New SRHR Commission to Promote Abortion “Beyond the SDGs”
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
The United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 has not even begun and two pro-abortion organizations have announced creation of a new commission outside the advance “sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)” beyond the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Writing in the latest edition of Lancet, in A Lancet Commission on sexual and reproductive health and rights: going beyond the Sustainable Development Goals, Ann Starrs, President and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, the former research arm of Planned Parenthood, expresses her frustration that despite the SDGs being “comprehensive, visionary, and inspiring in many ways” they fall short and “take a narrow view of sexual and reproductive health and rights, one of the most crucial, but also most controversial, parts of the SDG agenda.”

It is her opinion that despite two targets for the SDGs that “explicitly mention sexual and reproductive health”—targets 3.7 and 5.6— the follow-up indicators that will be used to track progress are likely to cover family planning, adolescent fertility, and perhaps comprehensive sexuality education” but “are not likely to encompass other important elements of sexual and reproductive health and rights, including safe abortion, non-discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and the importance of high-quality, confidential, and timely sexual and reproductive health services”.

It is important to recognize that the process to create indicators that will evaluate and measure progress on the 17 SDGs and 169 targets is still underway at the U.N. and will not be finalized until March, 2016. Indicators that include access to abortion have been proposed by U.N. agencies and NGOs. No one is certain of what the final indicators will be.

Starrs is critical of what she terms a “narrow view” on sexual and reproductive health and rights and declares, “UN processes alone cannot be relied on to articulate a progressive and evidence-based vision of how to move forward on sexual and reproductive health and rights” and announces a new joint effort with Lancet establishing a Commission “on sexual and reproductive health and rights in the post-2015 world.”

The Commission, she announced, will begin work in early 2016 with the “aim of developing a wide-ranging and evidence-based agenda for key sexual and reproductive health and rights priorities worldwide over the next 15 years; just as important, it will also make the case for the adoption of policies and programmes to turn that vision into reality.”

She continues to focus on access to abortion with criticism for the pro-life position stating,

          “…the Commission will emphasise important concerns that have been overlooked or neglected in the SDGs, such as the availability of safe abortion and access to high-quality sexual and reproductive health information and services, including for adolescents, men, and sexual minorities, that respect sexual and reproductive rights and prioritise the needs of vulnerable and neglected populations.

          The Commission will articulate a vision, define priorities, and produce a set of recommendations for sexual and reproductive health and rights on the basis of the best available evidence. In doing so, it will build on and update The Lancet’s 2006 Series on sexual and reproductive health, which summarised available evidence and noted the influence of conservative forces in undermining progress on these issues.”

The Lancet Editorial Board writing in Women are the key to sustainable development confirms the new joint commission stating, “Although the [Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)] include sexual and reproductive health, as Ann Starrs explains…, they take a narrow view. A new Lancet-Guttmacher Institute Commission on sexual and reproductive health and rights in the post-2015 world will go beyond the SDGs and aims to provide a progressive, evidence-based vision of how to move forward in this critical dimension of sustainable development(9/19).”

Starrs also expresses her consternation at the role of those U.N. Member States with laws that protect women and children from the violence of abortion and laments the failure of the SRHR agenda to be advanced in the past 20 years explaining that the conferences marking the anniversaries of both the ICPD and the Beijing Women’s Conference, “were notable primarily for opposition from some member states and their conservative allies to abortion, adolescent sexual and reproductive health services, and sexual rights. As a result, the outcomes of these anniversary events reaffirmed the ICPD Programme of Action and the Beijing Platform for Action, but did not advance the agenda on sexual and reproductive health and rights in any substantial way.”

PNCI notes that Lancet and Guttmacher Institute in creating this commission to promote an agenda that is continually rejected by many countries at the United Nations declare themselves to be above consensus, not concerned with national priorities, dismissive of deeply held cultural and religious beliefs that recognized the sanctity and dignity of each and every life, and contemptuous of the ICPD (Cairo) agreement which decided that policies on abortion were to be determined by the national legislative process.

PNCI alerts and warns policymakers about the Lancet-Guttmacher Institute Commission on sexual and reproductive health and rights in the post-2015 and the recommendations that will result from this joint venture.