US Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey said the United States decided to abandon its attempt to amend a declaration endorsing the platform for action adopted by the 1995 UN conference on women in Beijing after delegations assured Washington the document did not create a new global right to abortion.

"We have heard from countries that our interpretation is their interpretation," Sauerbrey said. "So the amendment, we recognise, is really redundant, but it has accomplished its goals."

The US attempt to amend the declaration took the spotlight during the first week of a two-week meeting to review the Beijing platform, angering many governments and some 6000 representatives of women's and human-rights organisations.

They had hoped to focus on obstacles to women's equality in the economy, the family, education and political life - not on the abortion issue.

Spirit of cooperation

There was also relief on Friday that a final declaration was unanimously approved by the 45-nation Commission on the Status of Women with US support, and not sabotaged by Washington's opposition.

Commission chair Kyung-wha Kang said she was particularly grateful to the United States for joining consensus in "the spirit of cooperation."

"We have heard from countries that our interpretation is their interpretation"

Ellen Sauerbrey,
US Ambassador

In the one-page declaration, nations reaffirm the Beijing platform and a declaration adopted with it welcome progress towards achieving gender equality, stress that challenges remain, and "pledge to undertake further action to ensure their full and accelerated implementation".

Sauerbrey said the United States sought to amend the declaration because of concerns that advocacy groups were attempting to hijack the term "reproductive health services" in the Beijing platform and define it in a way that guarantees the right to abortion.

In a speech after the vote, she reiterated that US consultations with other countries had reaffirmed that the Beijing documents do not endorse abortion in any way.

Sauerbrey said the United States also "understands that there is international consensus that the terms 'reproductive health services' and 'reproductive rights' do not include abortion or constitute support, endorsement, or promotion of abortion".