|U.S. Drops Effort on Abortion Proviso at U.N. Meeting on Women|
U.S. Drops Effort on Abortion Proviso at U.N. Meeting on Women
New York Times, March 4, 2005
By Warren HogeUNITED NATIONS, March 4 - The United States bowed to global opposition today at a United Nations conference on women's equality and dropped its insistence that a document being put to a vote later in the day include an antiabortion amendment.
The leader of the American delegation, Ambassador Ellen R. Sauerbrey, said that the United States was now convinced that its weeklong campaign for ensuring that the document not incorporate a new international right to abortion had been successful and that an amendment making that point was therefore unnecessary.
"We have heard from countries that our interpretation is their interpretation, so the amendment, we recognize, is really redundant, but it has accomplished its goals," she said.
The document is a one-page statement drawn up for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women to reaffirm the closing declaration of the group's meeting 10 years ago in Beijing that organizers had hoped to pass as their first order of business.
Instead, in an action that has kept the first four days of the two-week session in turmoil, the United States proposed that wording be added noting that the declaration did not create "any new international human rights" nor "the right to abortion."
The move prompted every regional delegation to the conference to object and call for the language of the statement to be approved intact with no adjustments. After days of lobbying, the United States was virtually alone in pressing the issue, and the many advocacy groups in attendance accused the Americans of trying to hijack the conference with obstructionist tactics.
Reacting to the announcement today, the director of government relations for Amnesty International, Alexandra Arriaga, said: "We welcome their action and applaud their decision. Today we won a clear victory, a victory for women around the world, and when the United States does the right thing, we want to recognize it and give them credit."
The declaration is to be voted on this evening, and the expectation is for adoption by consensus.
The president of the International Women's Health Coalition, Adrienne Germain, who had called the original American position a "mischievous distraction," said that the conference could now get down to the business that had brought 6,000 women and government ministers to the United Nations.
While she applauded the American decision, she said American proposals on the economic empowerment of women and for a worldwide ban on prostitution might cause new stresses between the United States and many of the 130 countries represented. The United States is proposing the ban as a way of curbing sex tourism and the trafficking of women.
"Many countries believe that criminalizing prostitution can create new problems," Ms. Germain said. "The worry is that when it's criminal, it goes underground, and there's no health care, no protection against violence and no counseling for the prevention of HIV/AIDS."
As for the economic measures, she said that many countries were concerned about the treatment of women in a globalized, multinational environment.
Originally published in the New York Times, March 4, 2005. Reprinted with permission.