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September 06, 1995 - Image 12

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-09-06

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12A - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 6, 1995
At U.N. conference,
Mrs. Clintonlashes
out at government-
coerced abortions

NATIa Nwoty

Los Angeles Times
BEIJING - In her first public ap-
pearance at the U.N. Fourth World Con-
ference on Women yesterday, first lady
Hillary Rodham Clinton lashed out at
government-coerced sterilizations and
abortions that are practiced widely in
China and other developing countries.
Clinton, speaking before a forum on
women's health at the conference, did
not mention China or any other country
by name. But her comments echoed
those of many critics of China's family
planning programs who claim that abor-
tion and sterilization are used as gov-
ernment-sponsored birth control tech-
niques, often against the will ofwomen.
"Women and men must also have the
right to make those most intimate of all
decisions freeofdiscrimination, coercion
and violence, particularly any coercive
practices that force women into abortions
or sterilizations," Clinton said.
The comments are likely designed to
please U.S. political groups who have
urged Clinton to use the Beijing confer-
ence as a platform to condemn human
rights abuses, said Kenneth Lieberthal,
a political science professor at the Uni-
versity.
U.S. Rep. ChristopherSmith (R-N.J.)
an outspoken abortion foe, held a news'
conference Monday in Beijing at which
he called for Clinton to make just such
a condemnation.
However, in her nine-page remarks
before the women's health forum,
Clinton also called for increased access
to health care and family planning ser-
vices for the world's women.
Clinton said, "One hundred million
women cannot obtain or are not using
family planning services because they
are poor, uneducated or lack access to
care," using language likely to please
those on the other side of the abortion
debate. "Twenty million ofthese women
will seek unsafe abortions -some will
die, some will be disabled for life."
Lieberthal, an expert on China, said,
"She is seen as someone who can focus
global attention on women's rights in a
significant way.
"Many delegates were anxious for
her to attend this conference," he said.

Earlier, controversies over Chinese
security gave way to debates over domes-
tic and state violence against women as
the conference officially opened Mon-
day.
Declaring that women "are no longer
guests on this planet," the conference's
secretary general, Gertrude Mongella
of Tanzania, announced to cheers and
trills from thousands of women that
"this planet belongs to them too. A
revolution has begun."
Besides Clinton, other prominent fe-
male leaders, including Pakistani Prime
Minister Benazir Bhutto and
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda
Zia, arrived to try to create a new foun-
dation for women's advancement.
But despite the enthusiasm, the con-
ference, which continues until Sept. 15,
heralds less a revolution than a holding
pattern. International delegates are dig-
ging in to preserve positions on abor-
tion and sex education that were agreed
on last year at the U.N. Conference on
Population and Development in Cairo.
"There will be no unraveling of com-
mitments - neither today's nor last
year's, and certainly not this decade's
commitments," Mongella said. "This
revolution is toojust, too important and
certainly long overdue."
As Mongella and others spoke inside
the hall, South African representative
Winnie Mandela and her entourage had
been turned away from the ceremony
because they arrived late. An ensuing
clash with guards who shoved them
from the steps of the building was the
first example in the capital of the kind
of confrontations between hyper-cau-
tious security forces and activist women
that have plagued a parallel forum out-
side the city.
Some participants at the Non-Govern-
mental Organizations Forum on Women
an hour north of Beijing have complained
of being harassed, followed and intimi-
dated by police who fear the women are
hurting the interests of the country.
On Monday, nearly 1,000 women
dressed in black and carrying candles
scuffled with police three times as they
marched to the edges of the forum site
to protest violence and discrimination

against women and the United Nations'
failure to back up their right to demon-
strate there without interference.
Although prominent delegates have
urgedthatwomen refocus onthe issues of
the conference andnoton its host, China's
human rights record and strict family-
planning policies constitute an electric
undercurrent in conference discussions.
Bhutto emphatically condemned fe-
male infanticide, a practice reportedly
still common in China, in her opening-
day address.
"As we gather here today, the cries of
the girl child reach out to us," Bhutto
said. "This conference needs to chart a
course that can create a climate where
the girl child is as welcomed and valued
as a boy child, that the girl child is
considered as worthy as a boy child."
Joaquin Navarro-Valls, official
spokesman for the Vatican delegation
to the conference, commented: "I find it
sad that people at the conference are
talking about the problems of female
(infanticide) in Africa but do not men-
tion it here in China, where the practice
is most widespread."
- Daily StaffReporter Jodi Cohen
contributed to this report.

Above: A Filipino
women's group
acts out a scene
during an anti-
imperialism
demonstration at
the NGO Forum on
Women
yesterday.
Left: First lady
Hillary Rodham
Clinton shares a,
lighter moment
with Gertrude
Mongolia,
secretary general
of the fourth U.N.
World Conference
on Women.

AP PHOTO

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