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Last month, Jeffrey Sachs and Ban Ki-moon, arguably the most powerful proponents of abortion and population control in the world, were offered a platform at the Vatican during a conference on climate change.

I asked the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS), Monsignor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, who helped coordinate the event, what he thought of the criticism directed at the Vatican as a result.

His replies were a surprising mixture of indictments of the tea party, the oil industry, and the small pro-life organization I work for. Most surprising of all is what he had to say about “sexual and reproductive health” and “reproductive rights” in U.N. policy.

He is the first Vatican official who interfaces with the United Nations to openly defy the position the Holy See has held on these terms for over thirty years because of their association with abortion.

Sánchez Sorondo brushed aside all concerns with the terms.

“The draft Sustainable Development Goals don’t even mention abortion or population control.” They speak of access to family planning and “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights,” he wrote. He is wrong.

“Sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights,” as defined by the U.N. General Assembly at the Cairo and Beijing conferences in the 1990s, include abortion as a “basic health service.” That definition stands to this day, and is incorporated by reference in the U.N.’s new development goals.

Sánchez Sorondo further justifies his lack of concern for using this tainted expression noting that the “interpretation and application of these (terms) depends on governments.” While it is true that any particular country may exclude abortion in its own definition of reproductive health, this is irrelevant so long as the term includes abortion by definition in U.N. policy.

The Holy See has always spoken for all unborn children irrespective of what country they are in. That is why every time the terms come up in U.N. negotiations, the Holy See has always asked for their deletion, and, failing that, has registered strong reservations to resolutions that include the terms.

The views expressed by Sánchez Sorondo are especially perplexing in light of the cooperation of PAS with Sachs and Ban Ki-moon specifically on “climate change” and “sustainable development.” When the logic of these theories is carried out to their full extent they inevitably collide with the Church’s teaching on abortion and population control.

Sachs is apparently the heir of John Malthus and Paul Ehrlich. He has described legal abortion as a low-cost and low-risk intervention to eliminate “unwanted” children. He fought the Holy See on sexual and reproductive health for the better part of the last fifteen years. And leveraged his position at the United Nations and Columbia’s Earth Institute to propagate an ideology that says our planet has a limited caring capacity and therefore countries must achieve “rapid fertility reduction” in order not to “transgress planetary boundaries.”

This means investing billions of dollars to convince poor rural women in Africa to use contraception, and “voluntarily” sterilizing millions of indigent women in India under sometimes lethally unsanitary conditions. Just to make sure countries take the bait, Sachs also says that “rapid fertility reduction” leads to a “demographic dividend,” even though countries in South America and the Middle East that have taken this bait, hook, line and sinker, have yet to see any dividend materialize, and are now quickly running into a demographic deficit.

For his part, Ban Ki-moon, who sponsors Sachs’s work on sustainable development, has gone where no U.N. Secretary General has gone before. Last year he openly instructed U.N. officials in war torn areas to promote legal abortion, when countries are most vulnerable and reliant on the support of the United Nations to rebuild their institutions and legal systems. While the U.N. bureaucracy has always been pro-abortion, and actively so, their actions were never under the cover of an unambiguous directive of the top U.N. bureaucrat himself.

According to the logic of Jeffrey Sachs and Ban Ki Moon, reducing fertility can cure poverty, hunger, sickness, and many other ailments that afflict humanity. But poor people in rural Africa who want large families—the main targets of Sachs and the Secretary General—are not “transgressing planetary boundaries” or causing climate change. They are exercising their God-given right to freely marry and found a family.

There are many Catholic organizations, including heavyweights like Caritas, Catholic Relief Services, and CAFOD, that address new forms of slavery, social justice, and many other worthy and important causes. Their work is essential.

The small organization I work for is one of very few that engages international institutions on abortion and population control. We are up against a multi-billion dollar sexual and reproductive health establishment—a veritable global abortion lobby—and always look forward to the moral clarity of the Holy See at U.N. headquarters, as do many governments. I hope this lasts.

Stefano Gennarini is the Director of Legal Studies at the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam) in New York. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of C-FAM.

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