AP 31 Aug 94 15:17 EDT V0205 1994. The Associated Press
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- It's not just about abortion or contraception or non-traditional families.
At its heart, the Vatican argues, the draft document of the U.N. population conference seeks to impose "brutal formulas" for society on the Third World.
The Holy See on Wednesday delivered a detailed salvo in its relentless campaign over next week's meeting in Cairo. The debate has created allies of the Vatican and conservative Islam and pitted the church against the United States.
At a news conference, papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro sought to cast the debate in terms of developing versus undeveloped countries.
The plan would impose a lifestyle found in "minority circles of opulent societies" as a social philosophy for humanity, he said.
"Still more unacceptable is the pretext of presenting this operation of social engineering under the category of human rights," he said.
Even rich industrial countries have not resorted to the "brutal formulas which, paradoxically, are proposed in the draft for less developed countries," Navarro said, referring to abortion.
Navarro took issue with Vice President Al Gore, head of the U.S. delegation, whom he quoted as saying the United States would never try to establish a universal right to abortion.
"The draft of the document, which has the U.S. administration as its principle sponsor, in reality contradicts Mr. Gore," Navarro said.
Specifically, Navarro said the draft calls for the right of people to have "fertility regulation of their choice." The World Health Organization, he said, defines the phrase as including abortion.
For months Pope John Paul II has spoken out against any endorsement of abortion or weakening of the traditional family at the conference.
The pope's campaign has found allies across the Islamic world: conservative Muslim scholars who see the conference as opening the door to immorality, extremists who see it as a Western plot to dominate the Islamic world and Muslim heads of state facing pressure from conservatives at home.
Both sides have something to gain, said Prof. John Esposito, director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University.
The Catholic Church wins better standing in the Muslim world, and Muslims can point to having "the West's largest mainstream religion on our side," Esposito said.