Women's Groups Oppose Vatican on Family Planning
Paul Lewis
New York Times, July 2, 1999

Frustrated by the Vatican's efforts to thwart a plan to limit world population growth, 126 women's organizations from around the world presented an open letter to the Roman Catholic Church today at a conference here. Expressing their disagreements in a series of questions, the women's groups, led by 57 Latin American organizations, asked how a church that holds life as "a fundamental value" could watch thousands of women die because they lack access to family planning and abortion.

The letter asked why the Vatican wanted parents to supervise young people's sex education when many cases of abuse occur in the home, and why a church committed to social justice opposed women's achieving aspirations fundamental to their "just and humane development." The letter also asked why an institution, which "by its nature does not have women or children or sexual and reproductive problems," is "blocking advances in contraception, sexual education and H.I.V. prevention" beneficial to millions of women.

The plan being discussed at the conference, first agreed on five years ago in Cairo, deals with sex education, contraceptive advice for adolescents and safe abortions. A small group of conservative Muslim and Roman Catholic countries with Vatican support continued to oppose aspects of the plan today. Many private groups interested in population policy are also frustrated, saying the Vatican and its allies have deflected the conference from its fundamental purpose, reviewing how the Cairo plan is working.

Meanwhile another attack on the Vatican is coming from Catholics for a Free Choice, which is opposed to its teaching on sexual matters, and 70 other voluntary groups. They are seeking to downgrade the Vatican at the United Nations from nonmember observer status to nongovernmental organization status.