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Letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell from a Coalition of NGOs

The Honorable Colin Powell
United States Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
Facsimile: 202-647-2283

RE: UNITED STATES POSITION AT THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY SPECIAL SESSION ON CHILDREN

Dear Secretary Powell:

With respect, we write to express concern about the US position on key aspects of the outcome document for the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children. The United States is deviating significantly from agreements reached over the past eight years by the world's nations.

The United States stands virtually alone in objecting to the inclusion of "reproductive health services," a phrase repeatedly used in international agreements and clearly defined as including counseling, information, education and services for family planning, prenatal care, safe delivery and post natal care, the treatment and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, and in circumstances where it is not against the law, safe abortion services. Further, the United States stands nearly alone in rejecting previous consensus documents on sexuality education and is only promoting abstinence until marriage, to the exclusion of information on any other proven, effective and necessary ways to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and unintended pregnancies.

We urge the United States to reaffirm the rights of adolescents to full and accurate information and education regarding sexuality and reproductive health, including information about condom use and contraception, as well as abstinence. This is what most American parents want for their children, as studies have shown. We urge the United States to reaffirm the need to provide reproductive health services for adolescents, particularly in light of pressing realities they face.

This age group is at highest risk of new HIV infections. They are also at very high risk of sexual violence and abuse, other sexually transmitted diseases, and unwanted pregnancy. Finally, in many countries the vast majority of sexually active adolescent girls are married, commonly to older men, and face exceptionally high risk of maternal death and morbidity as well as disease without full access to reproductive health information and services.

We are happy to provide any assistance or information you might need in reshaping the US negotiation position to protect the health, lives and rights of young people. We thank you for your consideration and look forward to seeing our government reassert its leadership in negotiating a constructive outcome that will protect the rights and improve the well being of all children.

Sincerely,

Advocates for Youth
American College of Nurse-Midwives
Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP)
Catholics for a Free Choice
Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)
Center for Reproductive Law and Policy
Center for Women Policy Studies
Centre for Development and Population Activities
Choice USA
Equality Now
Executive Council Committee on the Status of Women of the Episcopal Church
Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America International Center for Research on Women
International Women’s Health Coalition
Ipas
Margaret Sanger Center International at Planned Parenthood of New York City
Marie Stopes International
National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League
National Abortion Federation
National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health (NPWH)
National Coalition of Women’s Organizations
National Council of Jewish Women
National Latina Health Organization
National Women’s Political Caucus
NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund
Orphans and Vulnerable Children's Task Force
Partners of the Americas
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS)
The Alan Guttmacher Institute
The Center for Women's Global Leadership
The Population Institute
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
U.S. Committee for the United Nations Population Fund
Voters For Choice
Women's Business Development Center
Women's Environment & Development Organization (WEDO)
Women's Global Leadership at Rutgers University