By Jeanne E. Head, R.N. and Paul Stark
Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development,
will be held in June in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It will mark the
20th anniversary of the UN Conference on Environment and
Development, also known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro
in June 1992.
A statement from the National Right to Life Educational Trust
Fund was accepted in advance of the conference and is posted on the
Rio+20 website. NRLC is one of only two pro-life organizations with
contributions. In contrast, a number of groups who advocate expanded
abortion are included, such as the International Planned Parenthood
Federation (IPPF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
As is often the case, the original or “zero” draft of the Rio+20
document which will be used as a basis for negotiations throughout
the year contains no troublesome language regarding abortion.
However, it is expected that the abortion advocates will again try
to use this conference to promote their goal of enshrining abortion
as a fundamental human right worldwide as they have done during
negotiations on every one of the many UN Conferences since 1992.
In all this time, they have not been able to achieve their goal
through any UN-negotiated document. Nonetheless, they keep trying
and have been resorting to other means to promote their abortion
And when pro-life policies are abandoned, unborn lives are lost.
In a lawsuit to block enforcement of the pro-life Mexico City
Policy, which had been restored by President George W. Bush in
January 2001, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), which was
founded in 1992 for the express purpose of establishing abortion as
an enforceable human right worldwide, boasted that several nations
legalized abortion during the Clinton Administration (from 1993 to
2000) when the Mexico City Policy was not in effect.
“Foreign NGO’s (Non Governmental Organizations) receiving USAID
funds were free with their private funds, to promote abortion as a
human right,” and “to urge decriminalization of abortion as a human
right ... ,” CRR explained.
Tragically the Obama Administration has put the United States
government firmly on the side of the abortion advocates. On just his
third day in office, Obama overturned the Mexico City Policy that
President Bush had restored.
As a result of the Obama Administration’s policies, U.S. foreign
aid funds can go to groups that perform, promote, and work to
legalize abortion in other countries. Millions of our tax dollars
now bankroll the aggressive promotion of abortion around the globe.
The Obama Administration has also provided funding for the United
Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), which has been
complicit in China’s program of coerced abortions and sterilizations
and has promoted abortion at the UN and throughout the world.
Pro-abortion UN agencies such as UNFPA and NGOs such as
International Planned Parenthood (IPPF) discard truth and proper
interpretation of UN documents in order to promote abortion around
the world, country by country. And they are achieving some success,
thanks to the Obama Administration and millions of American tax
The last three years have seen an alarming escalation of attacks,
sometimes successful, on the laws protecting unborn children in
pro-life countries, particularly in Africa and Latin America.
The blatantly false, but most convincing and effective, argument
that has been used to promote abortion legalization is that it is
needed to save women’s lives, and that thousands of women are dying
from illegal abortions. It was used in the United States prior to
Roe v. Wade, and it is used throughout the world today,
unfortunately with some success.
That is why NRLC’s educational programs are crucial and why we
must help delegates understand that, as we say in our Rio+20
statement: “Human beings are at the center of all sustainable
development. The loss of mothers and babies due to a lack of even
basic health care and the failure to dedicate adequate resources to
save women’s lives is the greatest impediment to development in all
areas. ... MDG 5 (Millennium Development Goal 5, Improving maternal
health) will not be achieved by 2015 unless there is a significant
acceleration in allocation and in proper direction of resources.”
Even Jill Sheffield, president of the 2010 Pro-Abortion Women
Deliver Conference in DC, said, “Even now we know, beyond doubt,
that unless and until MDG 5 is fully realized, none of the other
MDGs will succeed and the world will be no better off than we were
when the MDGs were conceived 10 years ago.”
The first draft of the document for the June Rio Conference
doesn’t even mention maternal health care even though it is
essential to the achievement of all of the MDGs. Women of the
developing world must receive the kind of health care, particularly
maternal and child health care, that has been available to women in
the developed world for over 60 years. The world has failed to reach
these goals because resources have been directed toward decreasing
the number of children women deliver, rather than making the
delivery of their children safe.
Legal abortion does not mean safe abortion. The evidence shows
that a country’s maternal mortality rate is determined to a much
greater extent by the quality of medical care than by the legal
status of abortion. Comparisons made between nations that have
strong abortion restrictions, such as Ireland and Poland, and
nations that permit abortion on demand, such as Russia and the
United States, demonstrates that nations with strong abortion
restrictions actually have lower maternal death rates than countries
that permit abortion on demand.
The key, therefore, to reduction in maternal mortality rates from
all causes, including abortion, is the improvement of maternal
health care, not the legalization of abortion. Legalized abortion
only leads to more abortions and in the developing world—where
medical care, antibiotics, and even basic asepsis are scarce or
absent—legalization would increase, not decrease, the number of
women who die or are harmed by abortion.
In this ongoing debate about abortion globally and in pro-life
African and Latin American countries in particular, millions and
millions of lives are at stake. The United States should lead the
way on the side of human life, advocating for improved maternal
health care for the benefit of both mothers and their children. But
to do this there would have to be a pro-life President.
Jeanne Head is National Right to Life’s vice president for
international affairs and UN representative for National Right to
Life. Paul Stark is communications associate for Minnesota Citizens
Concerned for Life GO (Global Outreach).