No Abortion Left Behind
From the February 2, 2004 issue: How much is worldwide access to abortion worth?
Feb 2, 2004, Vol. 9, No. 20 • By JOSEPH BOTTUM, FOR THE EDITORS
HOW MUCH is worldwide access to abortion worth? What price are the international activists who cluster around the United Nations willing to pay to achieve the ability of any woman--at any place, for any reason--to have an abortion?
We might start with the deaths of more than 6 million children after birth. Of the world's 10 million children who died last year of preventable diseases and starvation, two-thirds could have been saved by effective international intervention through UNICEF, according to a recent essay in the British medical journal the Lancet. But Danny Kaye's old international children's fund has been taken over by abortion activists who have radically shifted the organization's focus away from rescuing children.
Jim Grant, the widely respected executive director of UNICEF, launched what he called the "Child Survival Revolution" in 1982. Upon Grant's death, however, the Clinton administration demanded the appointment of New York activist Carol Bellamy. And under Bellamy, UNICEF has decided its job is not to save sick and hungry children, but to join the great march toward universal sex freedom--agitating for minors' access to condoms, requiring that refugee camps provide abortion services, and handing out sex-education manuals to grade-school students in the third world. "We, a group of concerned scientists and public health managers, call on . . . UNICEF . . . to act on behalf of children," the authors in the Lancet pleaded. "Child survival must be put back on the agenda."
A worldwide decline in democratic government, too, is apparently a small price to pay for bringing about the universal legality of what international documents call "reproductive rights." Why should voters be consulted about the laws that govern them--if consulting actual citizens might not bring about the all-trumping right to abortion? That, at least, is the feeling manifest in recently obtained internal memos from the Center for Reproductive Rights, a lawyers' nongovernmental organization (NGO) that specializes in suing local and national governments that fail to allow unfettered access to abortion.
A copy of these abortion-strategy memos was mailed anonymously late last year to Austin Ruse, who heads the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey reprinted them in the Congressional Record on December 8, and they make fascinating reading--for they show how NGO activists speak behind closed doors. "There is a stealth quality to the work," one memo noted. "We are achieving incremental recognition of values without a huge amount of scrutiny from the opposition. These lower-profile victories will gradually put us in a strong position to assert a broad consensus around our assertions."
Such disingenuousness is necessary for the abortion activists' strategy, which consists primarily of inserting vague passages in as many international treaties, reports, and working papers as possible--and then getting the enforcement agencies and entities such as the European Court of Human Rights to interpret those passages to mean a universal right to abortion has been established. Although the phrase "reproductive rights" is omnipresent in U.N. documents--a draft for the 1999 report from the Cairo + 5 conference, for instance, used it 47 times in the section on adolescents alone--there is not a meaningful definition of "reproductive rights" in any official U.N. resolution.
Perhaps the most interesting portion of the memos from the Center for Reproductive Rights is the admission that this strategy has failed thus far to establish the "soft norm" of abortion--for the center claimed exactly the opposite two years ago when it brought suit against the Bush administration for reinstituting the ban on federal agencies' funding of international organizations that promote abortion. In its brief in that case, the center explicitly insisted that the performances of international courts had already established a "customary right to abortion" that American courts are obligated to obey. "Our goal is to see governments worldwide guarantee women's reproductive rights out of recognition that they are bound to do so," the center's memos admit--and, "What good is all our work if the Bush administration can simply take it all away with the stroke of a pen?"