THAILAND - In the recent United Nations Population Conference, held in Bangkok, the United States stood alone against abortion rights. Richard Land, President-Treasurer of The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and five other pro-family leaders commended Bush's strong stance and commitment on the issue.
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 remarked.
"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," he said.
In a letter of appreciation to Bush, the pro-life leaders said they recognized the "great criticism" received by the administration, but reminded Bush of the "many peoplle, 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 called for the removal of terms such as "reproductive health services" and "reproductive rights" from the 22-page proposed plan of action of the conference, and asked for footnotes to be inserted to clarify that abortion was not encompassed in the proposal.
The Bush administration stood alone on two chapters of the proposal, one on reproductive health and rights, the other on teenage reproductive health. Accordingly, the U.S. agreed to the plan's final adoption, but expressed concerns 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."
Land's letter included also, two other actions the Bush administration took this year. The first was on the successful campaign lead by the U.S. in rejecting the inclusion of abortion rights in U.N. General Assembly Special Session on Children in May. Here, the Vatican and some Muslim countries joined U.S. delegations in discarding the incorporation of the phrase "reproductive heath services," thus rejecting abortion services. The second event was the announcement in July that the Bush administration would not release $34 to the United Nations Family Planning Association, due to the inclusion of China's coercive population control programs in it's list of fund recipients. The funds, approved by Congress, were withheld because it would violate the 1985 law that prohibits family planning money from going into any entity that, as determined by the president, "supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization."
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.
According to the assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, Arthur Dewey, the conference sought to require the United States to "violate its principles and accept language that promotes abortion."
"If the [Cairo document] does not promote abortion, why is there such unwillingness to affirm this in the draft document?" Dewey remarked, "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."
Asian and American pro-life advocates applauded the U.S. effort at the conference.
"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."
However, population control advocates, including Peter Kostmayer, former Democratic congressman and Population Connection President, criticized the United States, stating, "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."
By Paulina C.