Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Government and Reproductive Health Services

Earlier this week I reported the U.S. government appeared to have some concerns about women gaining too much access to proper medical. Today, in the follow-up to that story, we have good news. The government, more or less reluctantly, gets over its confusion about the meaning of "reproductive health services":

The United States dropped controversial plans to add an anti-abortion amendment to a statement on the 10th anniversary of a conference in Beijing on women's issues worldwide.

The United Nations hosted a conference on the issue this week, dubbed "Beijing at Ten: Achieving Gender Equality, Development and Peace."

The US representative to the conference, Ellen Sauerbrey, told reporters that the amendment had been withdrawn and that the United States would join other delegations in adopting the statement reaffirming the plan of action agreed upon at the 1995 conference.

"We have accomplished what we set out to do," said Sauerbrey, stating that Washington's anti-abortion stance was supported by several delegations. "So the amendment, we recognize, is really redundant and we will be withdrawing it."

She did not name the countries that supported the US position.

According to one diplomatic source, Washington was isolated after groups representing several nations such as the European Union, South America's Mercosur and the Group of 77 developing nations opposed the amendment in US-sponsored informal talks on Thursday.

The US amendment stated that the Beijing platform for action "does not create any new international human right and does not include the right to abortion."

The amendment would have replaced a paragraph in the platform affirming women's "right to reproductive health services."

According to Sauerbrey, reproductive health services "have been of concern to the United States because it has been misinterpreted by many actors as giving some sort of a new universal, global right to abortion."

Supporters however believe the wording is sufficiently vague to include services that range from sexual education to abortion, all according to each country's interpretation.

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