Holy See Rejects Abortion and Contraception as Part of UN’s “Reproductive Health” Goals

In Women's Day seminar, Cardinal Peter Turkson clarifies support for UN Sustainable Development Goals

When adopting the the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the Holy See rejected a one-dimensional interpretation of “reproductive health,” a Vatican cardinal said Tuesday. That interpretation would require “an ideological promotion of contraception and abortion.”

Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, addressed a seminar in Rome on health and sexuality in sustainable development goals and in Church teaching. The seminar, held on International Women’s Day, was co-sponsored by the Council for Justice and Peace, the World Youth Alliance, and its sister organization, FEMM, which deals with women’s health issues.

Nations around the world last September adopted an agenda to end poverty and hunger, protect the planet, ensure clean water and sanitation and work toward “gender equality,” among other goals. Each of the 17 goals has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.

The “gender equality” includes goals such as eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation, and eliminating practices such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation. It also calls for ensuring “universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.”

Last Sept. 1, the Holy See Mission to the United Nations issued a statement insisting that the terms “sexual and reproductive health” and “reproductive rights” apply to “a holistic concept of health, which embrace, each in their own way, the person in the entirety of his or her personality, mind and body, and which foster the achievement of personal maturity in sexuality and in the mutual love and decision-making that characterize the conjugal-relationship between a man and a woman in accordance with moral norms.

“The Holy See does not consider abortion or access to abortion or abortifacients as a dimension of these terms,” the Holy See said.

In Tuesday’s speech, which was delivered at the Istituto Patristico Augustinianum in Rome, Cardinal Turkson reaffirmed the Holy See’s commitment to both human life and the dignity of women and warned that technology based on science provides humanity with tremendous “power over itself.”

“We need to work very hard together to make sure that it is used wisely,” the cardinal said, as reported by Vatican Radio.

The Holy See has always maintained its commitment to both human life and the dignity of women, he said, and has also reaffirmed a commitment to science and ongoing advances that can defend and support the needs faced by women, families and children in human and effective ways.