The Millennium Development Goals and Abortion

| 3 Comments

by Fredi D'Alessio

The Millennium Campaign (MC), an initiative of the United Nations, "inspires and encourages people's involvement and action for the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)."

On its website, the MC claims that improving the sexual and reproductive health of men, women and young people is essential for achieving all of the MDGs and that governments should "ensure universal access to reproductive health by 2015," as a target to measure progress towards achieving the MDGs at the national level, as well as in international and regional forums.

The MC further suggests that non-government organizations (NGOs) working in the areas of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and rights, environmental sustainability, gender equality, development and other issues related to the MDGs, should develop a common strategy to ensure that sexual and reproductive health is integrated into community, regional, and national-level campaigns and initiatives so as to achieve the MDGs.

But what exactly is meant by "sexual and reproductive health" when used in this context at the United Nations? John Mallon, contributing editor for "Inside the Vatican" magazine, sums it up this way. "The first thing that strikes an objective reader in Adding it Up: the Benefits of Investing in Sexual and Reproductive Health Care, by the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), is the presupposition that 'sexual and reproductive health' is a good thing. Normally, any kind of health is self-evidently a good thing but, as defined by AGI and their allies at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), 'sexual and reproductive health' consist of pouring huge quantities of contraceptive chemicals and devices into the world along with so-called 'safe' abortion. 'Health' in this sense, consists in disabling the reproductive system rendering it, in fact, unhealthy. This is frequently done in opposition to the cultural, moral and religious values of the peoples concerned, rendering these programs not only imperialistic but in some cases tyrannical."

The Millennium Project (MP), which was commissioned by the United Nations Secretary-General and is headed by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, stresses that expanding access to sexual and reproductive health information and services is a "quick win," a cost-effective action that can put countries on the road towards achieving the MDGs. The MP recommends that universal access to reproductive health services be added as one of the targets of the MDGs under Goal 5, so-called "To improve maternal health".

At the request of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the UN Millennium Project identified practical strategies, which it describes in Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals. This document underscores the importance of sexual and reproductive health for the attainment of the Millennium Goals.

In his February 2006 forward to Public Choices, Private Decisions: Sexual and Reproductive Health and the Millennium Development Goals, Jeffery Sachs says the document takes these arguments further and presents the evidence of the relationship between sexual and reproductive health and each of the Millennium Goals. And that "it underscores the urgent need to increase investments in improving the access to SRH information and services, particularly for the poor. Otherwise, the MDGs cannot be met." Mr. Sachs closes with: "I am grateful for their important work and recommend this report to all who are interested in improving sexual and reproductive health outcomes that will make it possible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals."

More evidence that Jeffery Sachs is committed to expanding access to sexual and reproductive health information and services is contained in a paper commissioned by the Population Program of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in 2004 titled Reproductive Health and the Millennium Development Goals: The Missing Link:

Sachs and relevant team members say that they will put the emphasis back on women and women's reproductive rights where these are essential factors. Allan Rosenfield, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University said that he would not have joined the project under any other circumstances. "When Kofi Annan asked Jeff Sachs to put together a team project, and asked me and a couple of people here to co-chair the maternal and child health task force, we immediately said, The only condition [under which] we'll do it is if we build reproductive health back into it," Rosenfield said. "Jeff said, Yes, I have a commitment from the SG that we can do that."

The international arm of SIECUS (the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States) has a paper on its website titled The Underlying Millennium Development Goal: Universal Access to Reproductive Health Service. This paper reports that 110 international NGOs, in an effort to explicitly incorporate SHR in official MDG processes, urged the UN Secretary-General to include specific language on the importance of SHR to the achievement of the MDGs.

What should pro-life organizations, churches and individuals who desire to support the MDGs do? They should first insist that specific language be included in all documents pertaining to the achievement of the MDGs stating that there is not to be any degree of support for expanding access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, including family planning and contraceptive information and services, as an MDG goal or target, either directly or indirectly.

References:

3 Comments

I run C-FAM which has worked on UN social policy for ten years. Your report here is quite good. I would underscore one thing. The MDG's do not include reproductive health at all. They were negotiated by 150 heads of state in 2000, the largest gathering of its kind in history. These heads of state chose then not to include RH in the MDGs. During the five year review in 05, Jeffrey Sachs and many powerful people in the UN system tried valiantly and for months to get a new MDG for RH. They were defeated. There is not MDG for reproductive health even though abortion partisans will lie about it.

All the best,

Austin Ruse

I was a little surprised by Austin Ruse's comment that "The MDG's do not include reproductive health at all". Of course Jeffrey Sachs failed to achieve the inclusion of a MDG entitled "Reproductive Health". Then it would be obvious what was being advocated. Instead, the covert approach was used and "sexual & reproductive health" was built into a more universally acceptable goal---that of maternal health.

UN experts maintain that the term "sexual & reproductive health rights" has never been included in any negotiated UN document. Even so, they point out that such "rights" language related to "reproductive health" has been misinterpreted---purposefully or accidentally---by UN committees to include abortion. It is naive to think that abortion and reproductive health aren't clandestinely present in the MDGs.




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