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US sparks controversy over abortion stance at women's rights meeting

[JURIST] Ten years after the world's nations pledged to achieve equality for women in the Beijing Declaration [text], the progress meeting organized by the UN Commission on the Status of Women [official website] started Monday with controversy over American insistence that abortion should not be recognized as a human right. The Commission had wanted to reaffirm the Beijing platform and to focus the new meeting on overcoming roadblocks to women's equality in areas such as health, education, employment, political participation and human rights. The Beijing declaration, framed during a UN conference [official website] in the Chinese capital in 1995, called for governments to end gender discrimination and stated women can "decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality free of coercion, discrimination and violence." At that time attempts were made to make abortion a sexual right, but after a heated debate it was treated as a public health issue. However, the declaration did call on governments not to punish women who had undergone illegal abortions. Friday, the US proposed an amendment to the declaration which reaffirmed the Beijing platform but only if it did not include the right to abortion. The issue is expected to dominate the conference. About 100 government delegations and 6,000 activists are involved in the Beijing declaration progress review. AP has more. The UN provides continuing live coverage of the Beijing +10 meeting through March 11.

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