A massive, well-funded push to increase access to abortion worldwide could be underway at the United Nations, and according to one congressman it could silence faith-based organizations which oppose abortions out of conscience. At issue is proposed language in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals that will eventually be voted on and adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in September, and will go into effect in 2016. If the current proposed language is adopted, it could result in “unfettered access to abortion” around the globe, according to the office of Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who is co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. The language establishes targets for global development, among them to “ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services” by 2030. The other target in question tries to “ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.” This language — “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights” — is interpreted to include abortion by most U.N. agencies and Western donor countries, said a former diplomat at the U.N. who participated in numerous negotiations involving sexual and reproductive health language. Such language is usually part of an agenda in which developed countries use financial incentives to pressure poor, pro-life countries to liberalize their abortion laws in accord with the U.N.’s definition of sexual and reproductive health and rights. In this case, the language is but a tiny part of 17 development goals and 170 targets that together establish a broad and comprehensive global agenda for the next 15 years that includes fighting poverty, ending world hunger, and promoting sustainable energy and universal education. Thus the language is alarming especially for developing countries, Smith noted, because the massive funding required for these Sustainable Development Goals — $5-7 trillion — can also be used as an incentive for developing countries to liberalize abortion laws. The goals basically state to developing countries that access to abortion and contraception “is what you need if you want economic growth,” Smith added. Without meeting the sexual and reproductive rights targets established in the development goals, poor countries could risk losing development funding. Most countries allow legal abortion in some circumstances, with only a handful either banning it outright or allowing it in all circumstances. The result of the goals if the current language is adopted, Smith said, could be a massive expansion of abortion worldwide due to international pressure on countries and charities to offer abortion access. State and local laws limiting access to abortion could be deemed to violate the “universal right” to abortion services and could be erased. These would include laws such as a minor having to obtain parental or spousal consent to get an abortion. Faith-based organizations that oppose abortion out of conscience could see their funding wither as a result of these development goals, Smith explained. For example, the U.S. bishops’ anti-human trafficking program lost a government grant in 2011 once the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services began prioritizing grants for organizations that provide contraceptives to trafficking victims. The bishops’ program could not provide those “family-planning services” out of conscience. Such an example could happen on a mass scale at the global level, Smith warned, when faith-based organizations that do not offer contraceptives or abortions out of conscience will lose funding from countries and international donors. The Post-2015 goals build upon the original eight “Millennium Development Goals” that the U.N. set in 2000 for the next 15 years, which included cutting world poverty and reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS. As these goals were set to expire and in preparation for the Post-2015 agenda, the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development met in Rio de Janeiro in 2012. It issued an outcome document, “The future we want,” which set the table for the sustainable development goals in time for the 2013 general assembly meeting. That document did not include the “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights” language that the current proposed goals state, Smith noted. However, the International Planned Parenthood Federation has been pushing hard for the inclusion of the language, noting that it would constitute a “sea change” from the original Millennial Development Goals. According to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, abortion is indeed a part of these reproductive rights mentioned. In its Vision 2020 manifesto, “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights — a Crucial Agenda for the post-2015 Framework,” the federation states that “some aspects of the sexual and reproductive health and rights agenda are inadequately resourced and sorely neglected, including access to safe and legal abortion, access by adolescents, and access for the poorest and most marginalized groups.” Also, the World Health Organization, which is the leading international health agency of the United Nations, has already made specific abortion recommendations for countries’ health systems. In the executive summary of its report “Safe Abortion: Technical and policy guidance for health systems,” the WHO states that “to the full extent of the law, safe abortion services should be readily available and affordable to all women.” “This means services should be available at primary-care level, with referral systems in place for all required higher-level care,” the report added. This is evidence that WHO wants to “harmonize the push” and “integrate” abortion into normal health care worldwide, resulting in an abortion surge for the next 15 years,” Smith said.
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