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Friday, March 6, 2009

Catholic Church Criticized at Annual UN Conference for Strong Pro-Life Stance

By Samantha Singson

(NEW YORK – C-FAM) This week at the United Nations (UN), thousands of activists, government officials and UN officials gathered in New York for the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). While the theme for the conference is “The equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS,” several countries and non-government organizations (NGOs) have used the annual meeting as a soapbox to promote radical ideas on homosexual rights, abortion and sex education.

Norway and Sweden partnered with the International Planned Parenthood Federation to host a panel on “Promoting Sexual and Reproductive Empowerment.” Both governments expressed the need to prioritize “sexual and reproductive rights.” In his brief address, Norwegian State Secretary Hakon Gulbrandsen proclaimed that “sexual rights are a cornerstone to gender equality” and that “safe abortion is a crucial component of sexual and reproductive rights.”

Gulbrandson criticized “those who claim to be pro-life and yet wish to abolish abortion” as sometimes “abortion is the only solution to premature, unwanted pregnancies.” Gulbrandson advocated for homosexual rights and urged to “respect the diversity of gender identities.”

Support for homosexual rights was also a priority at an event sponsored by Human Rights Watch where organizers strategized on how to build on the non-binding European Union (EU)-led “sexual orientation” statement which was introduced in the General Assembly last fall. The EU statement called on member states to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected non-discrimination categories like race, religion or sex. Human Rights Watch confirmed critics’ fears that homosexual rights NGOs would push for the non-binding statement to appear in a more permanent form, like a General Assembly resolution to be voted upon in “three years or less.”

At more than one event, radical feminist NGOs took the opportunity to criticize the Catholic Church on its strong pro-life stance. At a meeting of the European Women’s Lobby on religions and sexual and reproductive rights, organizers called on the EU to defend a woman’s “right” to abortion at the UN against the “alliance [that] is currently being formed between the Holy See, Islamist fundamentalist regimes and Christian right-wing governments – including the former Bush administration – who work together in order to influence UN texts on women’s rights.”

Pro-life and pro-family advocates at the CSW have attempted to get their voices heard at the various NGO events but have encountered resistance and hostility. At the Center for Reproductive Rights event on HIV positive women, one of the panelists from Chile took the opportunity to denigrate the Catholic Church for wielding its “power and influence” to discourage the Chilean government from supporting widespread condom distribution. When one young pro-life advocate spoke on effectiveness of abstinence for HIV prevention, she was shouted down by the panelist.

At a youth caucus meeting, organizers refused to incorporate pro-abstinence suggestions from a group of over 20 pro-life youths. One pro-life student told the Friday Fax, “I don’t know which youth they represent, but they don’t speak for me or any of my friends that are here.”

The Commission on the Status of Women meeting concludes on March 13.


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