Former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Ray Flynn tells the story that before the Cairo Conference in 1994 Pope John Paul II personally asked him to arrange a telephone conversation with President Bill Clinton. Flynn asked the White House but got no response. He called and called.
Flynn was stalled so long that he flew from Rome to Washington to make a personal appeal. As in the heyday of divine-right monarchs, Flynn cooled his heels in the president’s antechamber for days. Finally, former Senator Tim Wirth, then Assistant Secretary of State, told Flynn there was to be no phone call for the pope; that no one was going to lobby the president on the Cairo Conference. Flynn said this was not a lobbying request; this was a request for a meeting from the pope himself. A short conversation was allowed.
A year later, the United Nations held the Beijing Women’s Conference. Prior to that event, Vice President Gore requested a meeting with the Holy See delegation and asked for their assurances that they would negotiate in good faith, meaning that they would not singlehandedly block consensus, something they could have done, stand against the whole world and stop anything. The Holy See delegates assured Gore that they would negotiate in good faith and would not singlehandedly block consensus. Gore said he was satisfied. Within hours, Gore held a press conference at which he said he had met with the Holy See delegation and had concluded it would not negotiate in good faith.
In subsequent years, the Clintons virtually led the charge at the United Nations on behalf of advancing a right to reproductive health. They deny it to this day, but reproductive health means almost exclusively a right to U.N.-style family planning, including abortion.
The Clintons’ main enforcer was the afore-mentioned Tim Wirth who famously kept a big bowl of condoms on his desk at the State Department. This was the man who at the Cairo Conference told Egyptian security forces that a particular pro-lifer was a terrorist. The “terrorist” was subsequently arrested by the Egyptians. In the Bush years, Wirth decamped to the U.N. Foundation, the place where Ted Turner parked a billion dollars to fund U.N. activities.
Though outnumbered a few thousand to one and outspent a billion to one, pro-lifers had a good record going up against the Clintons at the United Nations. The Clintons and their allies tried to get an explicit right to abortion and the pro-lifers stopped them. The Clintons tried to redefine the family and the pro-lifers stopped them.
Clinton’s ongoing chief negotiator was a tough-as-nails, smart-as-a-whip, heavy-set radical feminist with a slate-grey bowl haircut and a photographic memory for U.N documents named Margaret Pollack. What’s more, Pollack has an iron keister. She sat in that negotiating chair for hours, days, weeks, months, and years and never waivered from Hilary Clinton’s assertion that “human rights are women’s right and women’s right are human rights,” which, translated from the UN-ese, means that women have an unalloyed right to abortion.
At Beijing+5 the United Nations accredited several thousand pro-abortion NGO lobbyists. They accredited only 30 pro-lifers. A radical feminist from Turkey named Yakin Erturk refused more than that. Erturk was rewarded with a cushy job as U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women.
Pollack fought to the very end. At 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning, after two weeks of intense negotiating, she finally threw in the towel. One by one, Pollack backed down on the Clinton demands.
Arrayed across the back of the room stood a line of angry bulls, ambassadors from a number of Muslim states who never come to these types of negotiations and certainly never come at 5 in the morning. But they were angered that the Clinton feministas were refusing to admit they had been beaten on abortion and other issues. Pro-lifers know the key to winning is getting the Muslims in full-throated outrage at the radical feminists. Yet here is the real key to our victory then and now. In the NGO gallery only a few NGO personnel were left. Out of thousands, only four feminist lobbyists remained. Out of 30 pro-lifers who were accredited, 26 remained. I know. I was there. I counted.
Letters are circulating from various conservative religious folks, and columns are being written, saying to the Obamas and now the Clintons, “come let us reason together.” Horse merde. Hilary is back. Margaret Pollack will be back. Tim Wirth will be back, and their whole crew. We know what that means. As for my colleagues and me, to paraphrase the great Midge Decter, we are going to the United Nations not to build bridges to the Obamas and the Clintons; we are going to destroy their ideas.
Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy.
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