Today is the third day of the UN Conference on the Status of Women. My week thus far has been filled with surprises. Yesterday, five of us from the International Youth Coalition found ourselves sitting behind the podium where UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented on gender equality in business. This adventure was the result of pure luck – a man with security clearance swiped us into the middle of the chamber after we got locked inside a stairwell trying to find the right room.
Putting aside the excitement of being feet away from major world figures, this week has also taught me some important lessons. As pro-life young people, my fellow IYc-ers and I are vastly outnumbered by proponents of abortion on demand. Even though we are outnumbered, we exist. I see our main purpose at this conference not so much as an endeavor to change hearts and minds, but rather to prove one thing: the debate is not over yet. As shocking as it may be, there are young women like myself who do not support abortion and contraception, and are willing to defend their position in the public square.
Women life myself are not given a prominent voice at this conference. We are not included in panel discussions on gender equality or sexual violence, and the idea that women who are pro-life might actually support the rights of women is anathema to those who think that they hold a monopoly on the conversation. It is as if my belief in the universal right to life somehow invalidates my support of women’s rights and gender equality.
Thus, I hear statements like these, issued imperatively with no room for dialogue: “Condamantion dogmatique de l’avortement met les femmes en danger.” In English: “Dogmatic condemnation of abortion endangers women.” If we were given a podium at this conference, I could confront that statement with both argument and evidence to the contrary. Instead, I am relegated to the back of the room, to merely raising my hand to ask a question of the panel.
Thus I ask for one simple thing: To have my voice and the voices of my friends heard in the assembly, to allow dialogue and debate. It seems reasonable, if one is so confirmed in their convictions, to open the floor for discussion rather than simply magistrate from the bench. I am a woman, and it seems only fair that as I woman I be allowed to speak my piece. That is all I ask of this conference, that they allow me to join them in support of women’s rights and gender equality while holding onto my belief in the dignity of all human life – both the woman and the unborn child.