NEW YORK, NY, September 16, 2005, (—Â The gathering at the United Nations in New York to discuss and debate the Millennium Development Goals (MDG +5 Summit) was presented with a document signed by various religious scholars, clergy and advocates that promoted a “commitment to Women’s Rights and Reproductive Health”, UN code language for abortion and contraception.

The document, supported by various organizations such as Catholics for Free Choice (CFFC), has been opposed by the Vatican. A Sept. 9 Zenit news service report revealed the Holy See asked Argentina’s bishops not to support a campaign by “Catholics for a Free Choice,” which is seeking signatures of religious to promote the concept of “reproductive health.”

The CFFC issued a Sept. 8 statement deploring the Vatican intervention saying, “The planned release of an interfaith religious statement supporting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and calling for the inclusion of reproductive health ran into controversy last week as high ranking Vatican officials instructed Catholic bishops to ensure that “no ‘religious leader’ of the Catholic church and subject to our jurisdiction agree and sign” the interfaith statement.”

The CFFC statement continued: “In fact, the religious leaders’ statement broadly supports the overarching aim of the MDGs, which is poverty alleviation, and holds that women’s equality and reproductive health are key elements of achieving those goals. The statement was circulated to UN officials at the World Summit.

  The two key areas of contention are demands “to provide information and services to women in order to prevent unplanned pregnancies, which often lead women to abortion, and to address illegal and unsafe abortion as a public health concern” and “to ensure that sexual and reproductive health care and services include prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections”.

The Vatican insistence that Bishops in Argentina and other Latin-American countries not sign the document promoted by various faith leaders was in response to a key section of that document stating: “Most faith communities accept modern forms of contraception and family planning, and even in faith groups that limit or prohibit such services, couples have chosen to use them as part of their plan for creating responsible families.”

The Catholic Church, represented by the Holy See, could not endorse such a document contradicting its principles.

The UN Resolution A/Res/55/2, adopted by the General Assembly in 2000, did not incorporate the term “reproductive health” when discussing issues such as gender equality and the empowerment of women (#20).

Abortion rights advocates were successful this week in getting “reproductive health” incorporated into two sections of the Millenium Development Goals document. However, language incorporating their objectives in other sections of the document was successfully removed.

See CFFC Sept. 8 release on the issue

See Zenit report on the Holy See’s warning to Argentina’s bishops