UN Nairobi Summit on Population and Development Shuts Out the Pro-Life Message

COMMENTARY Life

UN Nairobi Summit on Population and Development Shuts Out the Pro-Life Message

Nov 13th, 2019 3 min read
COMMENTARY BY

Associate for Social Issues at the United Nations

Grace serves as Associate for Social Issues at the United Nations.
Kenya's pro family activists and religious leaders demonstrate as they deliver over 68,000 signatures to the President of Kenya in Nairobi on November 11, 2019. SIMON MAINA / Contributor / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Abortion advocates have long found a ready home for pushing their agenda at the United Nations.

The summit is masquerading as an official review conference, but it’s no such thing. 

Nearly every U.S. based pro-life group that has tried to register to attend has been shut out.

Abortion advocates have long found a ready home for pushing their agenda at the United Nations—and the Nov. 12-14 Nairobi Summit on International Conference on Population and Development 2025 in Kenya appears to be no exception.

The summit—at which the United Nations Population Fund will be hosting abortion activists, population control advocates, and development specialists—is masquerading as an official review conference, but it’s no such thing. 

Actual U.N. review conferences are convened by member states through a General Assembly resolution to advance or review the implementation of a particular treaty or program. Such conferences often involve tedious and careful negotiations on the part of member state delegations and achieve something resembling international consensus on the issue at hand. 

In Nairobi, however, there won’t be a negotiated outcome document that various member states can influence. Instead, the United Nations Population Fund released a prepared Nairobi Statement with predetermined results and commitments already written in, and presented as the settled path to “complete the unfinished business” of the International Conference on Population and Development. 

The organizers are attempting to use the 25th anniversary of the U.N.’s 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development to convene governments around the world to discuss and commit to plans to achieve the conference’s goals. 

Those goals include the proposition that “universal sexual and reproductive health is central to … ending poverty, [securing] good health and well-being, realizing gender equality, and achieving sustainable communities.”

The Nairobi Summit will feature speaking roles for the leaders of the abortion giants International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International, and includes commitments for attendees to sign on in support of the “She Decides” campaign. The latter arose in opposition to the Trump administration’s Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy, which denies funding to organizations that provide or advocate for abortions. 

While the conference website claims that participants need not favor expanding abortion rights, nearly every U.S.-based pro-life group that has tried to register to attend has been shut out.

Furthermore, those U.N. Population Fund reassurances are reminiscent of then-President Bill Clinton’s “safe, legal, and rare” abortion mantra, which may have served to soothe consciences, but has not saved lives. 

While a primary goal of the Nairobi Summit organizers is undoubtedly to move beyond the historical controversy over the language of sexual and reproductive rights, and claim a victory for unfettered access to abortion, the controversy is still alive today. 

It’s worth remembering that member states rejected the term “sexual rights” in 1994 when negotiating the International Conference on Population and Development and instead used the cumbersome compromise phrase “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights,” which they explicitly stated did not create a right to abortion or any other new rights.

Furthermore, the legality of abortion was understood to remain solely the purview of sovereign governments, and “under no circumstances” was any entity to promote abortion as a method of family planning. 

By their own admission, a priority theme of attendees of the Nairobi Summit is “universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights as a part of universal health coverage.” 

The reason that the organizers of the Nairobi Summit are still seeking this universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights is because there’s no international consensus to support it. 

The existence of “sexual rights” was rejected by many member states at the 1994 conference in Cairo. The concept of sexual rights remains controversial today, due in part to its ever-expanding definition, which nongovernmental organizations and U.N. agencies are apt to use to further numerous progressive agendas. 

Recently, the United States has engaged in a more coordinated attempt to push back against efforts at the U.N. and international agencies to expand the definitions of sexual and reproductive health language to include abortion. That has included President Donald Trump’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly, as well as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s statement delivered along with those of other pro-life countries during the U.N. discussion of universal health coverage. 

Attendees of the Nairobi Summit would do well to remember that the many noble aims of the International Conference on Population and Development—universal access to education, reducing maternal and child mortality, ending violence against women and girls—had broad international consensus in 1994, and still do today. 

The international community and those seeking to improve the lives of women and girls around the world should concentrate their efforts on fulfilling those promises, rather than pushing abortion and population control.

This article has been updated to reflect the release of the United Nations Population Fund’s Nairobi statement. The last sentence has also been modified since publication.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal