Keep Your Hands off My U.N. Declaration
U.S. Drops Demand for Abortion Reference
World - AP Asia
By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer
UNITED NATIONS - Under intense global pressure, the United States on Friday dropped its demand to amend a declaration reaffirming the U.N. blueprint to achieve equality for women, saying it was satisfied the document did not guarantee the right to abortion.
U.S. Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey said the United States would join other nations in approving the declaration endorsing the 150-page platform for action adopted at the 1995 U.N. women's conference in Beijing.
The proposed U.S. amendment would have reaffirmed the Beijing platform and a declaration adopted with it — but only "while reaffirming that they do not create any new international human rights, and that they do not include the right to abortion."
But the United States found itself virtually alone, with nations from Africa, Europe, Latin America and Asia all opposed.
The attempt to amend the one-page declaration had overshadowed the start of a two-week review of the Beijing platform that began Monday, angering many of the 130 governments and 6,000 representatives of women's and human rights organizations. They had hoped to focus on obstacles to women's equality in the economy, the family, education and political life — not on the abortion issue.
With the United States in agreement, delegates were scheduled to adopt the declaration by consensus later Friday.
Sauerbrey said the United States sought to amend the declaration because of concerns that advocacy groups were attempting to hijack the term "reproductive health services" in the document and define it in a way that guarantees the right to abortion.
On Thursday, Sauerbrey announced at a closed door meeting that the United States was prepared to drop the last phrase of the amendment referring to "the right to abortion" but still wanted affirmation that Beijing did not create any new human rights.
The reaction was again overwhelmingly negative.
Nilcea Freire, Brazil's minister of state for women's affairs, said not a single country supported the revised U.S. amendment and every speaker insisted that the declaration be left untouched.
Sauerbrey had said then she would consult with Washington and await instructions.
On Friday morning, she reiterated that the U.S. goal was to clear up what the United States believes has been misinterpretation of the Beijing platform, and to make sure that decisions about abortion are made at the national level.
After a week of intense discussions, Sauerbrey said Friday that the United States was very pleased that other nations agreed with the U.S. position that the declaration did not guarantee a global right to abortion but left decisions on such subjects up to individual governments.
"We have heard from countries that our interpretation is their interpretation," Sauerbrey told reporters. "So the amendment, we recognize, is really redundant, but it has accomplished its goals. We will be withdrawing the amendment and we will be joining consensus today on the declaration."
Alexandra Arriaga, director of government relations at Amnesty International USA, welcomed the U.S. decision, saying, "it reaffirms that women's rights are human rights."
June Zeitlin, executive director of the Women's Environment and Development Organization, said she was pleased but not surprised that the United States dropped the amendment in the face of solid opposition.
"We're very pleased that the declaration can be approved today, and that we can now move to focus on how to achieve implementation on what kind of concrete actions government — which is what we all came here to talk about," she said.
It befuddles Miss Hag. that the United States, the country that brought the world the Jerry Springer show and the visible thong over low slung jeans, is also the staunchest adversary to abortion rights in the world. When Betsey visited Maldives recently, she told me about their draconian policies on birth control. You need to have a prescription to purchase condoms.
However, abortion is still legal. Let us not forget that. As long as the law allows (and it may not allow it for long), it is not just an option, it is a right. A human right. Have a gun, have a coke and a smile. Freedom's on the march and it's letting you take your uterus with you.