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CEDAW Makes A Comeback
Joseph D'Agostino
Population Research Institute
February 11, 2007

Now that the party of death has retaken control of Congress, battles over funding of embryonic stem cell research, chemical abortifacients, contraception, sex education, special privileges for homosexuals, and other such controversies will ensue over the next two years.  The fight over an obscure international treaty could be just as important, if not more so, than these others even though few people have ever heard of CEDAW.

The pompously named CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, sounds on its face not to be too bad, just clumsy and utopian.  Yet it is a totalitarian piece of social engineering that aims to do everything from legalize abortion-on-demand worldwide to abolish Mother's Day (no joke).

Sen. Joseph Biden (D.-Del.), the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is eager to pander to the liberal women's vote in between making embarrassing gaffes as he runs for President.  Biden is likely to bring CEDAW up for hearings this year in his committee, and chances are disturbingly good that it will pass and go to the Democrat-controlled Senate floor for ratification. 

In one of his many mistakes, President Jimmy Carter signed the convention in 1980, but the Senate has never ratified it.  Treaty ratification requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate, or 67 out of the 100 members.

Democrats alone cannot provide the two-thirds needed for CEDAW victory since the Senate has only 51 of them.  If Republican senators, and the handful of Democrats not committed to radical feminism, do not learn what CEDAW would really mean for America, CEDAW could be victorious.

Many readers may have difficulty believing that CEDAW means abortion-on-demand since the treaty never mentions abortion, and how can anyone believe CEDAW means the abolition of Mother's Day?

Article 12 of the convention says, "States Parties [sic] shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning."  As usual with United Nations documents, "family planning" has been interpreted to include abortion over and over again.  Rep. Chris Smith (R.-N.J.) pointed out in a letter to his fellow congressmen this month that CEDAW's enforcement committee has instructed nations from Burkina Faso to Chile to Ireland to Nepal to liberalize their abortion laws.  Some examples:

* CEDAW committee to Mexico, 1998: "The Committee recommends that all states of Mexico should review their legislation so that, where necessary, women are granted access to rapid and easy abortion."

* CEDAW committee to Croatia, 1998: "The Committee strongly recommends that the Government take steps to secure the enjoyment by women of their reproductive rights by, inter alia, guaranteeing them access to abortion services in public hospitals."

* CEDAW committee to Colombia, 1999: “The Committee believes that legal provisions on abortion constitute a violation of the rights of women to health and life and of Article 12 of the Convention.”

* CEDAW committee to Portugal, 2002: “The Committee is concerned about the restrictive abortion laws in place in Portugal, in particular because illegal abortions have serious negative impacts on women’s health and well-being.”

* CEDAW committee to Ireland, 2005: "The Committee urges the State party to continue to facilitate a national dialogue on women's right to reproductive health, including on the very restrictive abortion laws."

Just last month, the CEDAW committee admonished Poland for allowing doctors to refuse to perform abortions.  Defenders of CEDAW argue that its enforcement committee can only make recommendations, not force action.

Yet once CEDAW is ratified, it becomes law, and courts then base pro-abortion rulings upon it and its interpreters’ pronouncements.

According to an article from C-FAM, February 8, that's exactly what happened in Colombia, where the Constitutional Court unilaterally weakened that nation's pro-life laws.  "The court's judgment repeatedly cites international treaties, United Nations conference outcome documents and other international documents that are routinely misread by the radical NGOs as protecting abortion rights," wrote Bradley Short of C-FAM.

"Perhaps the most disturbing portion of the court's opinion is the section that quotes the entirety of a legal opinion of the Attorney General of Colombia, who is tasked with writing authoritative opinions for the court in cases where laws might be struck down.  The Attorney General's opinion states that Colombia is bound by the recommendations of UN compliance committees.  He wrote specifically that Colombia is bound by 'the recommendations made by the international authorities in charge of overseeing compliance by' Colombia with the 'Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).'"

CEDAW's enforcers don't just love abortion, they hate motherhood in principle, constantly telling countries to implement propaganda programs from the pre-school level up to force boys and girls to think they are the same.  And they don't like pro-family policies, particularly Mother's Day. Here are quotations from what they told Belarus in 2000:

* "In particular, the Committee notes with concern that the Government predominantly uses an approach of service delivery to women rather than a human rights approach when implementing the Convention.  In addition, such an approach emphasizes the protection of and the delivery of services to women mainly as mothers and members of families, thus perpetuating stereotypical attitudes concerning the roles and responsibilities of women."

* "The Committee expresses its concern that the country's legislation, in particular with regard to women's role in the labour market, appears to be overly protective of women as mothers and thus creates further obstacles to women's participation in the labour market."

* "The Committee is concerned by the continuing prevalence of sex-role stereotypes and by the reintroduction of such symbols as a Mothers' Day and a Mothers' Award, which it sees as encouraging women's traditional roles."

Belarus has a birthrate of 1.2, one of the lowest in the world and far below replacement level.  Her population is shrinking steadily and aging rapidly.  You’d think encouraging motherhood is exactly what the country desperately needs, and it’s hard to believe that Belarussian women are excessively devoted to child-bearing when the country is so rapidly self-exterminating.  Yet it’s not enough for the CEDAW types.  This sort of hatred of humanity in general and femininity in particular is usually openly expressed only by professors and feminist activists.  Yet, thankfully, the CEDAW people have been honest about what they believe and the social engineering they wish to impose upon the human race.

The CEDAW committee has even complained to the government of Slovenia that "less than 30% of children under three years of age were in formal day care."  And it has complained at times that not enough women are in the labor force.  Too busy wasting their time on children, I suppose.

China has ratified the treaty, but that has had no effect on her one-child policy, forced abortion, and forced sterilization campaigns.  Apparently, CEDAW doesn’t apply to those.
With these dystopian power-grab schemes from international apparatchiks, vague but nice-sounding "rights" language gets interpreted in a bad way, almost every time. 

CEDAW is verbose but fuzzy, with passages on the necessity of the elimination of "distinction, exclusion, or restriction made on the basis of sex, which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise by women, irrespective of marital status, on the basis of equality between men and women, of human rights or fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil, or any other field."

This means just about anything you want.  What does "any other field" mean?  The military, mandating that women be drafted and sent into combat just like men?  Sports?  Families, in which both spouses might be required to work some day (today economic necessity, tomorrow legal mandate)?  And Article 16 includes a right to government-funded contraception and perhaps abortion: "The same rights to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights...."

The ratification of CEDAW is clearly a priority of the international left. The expected folks have officially endorsed its ratification, such as Planned Parenthood of America and so-called Catholics for a Free Choice, but so has the AARP, the AFL-CIO, and the Sierra Club, as well as various lefty "Christian" groups including some "Catholic" religious orders.

Some House Democrats are pushing for a vote endorsing CEDAW before March 8, which apparently is Women's Day (I've never heard of it before or if I did, I forgot).  They hope to prompt the more sclerotic Senate to ratify CEDAW.  We need common sense or at least sclerosis to prevent that.

Joseph A. D'Agostino is Vice President for Communications at the
Population Research Institute.

P.O. Box 1559
Front Royal, Va. 22630
Phone: (540) 622-5240 Fax: (540) 622-2728
Media Contact: Joseph A. D'Agostino
(540) 622-5240, ext. 204

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