Bush administration was gearing up for another battle at the U.N. Children’s Summit in New York, Sept. 19-21, according to a CNSNews.com report Sept. 4.

U.S. delegates to a preparatory meeting in New York in late August threatened a boycott if wording on a statement on birth control education/abortion was not modified. That statement was quickly rescinded by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who explained that U.S. participation at the summit was “unconditional.” Just who gave the U.S. delegates the authority to make the boycott threat is a question the State Department has yet to explain.

Part of the warning, CNSNews.com reported, came from a State Department “guidance” memo, which read in part: “… such participation [by the U.S.] will not be possible if language that could be construed to support abortion remains in the final document.”

The summit, a follow-up to a conference held in 1990, is being convened to assess “the state and welfare” of the children of the 21st century. More than 70 heads of state/government are expected to attend the three-day gathering.

According to the United Nations, the summit will seek to produce a “declaration” and a “plan of action for the next ten years.” That pronouncement has some in the Bush administration concerned.

One concern revolves around the rights of children and the rights of their parents. According to CNSNews.com, the administration is concerned that the U.N. conference might seek to make parental rights subordinate to those of children.

Another concern deals with the access to and education about abortion. The United States would rather place emphasis on the prevention of abortion and the education about unwanted pregnancies. In this context, Washington saw itself allied with several Muslim nations such as Sudan, Libya and Iran.

While some progress was made at the late-August negotiating session, the United States has still not gotten the concessions it says it needs.

U.N. sources say negotiations will resume in the first week of September. Issues centering on finances and child labor guidelines also are sticking points.

A late draft of the proposed document obtained by CNSNews.com still has references likely to be rejected by Washington.

One comment urges the United States “to withdraw reservations incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to consider reviewing other reservations with a view to withdrawing them.”

The United States has never accepted the convention on the Rights of the Child claiming that U.S. domestic laws already address many of the issues in the convention. One-hundred-ninety-one nations have signed on to the convention. The United States and Somalia remain the last major holdouts.

As far as abortion is concerned, the United States was upset about the use of the phrase “reproductive health services,” which is construed by the administration to mean access to abortion education/counseling. The phrase has now been replaced with “maternal health care services.”
Stogel is a correspondent with CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

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  • Stewart Stogel