Reproductive Rights Scrubbed From Rio+20 Text - Why That's Bad News for the Planet

Matt Lemmon/CC BY-SA 2.0

In amongst the other mealy-mouthed text in the Rio+20 agreement text, this passed me by until a post in Climate Progress brought it to my attention: Language ensuring women's reproductive rights, which had been included in negotiating documents up until at least June 2, is absent from the final text.

Objecting to the language were the G77 nations and the Vatican, the latter of which has permanent non-member state status with the UN.

Here's what was formerly included:

We are committed to ensure the equal access of women and girls to education, basic services, economic opportunities and health care services, including addressing women’s sexual and reproductive health [and their reproductive rights, – G77 reserves] and ensuring universal access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable modern methods of family planning. In this regard, we reaffirm our commitment to fully implement the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the key actions for the further implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development. [Holy See reserve]

And here's how point 241 now reads:

We are committed to promote the equal access of women and girls to education, basic services, economic opportunities and health care services, including addressing women’s sexual and reproductive health, and ensuring universal access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable modern methods of family planning. In this regard, we reaffirm our commitment to implement the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the key actions for the further implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development.

As you could probably guess, the Vatican believes that 'reproductive rights' is a code word for 'abortion rights' and quickly got their vestments in a bunch.

Now, language about family planning is still included—a good thing, considering the massive impact population growth is having on the environment and the huge impact that access to contraception has on reducing growth rates around the world.

But in both practice and symbolism, it's recognizing that women have a fundamental right to control when they have children, how they have children, how many children they have—in short and long 'reproductive rights'—which is the foundation of slowing population growth around the world.

Unfortunately saying that it's a good thing to ensure access to family planning, while refusing to accept that this is a fundamental right, is typical of most of the points in Rio+20 text: Correctly recognizing the problems, failing to recognize the solutions in practice.

If you're not up to speed on why population growth is a fundamental environmental issue, entirely intertwined with resource consumption, the original Climate Progress piece lays it out very well. And, of course, check out the related links to the left.

Tags: Population Growth | Rio+20

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