A debate at the United Nations became sidetracked late last week after a group of mostly Muslim states, led by Egypt, attempted to introduce two anti-abortion amendments into the text of an EU-led resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty.
Despite protests from the sponsors of the resolution that an amendment on abortion was not relevant to a debate over the death penalty, the Egyptian representative argued that since the resolution was aimed at protecting life, it was appropriate to include a reference to abortion. Representatives of Egypt, Bahrain, Iran, Libya, Kuwait, Mauritania, and Sudan called for a new paragraph to be added to the resolution that urged: "Member States to take all necessary measures to protect the lives of unborn children." The amendment was rejected in a recorded vote of 28 for, 83 against with 47 abstentions.
While it is thought the abortion amendment was introduced in an attempt to stall the resolution on the death penalty, the move reflects growing attempts to undermine abortion rights through UN channels. In the May/June issue of New Humanist Solana Larsen told how conservative anti-abortion pressure groups were increasing their presence at the UN, targeting delegates from the United States, Latin America and Muslim states. Last week the United States delegates, while voting against the resolution on the death penalty, voted in favour of Egypt's first amendment on abortion.