Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Rounds Up Opinion Pieces on U.N. Special Session on Children
Summaries of some recent editorials, statements and opinion pieces about the U.N. Special Session on Children appear below, listed in alphabetical order:
- Jo Becker, Newsday: The Summit is an opportunity for nations to "set revised targets for health and education and adopt new goals in response to the more recent challenges of HIV/AIDS and the increased awareness of problems like ... trafficking of children and sexual exploitation," Jo Becker, advocacy director for the Children's Rights Division of the Human Rights Watch, states in a Newsday opinion piece. For the United States, the conference "should be an occasion to demonstrate international leadership on behalf of children," but instead it will only highlight "its failure to ratify the ...  Convention on the Rights of the Child," Becker continues. Although the Clinton administration signed the document in 1995, it has never come before the Senate for ratification, and many U.S. groups such as the Christian Coalition and Concerned Women for America have lobbied against it, claiming that it would "interfere with the ability of parents to raise and, when necessary, discipline their children," she notes. The government's position on the Convention on the Rights of the Child "remains an international disappointment," she concludes (Becker, Newsday, 5/5).
- Jane Eisner, Philadelphia Inquirer: The phrase "reproductive health services" is "intentionally murky, falling into the category of diplo-speak vague enough to mollify most and satisfy almost no one," columnist Jane Eisner writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Bush administration contends that the phrase has "come to include abortion" and should therefore be excluded from the draft convention being ironed out at the special session, she states, adding that some American abortion opponents are concerned that if the phrase is used in the document, it would "somehow codify the right to abortion" and the document would be used to "persuade governments to change their [abortion] laws." Eisner asks, "If other nations wish to keep abortion legal, who are we to say otherwise? If a girl is raped during armed conflict, or taken as a sexual slave, or is at risk for delivering an HIV-positive child, who are we to say that she should not even be counseled on abortion?" The lives of "those already born should concern us the most," she concludes (Eisner, Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/5).
- Guardian: HIV/AIDS and poverty have combined to form a "vicious circle, with dramatic consequences for the next generation," a Guardian editorial states, noting that the lack of financial resources in many nations results in STDs going untreated, thereby increasing the odds of HIV transmission. Poverty may also force children to drop out of school and to look for ways of supporting themselves or their families, often leading young girls to prostitution as their "only viable economic option," the editorial states. As the delegates meet this week in New York to discuss ways to improve the children's quality of life, the "glaring absence of [many wealthy nations] from the summit ... casts a shadow over their commitment to the importance of children in economic development," the Guardian concludes (Guardian, 5/4).
- Katherine McDonald, Toronto Globe & Mail: Canadian Deputy Prime Minister John Manley and other world leaders have the "opportunity to change the fate of a generation" at the U.N. summit, Action Canada for Population and Development Executive Director Katherine McDonald states in a Toronto Globe & Mail op-ed. However, Canada, Switzerland, the European Union and 18 Latin American countries cannot depend on the United States' support to "promot[e] the right of all young people to have accurate information (and someone to talk to) about sexuality, family planning, childbearing and disease[s]" such as HIV/AIDS, McDonald says. The abstinence-only sex education model "promot[ed]" by the Bush administration "ignores the vast numbers of young people who, willingly or not, become sexually active long before they reach the age of 18" and "simply doesn't work" for most countries, she states, adding that the United States -- together with Libya, the Sudan, Iran, Pakistan and the Vatican -- is attempting to "roll back" previous commitments to adolescent reproductive health made at past international conferences. "It is time for all countries, with Canada leading the way," to counter this "disturbing" course of events, McDonald concludes, adding, "The need for sound youth reproductive health policies and programs has never been greater" (McDonald, Toronto Globe & Mail, 5/3).
- New York Times: The special session may end up "push[ing] the world backward" for children because of Bush administration demands that the conference's final document not include provisions granting teenage girls access to sex education and reproductive health services, "even though they are at special risk of contracting [HIV]," a New York Times editorial states. The editorial concludes, "Denying reproductive information and services to girls and women is counterproductive, and endangers the futures and lives of millions abroad" (New York Times, 5/8).
- U.S. Coalition for Child Survival: "If in our capacity as advocates for children's health the U.S. Coalition for Child Survival were required to lock on to a single mantra during the special session, it would be to encourage delegates to support efforts to eliminate and control diseases that kill children and that are easily preventable," the U.S. Coalition for Child Survival, which includes groups such as the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and Save the Children, says in a statement. The group would like to "urge delegates to respond to the health needs of the millions of children affected by HIV/AIDS by making nevirapine, the drug that reduces mother-to-child HIV transmission, universally available to pregnant mothers and by providing both mother and child with adequate care and support" (U.S. Coalition for Child Survival release, 5/6).
- U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities: "Our priority must be to meet the needs that truly promote the human dignity of children and their families, not to push abortion on children as some sort of 'reproductive health service,'" Cathleen Cleaver, director of planning and information for the USCCB's Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, said in a statement. "The use of abortion as a method of birth control has long been rejected by the international community as well as by the vast majority of Americans. It should not be promoted in an international document intended to help children," Cleaver said, adding that the USCCB "urge[s] the Bush administration to remain firm in its efforts to remove or more carefully define any reference to 'reproductive health services'" and "applaud[s]" the administration's efforts to "explore opportunities in the document to promote good choices for children by including language on sexual abstinence and the critical role and responsibilities of parents and families" (USCCB release, 5/7).
- Washington Times: "[I]t is no wonder delegates, NGOs and political leaders are having a hard time plowing through the draft language of a U.N. document about how to better help children for the next 10 years," a Washington Times editorial says, noting that delegates are grappling with "elusive language" pertaining to such issues as abortion and contraception. On Friday, the Bush administration sought to clear up confusion over document language pertaining to "reproductive health care services" to ensure that the phrase could not be construed to include abortion, a move criticized by many in the international community. The administration also opposes comprehensive sex education and the provision of condoms for HIV/AIDS prevention. "The administration is speaking up for the novel idea that to save a child's life is more important than to destroy it, that teaching him discipline will give him a better chance of survival than handing him a piece of rubber. ... Looks like they are asking for controversy," the Times concludes (Washington Times, 5/8).