UN General Assembly Plenary Concludes as it Began

By Stefano Gennarini, J.D.

(New York, C-FAM) The UN General Assembly (GA)’s 67th plenary session concluded in December in much the same way as it concluded over half a century ago when the GA first dealt with the Palestinian question, in controversy – this time over a resolution recognizing the State of Palestine. This single issue overshadows other notable developments.

Yet other memorable actions took place regarding the life of unborn children and protection of the natural family.

After the major setback of having the term “reproductive rights” rejected at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in June because of its close association with abortion on demand, abortion groups and co-conspiring nations were able to introduce the same term in the annual resolution on ending violence against women and a resolution addressing obstetric fistula which affects women in developing countries. The term’s introduction may be counted as a victory for abortion groups, but it is a far cry from establishing abortion as a human right as they would like.

The term was only included with reference to the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development which famously refused to recognize abortion as a human right, leaving it up to nations to legislate as they saw fit. Accordingly, nations which recognize the right to life of the unborn, like Peru and Chile, repeated their often-stated reservation to the controversial terms “reproductive rights” and “sexual and reproductive health” when the new resolutions were adopted in November.

While some UN member states were willing to speak up for the unborn in these negotiations, they declined to comment on the UN Human Rights Council’s claim that abortion is beneficial to women as a means to reduce maternal mortality and should be part of a human rights based approach to women’s health. C-FAM, publisher of the Friday Fax, and other organizations asked delegates to offer some corrective comment to the annual report of the Geneva based body.

C-FAM distributed a memo reminding delegates there is no empirically verified link between reduced maternal mortality and legal abortion, and the means of reducing maternal mortality are well known in the medical profession, abortion not being one of them.

But delegates did not look at the work of the Human Rights Council in detail, except to generally criticize some of its practices. Many delegates expressed concern about the politicization of the work of the Council, which ultimately undermines the institutional aims to promote human rights through consensus and dialogue.

In another notable moment the European Union attempted to redefine the family in a resolution about the 2014 commemoration of the UN Year of the Family by saying that “various forms of the family exist”, an expression that seeks to place same sex unions and marriages on the same footing as the natural family. This terminology, never before used in UN documents, was soundly rejected by the G77, the largest voting bloc within the UN system who sponsored the resolution.

While the plenary session of the General Assembly has concluded, it will continue to work in 2013 on projects and resolutions, like treaty body reform, a process which was launched at this time last year, and has still to produce concrete proposals for reform.

Stefano Gennarini is Director of the Center for Legal Studies at the Catholic Family and Human Right Institute (C-FAM). Her article first appeared in FridayFax, an internet report published weekly by C-FAM. C-FAM is a New York and Washington DC-based research institute (http://www.c-fam.org).

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