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President Emmanuel Macron of France.Kay Nietfeld - Pool / Getty Images

NEW YORK, October 8 (C-Fam) Countries complained about setbacks to abortion rights twenty-five years after a landmark UN conference on women that first cemented abortion in UN policy.

“Everywhere, women’s rights are under attack,” French President Emmanuel Macron said with alarm, “starting with the freedom for women to control their own bodies, and in particular the right to abortion.” Macron made the statement at a mostly virtual General Assembly event to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women on Thursday.

“One generation on, this is no time for commemoration or self-congratulation,” he said dramatically, “This is a secret for nobody. In 2020, the Beijing Declaration would have no chance of being adopted.”

Macron’s statement was a sobering reminder of how politically unpopular abortion remains today, twenty-five years after it was first introduced in UN policy as part of “sexual and reproductive health” at the Beijing Conference. And this is despite the massive lobbying efforts to promote abortion by UN agencies and UN human rights mechanisms in the ensuing years, precisely under the rubric “sexual and reproductive health.”

Perhaps even more poignantly, a joint statement of 81 countries in support of “sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)” at the General Assembly event did not expressly mention abortion.

The statement, joined by countries mostly from Europe and Latin America, together with former French colonies, called for access to “comprehensive and non-discriminatory sexual and reproductive health services” calling them “essential” and “life-saving.” But the statement did not mention abortion as a right, as French President Macron did.

This underscores how difficult it is for former colonial governments, who now provide the bulk of international aid for fertility reduction policies, to get countries on the receiving end of that assistance to politically support abortion rights. They are forced to operate in stealth mode under the banner of “reproductive health” instead.

The opposition to abortion rights was voiced primarily by Brazil on Thursday. While supporting “sexual and reproductive health”, Damares Alves, Brazil’s Minister for Women, Family and Human Rights categorically said this did not include an “alleged right” to abortion.

Surprisingly, the U.S. government which has often opposed abortion rights in recent UN meetings, did not on Thursday. U.S. Secretary for Education Betsy DeVos, complained about the repression of Uighurs in China but did not address UN abortion promotion.

Abortion isn’t the only element of the Beijing conference that continues to be debated at the United Nations. The UN Agency for women is aggressively promoting LGBT rights under the banner of “gender equality” of the Beijing conference

The head of the agency, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, highlighted the work of the UN Women fighting “homophobia” to the General Assembly. The short video the agency produced for the 25th anniversary event included a slide that touted decriminalizing homosexual conduct in India as progress for the women’s agenda and depicting what appears to be a transgender man.

Perhaps the most discordant note on Thursday was sounded by Ms. Francesca DiGiovanni, a Vatican official who spoke on behalf of the Holy See. She complained of bad investments by the international community that aimed at the “suppression of the capacity for motherhood.” She also lamented efforts to promote “so-called new rights,” a phrase understood to refer to abortion and LGBT rights.

Di Giovanni, was also alone in denouncing pornography, surrogacy and human trafficking as part of a widespread “hedonistic and commercial culture that reduces women to sex objects and their bodies to consumer products.”

Published with permission from C-Fam.