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Fighting words

"Fighting words" Continued...

Issue: "On the road again," May 9, 2009

Ruse says he doesn't see an end in sight-just an evolution as the emphasis shifts from population control to reproductive rights. And it's difficult to reverse the trend toward dwindling population, he said: "Once you breed greed into the hearts of man, how do you get it out? . . . That is a spiritual question."

Mark Mostert, director of the Institute for the Study of Disability and Bioethics, said he could see population issues changing to advocate assisted suicide and euthanasia. He points out that the practices are gaining some credence in developed countries-"becoming very accepted as a standard practice of dealing with people we don't want around"-and that the practice is being urged on some developing countries, where birth rates are higher and resources are scant.

However the debate changes, the international pro-life movement is watching. "We have far fewer paid employees. We have far less in the way of resources, but we have the truth about the demographic decline of country after country. We have the truth about the sanctity of human life in the world," said Mosher. "We're outspent and we certainly don't have the institutional support from international organizations or governments that the other side has; yet I think we have the support of the majority of the world's peoples in our effort to protect and defend human life." The question is how to harness that support on the international level.

Ruse remembers a conference in 2000, where pro-lifers numbered 300 to the pro-abortion force's thousands. The pro-life contingent wore red pins that said "Motherhood"-with one group of monks pinning them on their habits-and became a conspicuous presence as they watched the debate. On the last night negotiations got long and bitter, stretching to the early morning. Ruse told an ally from Sudan that it might get bloody, but that 20 Christians would be there praying for him. "This man was an absolute tiger that night," said Ruse. "He was pounding on his desk, he was waving his flag to get attention." Finally, the Clinton administration's chief negotiator gave up-another small victory for the pro-life side. Ruse said, "I turned around and I counted the number of people from our side who were still in the room and the number of people from the other side who were still in the room. And we had 26 people left and they had 4."

Sometimes the tenacity of a tiny island nation or a tiny contingent can outweigh thousands.

1994: UN International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) is held in Cairo, Egypt.

1999: UN holds follow-up special session in New York to evaluate progress in "implementing Programme of Action" from Cairo.

March 2009: UN Commission on Population and Development meets in New York. Language suggesting a universal right to a "safe abortion" is not included in official statement.

September 2009: ICPD 15th anniversary global forum in Berlin.

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