On Friday afternoon at the U.N. session where the draft of the Beijing +10 Declaration was ratified by unanimous consent, more than two dozen women sat in the United Nations’ galleries. They held up heart-shaped cardboard fans and wore masks over their mouths emblazoned with huge red lips and the slogan: “Your Mouth, Fundamental Against Fundamentalism.”
By chance I was seated in the midst of the demonstrators where I could see everything unfolding. I watched the security officers vigorously clear the overflow participants who tried to sit in the aisles. Yet curiously they did not object to the radicals donning their protest gear nor did the presiding chair of the session give the security officials instructions to remove the radicals when they stood and applauded pro-abortion statements or when they hissed and booed at pro-life remarks made by delegates from the Vatican, Costa Rica and the United States.
During my six years of covering the United Nations, I have never seen such behavior allowed in the galleries. Normally, whispered conversations are frowned upon. Various official U.N. documents clearly and expressly forbid all demonstrations inside U.N. headquarters and indicate that dire consequences will result for violations.
Yet, nothing was done to stop the demonstrations of the pro-abortion supporters in the galleries.
And there was more.
After the session ended, the demonstrators milled around outside the hall where the U.S. delegation would be exiting. They were obviously planning some mass action, behavior that also defies U.N. rules and regulations. I asked one burley officer why they did not remove the demonstrators. “We’re trying, Ma’am,” he said. Yet the security officers took no action to evict the demonstrators or to break up their gathering.
When Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey led the American delegation out of the Hall, the protesters surrounded them chanting, “Shame, shame, shame, U.S., shame, shame, shame!” With a single security officer in the lead, the American delegates edged their way through the crowd as the protesters followed them down the hallways, continuing the abuse.
I watched with dismay as these women from many corners of the world sought to destroy all opposition to their ideology. Why, I wondered, were they so angry? How could they so passionately desire the destruction of their own unborn children?
And just whom, I wondered, should be feeling shame?
Here are women who vehemently demand “women’s rights,” refusing to respect the rights of other women to express their beliefs and values.
The protesters not only want to have access to abortion in their own countries, they want the Bush administration to allow American foreign aid to pay for those abortions. The U.S. is not interfering in the right of other countries to decide on the abortion issue for themselves; our government is simply saying that our foreign aid funded by the U.S. public’s tax dollars will go toward water, sanitation, health requirements and efforts to improve citizens’ well-being rather than being spent to fund elective abortions.
Since we are not telling them what they can do in their own countries, why were those women so riled up? What prompted their angry outburst on Friday afternoon?
Their formal “declaration” offers more details. The two-page document accuses “fundamentalists” of “speaking from frozen visions and sacred books” in an attempt “to trample on . . . and invalidate women’s right to have rights.” They accuse the U.S. of “imperialistic vision” and of holding “governments hostage.” The document cites “meddling by religions” and claims that the U.S. has sought, through “systematic and coarse” attempts to “buy the sovereignty, dignity and will of others.” The rest of the document condemns those who would, they claim, discriminate or leave behind others because of sexual orientation or condemn women to death because of illegal abortions.
Having seen the raw anger and hatred on the faces of the protesters on Friday afternoon, a vision of the future if they prevail, we dare not let their charges go unchallenged. We are there to tell TRUTH and to stand for principle when distortions and confusion swirls all around us.
Dr. Janice Crouse analyzed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995 and she has worked on women’s issues ever since. You can read her articles on the CWA Web site – www.cwfa.org.