It’s been quite a week for the pro-family/pro-life effort. In the international arena, there has been some great news and some rather stunning shenanigans. First, the good news.
The Closing of a Loophole
On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the Trump administration would be expanding the Mexico City Policy in an effort to close a loophole that allowed backdoor funding to pro-abortion organizations. (For history on the Mexico City policy, go here.) Prior to Tuesday, foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were able to accept U.S. aid, state they were not using the monies to perform abortions, and then channel the funds to other foreign entities that do promote or perform abortions.
Secretary Pompeo stated the now the U.S. will be able to “enforce a strict prohibition of backdoor funding schemes and end-runs around our policy” and the change would ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars don’t go to abortions.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates there are 40-50 million abortions performed, per year, throughout the world. That’s 125,000 abortions per day. We welcome the closing of this loophole however it may contribute to the reduction of that staggering number.
Exploiting a Loophole
The team from United Families International team spent two long weeks in New York working with UN delegates toward the inclusion of some of the best pro-family language we’ve seen in years. But at this UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), we were to witness some disgraceful shenanigans.
On Friday, March 22, the draft document of “Agreed Conclusions” which began as just 8 pages, expanded to over 100 pages, then back down to 42 or so pages, was “gaveled down” (adopted) as being a “consensus” document in spite of the fact two countries, just moments before, had expressed their disdain for the process and the document itself.
In the final moments of negotiations, the lead diplomats from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain delivered similar statements to the UN body. In their words, you can hear their frustration:
“After serious consideration, back and forth discussions, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not prepared to join consensus. We have worked long hours for many weeks, we have made compromises. Regretfully, not all delegations have shown flexibility. The agreement we have before us disregards important red lines for my country, known to all. We are disappointed the facilitator waited so long to try to forge consensus on all issues. All red lines were preserved in the text until today.
It is not fair to try to force us to agree on compromises that are forced and quickly prepared. Specifically multiple references to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, promotion of sexual rights and a related issue that had never garnered consensus, refusal to recognize parental right language, refusal to mention the family as the fundamental group unit of society, failure to fully reflect the role of the family in protecting women and girls, promotion of sexuality education for children despite its irrelevance to the theme, focus on ambiguous terms such as ‘multiple and intersecting discrimination,’ lack of language on national sovereignty, lack of balance on addressing the issues of violence, overall issues of transparency and failure to give sufficient time to controversial issues. In this regard, we repeat the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia cannot join consensus of accepting the agreed conclusions on the 63rd session of the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW).” (View it here at 15:26)
After the diplomat from Bahrain gave an almost identical statement, he added:
“As well as I would like to add that as a member state to the United Nations and to the Commission on the Status of Women, I was bullied and harassed by high UN officials and senior commission members in terms of threatening me to go back to my capitol, talk to my royal family, to pull me out of the negotiations and this is not acceptable [grows emotional]. And this is sentimental to us as well – and we urge a formal apology from the Commission. Thank you very much.” (View it here at 19:44)
Within minutes of these two statements, the Chair began the formal proceedings for adoption of the Agreed Conclusions document. The Chair, from Ireland, called for adoption of the document and with barely a glance up to ascertain if there were objections, she gaveled the document announcing it “so decided” as cheers erupted in the room. (View it here at 22:04)
Saudi Arabia and Bahrain immediately called for a “point of order” expressing their confusion at declaring the document “consensus” when they had just declared they “wouldn’t be joining consensus.” But here was the loophole: Saudi Arabia and Bahrain had announced their objections at the wrong point in the process! The chair could have easily clarified the process, but obviously had a different agenda.
All of this followed intense, around the clock, negotiations and an intentional delay to negotiate the most controversial terms. Last minute, the decision was made to include paragraphs from a prior, unrelated, negotiated document – a fairly unprecedented move, as well. Thus the almost 50 good references to “family” evaporated and the crucial language calling for “implementation with respect for national sovereignty and religious and cultural values” was deleted – without any discussion.
The questions are: Have the pro-family/pro-life countries had enough of being manipulated? Are they prepared to push back hard against the bullying they experience on a regular basis? Will these countries be successful in their appeal to end this intolerable situation? Time will tell. In the meantime, UFI will go forward recommending language,sharing our tools for negotiating and doing all we can to assist like-minded countries. They deserve our best efforts.
We wanted to share some basics of the last week – the good and the not so good. We will be giving you more details on the UFI team and their experiences at the Commission on the Status of Women in the coming week.
Tori Black, President
United Families International