We, the Authors of this Blog, are among those who believe that the expression “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” (and its derivates) can and should be interpreted in a way that does not include a pretended right to abortion, right to sodomy, right to medical contraception, etc. We have made our position on this clear on one of the permanent pages of this website.
At the same time, we are of course aware that our interpretation of the term, although well founded on the interpretive principles generally recognized in international law, is not the one preferred by the UN bureaucracy, the current US administration, the Governments of most EU States, the international abortion industry and its lobbyists, or George Soros and Bill Gates, to name just a few. Nonetheless, we maintain our interpretation, and are therefore neither afraid nor ashamed of using the expression. We do so because we believe that there may be many governments out there who have in good faith agreed to the use of the term in international documents they have signed up to, precisely because they interpret it as we do. We want to lend our moral support to those governments, providing them argumentative support in interpreting the term “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” (abbreviated SRHR) in conformity with natural law, and encouraging them to leave the interpretation of such neo-logisms not as a monopoly to those who will manipulate and distort them in order to read spurious “rights” into legal documents that in fact do not contain them.
Some of our friends have a different approach: they find SRHR dangerous and objectionable, and would want to see it disappear. (We too would indeed not mind seeing it disappear – not because we think it must be interpreted as the UN and other promoters of abortion and sodomy do, but because we find it ambiguous and unnecessary. However, as long as it’s there, it must be interpreted correctly…)
It is for this reason that we are following with avid interest the dispute that has broken out between Stefano Gennarini (who writes on Turtle Bay and Beyond as well as on First Things) and the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS), Monsignor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo (see, in this regard, our previous blog entry).
In this dispute our own position is closer to that of Mgr. Sánchez Sorondo (who appears to think, as we do, that SRHR do not include abortion) than to that of our friend Gennarini (who writes that SRHR, as defined by the U.N. General Assembly at the Cairo and Beijing conferences in the 1990s, include abortion as a ‘basic health service’) – but we agree with Gennarini that it is wise to avoid, where possible, the use of the ambiguous term, or to use it only with a caveat. We also believe that the way in which Mgr. Sánchez Sorondo has answered Gennarini’s critical questions is far from satisfactory and, as a more general point, that one should not be naive with regard to the UN’s intentions when it uses this or similar terminology: the aim is always to promote some well-sounding neologisms and, once they have entered into common usage, fill them with interpretations that many would not have expected.
There are now two new statements that are worthy of being reported. One is from Cardinal Robert Sarah who, essentially endorsing Gennarini’s position, says that “it is a grave mistake that the (Catholic) Church permits itself to use the words that are used by the UN – we have a vocabulary of our own to express what we believe”. Although probably not intended as a contribution to the dispute that opposes Gennarini and Mgr. Sánchez Sorondo, this admonition is certainly of interest also in this specific contest.
The other statement stems from the President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Margaret Archer, who states that she was “frankly amazed at the distorted criticism” that Mr. Gennarini “chose to aim at the Chancellor of the two Pontifical Academies”. But her own attack against Gennarini is certainly not less amazing, both for its apparent lack of argument and its vicious innuendo that Gennarini’s “sole concern with human dignity (is) confined to the period between conception and live-birth “, or that he is “totally uninterested in vicious practices, such as human trafficking”.
This style of ad hominem attack against a reputed pro-life activist is certainly not what one would expect to read on the website of a Pontifical Academy, and it raises questions about Mrs. Archer’s qualification to lead this institution.