Today marked the opening day of the World Congress of Families IV. The three day conference, titled, The Natural Family-Springtime for Europe and the World is being held in Warsaw, Poland and brings together some of the biggest opponents to sexual and reproductive health and rights from the United States and around the world. There have been three past World Congresses that have given opponents an opportunity to network and strategize on the best means to eliminate the rights of women, adolescents and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender populations—and WCF IV is no different.
The approximately 2,000 participants clapped loudly each time speakers like Richard Wilkins, of the Doha International Research Institute for Family & Development, Paul Mero, of The Sutherland Institute, and Allan Carlson, of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society passionately cried out for governments to enact policies "friendly and encouraging to the natural family"—the oppositions' code phrase for policies that criminalize abortion, prohibit same-sex marriage, eliminate comprehensive sexuality education, and ban access to contraception. At no time was the audience's resounding applause more frightening than after a speech given by Roman Giertych, Poland's Minister of Education whose statements like "truth is on our side—in the heartbeats of the unborn," and a description of his party's current proposals to the Polish government resulted in a near-standing ovation. One proposal would mandate primary and secondary schools to teach that abortion is a crime and a social and moral evil that must be severely penalized. A second proposal would also help to instill hate in youth by forbidding the teaching of "homosexual propaganda"—this too would be criminalized.
Giertych and his hate-rousing speech was followed today by several other speakers, including Ellen Sauerbery, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, who opened her speech by saying to the audience "I bring you greetings from President Bush!" She then went on to say that this Administration "values strengthening the family as an important goal for the sake of our common humanity" and congratulated Poland on its own courageous "pro-family" policies. Sauerbery did say a few things, however, that seemed out of place with the views of many of the other speakers—like advocating for the education of women as a way to protect the family.
Educated women were a sour note with several male speakers who blamed the "demographic crisis" in Europe on women attending university and choosing (imagine women with a choice!) not to have children until it was too late. In fact, there was a lot of blame being passed around today for the deterioration of the natural family. Educated women, law professors, liberal academics, LGBT individuals, judges, national governments, and local governments, and of course, the United Nations all share the blame. The U.N. took the brunt of this blame since in the eyes of every speaker today, all U.N. documents since 1950 have contributed to the destruction of the natural family. Or, as Richard Wilkins, Director of the Doha Institute for Family Policies, so eloquently described the bedrock documents of human rights—just "a bunch of good ideas gone bad."
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Check back for more reports from the World Congress of Families.