The United States on Wednesday refused to sign a statement signed by 85 other nations that reaffirms commitment to reproductive health and AIDS-related population and health goals agreed upon 10 years ago at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development. More than 250 world leaders--including presidents, prime ministers, and Nobel Prize winners--endorsed the goals of a woman's right to education, health care, and reproductive choices, including using condoms to avoid HIV infection. The statement, approved by 85 countries on Wednesday, reaffirms the commitment "to an action plan to ensure universal access to reproductive health information and services; uphold fundamental human rights, including sexual and reproductive rights; alleviate poverty; secure gender equality; and protect the environment." It also states that poor nations continue to face worsening AIDS crises due in part to inadequate family planning and reproductive health education. The statement was signed by all the members of the European Union, Japan, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, and 12 African nations.
The Bush administration refused to support the statement because it contains the term "sexual rights," a term that the Administration says has no "agreed definition in the international community." Kelly Ryan, deputy assistant secretary of state, said the United States continues to support the overall goals of the 1994 agreement but could not sign the current statement because of the language in the document. But some activists say the United States refused to sign the document because Bush administration officials believe it would encourage abortions in other nations. They also note that since taking office Bush has each year withheld $34 million in annual funds to the United Nations Population Funds because he says the organization supports abortions in China. UNFPA has denied the claims.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry on Wednesday released a statement indicating his support of women's rights around the world and of the reaffirmation document the Bush administration refused to sign. "We must do more to address the needs of women, to ensure they and their children live healthy lives." Kerry also commended the world leaders who committed their support to the goals of the 1994 population conference