BY JAMES PENN
PRO-LIFE ORGANISATIONS in Britain have welcomed a climbdown on abortion by Washington and the European Community at the Cairo conference on population control.
The 12 EC states put forward a new draft text which states abortion is not to be seen as a method of family planning.
They proposed to transfer references to it to areas covering reproductive health care services.
Conference observers said the move might well "save" the Cairo conference by drawing the sting from a Catholic/Muslim alliance against abortion, contraception and sex education which threatened to scupper it.
"If there's been some backdown then Pm glad to hear it. Abortion is the number one rights issue of our time," said Professor Jack Semisbrick of LIFE.
He quickly launched into an attack on abortion and contraception in general. "More abortion and contraception means more unwanted pregnancy and more disease. We've had 25 years of social experiment that has failed and we should not be trying to export it to the Third World and infect others."
He poured scorn on a letter written by 3,500 liberal Catholics including British signatories Margaret Hebblethwaite, assistant editor of the Catholic weekly The Tablet, and Dr Elizabeth Stuart, author of the homosexual prayer book Daring to Speak Love's Name to Monday's New York Times accusing the Vatican of contributing to a global population crisis.
"Population growth is almost always accompanied by economic growth. I confidently predict that in five years time people will be pleading for women to have more children.
"It's a great excuse for politicians to feel important about themselves. It makes people like Clinton feel they are doing something," he said.
Brendan Gerard of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Children said: "I hope the conference will give this force and put it into practice, not simply say it to please the Catholics and Muslims."
Assistant secretary of the Bishops' Conference, Nicholas Coote, noted how the present conference was about "Population and Development" while those in Bucharest in 1974 and Mexico in 1984 were about just population.
"It takes in the broad fact that the population question goes hand in hand with development. We have a concentration of resources in affluent north yet we are saying slow down population growth in the south. Five million babies in the affluent north consume more than 90 million babies born in the impoverished south," he said.
"These people are actually kept in a situation where they are burdened by an impossible problem of debt. The issue is one of justice and solidarity between the
First and Third Worlds."
The Pope has sent his chief press officer, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, to put the Church's message across. The Spaniard is a former jour alist and a skilled user of the media, and his despatch there is a sign o the importance with which the ope regards the conference.
Meanwhile, President Mub rak of Egypt has advised Mu lim nations they will have lost o t by boycotting the conference.
"Wouldn't it be in the intere t of the Islamic nations for their r presentatives to attend, oppose and stand up to any interpretation at is against religion and the Isi mic Shariah (law)?" he asked. "If do not attend, we are the losers. we do, we will be able to stand fir 1."