Battling against abortion rights at the U.N.

By Julia Scott
Published March 4, 2005 10:12PM (EST)

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has dropped her four-day campaign to add an antiabortion amendment to a one-page statement affirming women's rights at a UN conference this week.

The document in question is a basic declaration of women's human rights, including the right to education, equal opportunity, health care and freedom from violence, adopted at the Beijing Conference on Women in 1995. The U.S. worried that the declaration's references to reproductive health and education were an implicit guarantee of the right to an abortion. Conference delegates had sought to reaffirm the statement as a first order of business before moving on.

The Bush administration has a demonstrated aversion to being bound by international law -- its disregard for the Geneva Conventions in the war on terrorism, and its undermining of the International Criminal Court come to mind -- but the U.S. under Bush has used its power to ensure that the world conform as closely as possible to its own standards of reproductive rights.

President Bush has continuously withheld funding from the U.N. Population Fund, insisting that it supports forced abortions in China. (The U.N. Population Fund has repeatedly denied the allegation.) The administration has upheld its "global gag rule" on global NGOs, curtailing U.S. funding if they offer abortion services or counseling.

The U.S. has tried to impose antiabortion language at other U.N. conferences as well, but always with the same result as it had this week -- total lack of support from other countries.

Julia Scott

San Francisco-based freelance journalist Julia Scott writes about water and energy issues for various publications. She also covers the environment for Bay Area News Group, a chain of newspapers in Northern California.

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