official US delegations, special UN meetings, and
special sessions. They have succeeded in publicizing
their frame that the right to life is a basic human
right and that advocates for abortion access and
reproductive health are calling for illegitimate, spe-
cial rights. They have cultivated hostility to the UN
among the U.S. pro-life community. And they
have pressured Bush to overturn Congressional deci-
sions by refusing to fund some international health
Going Global with
any conservative Christian-
based organizations find
going global with an anti-choice
message to be a comfortable fit. A
series of factors have influenced
this move. First, many faith com-
munities have a long history and
ongoing practice of missionary
work, both at home and abroad.
Much of this activity is direct serv-
ice delivery. They interpret per-
forming good works as a type of Christian min-
istry. The opportunity to bring the message of Christ
to non-Christians, or to evangelize, provides motiva-
tion for acting globally. In the case of the Christian
Right, this message carries their staunchly conserva-
tive values abroad.
As early as the mid-1980s, Beverly LaHayes
Concerned Women for America (CWA), a group
heavily involved in the U.S. culture wars, protest-
ed the persecution of a Christian poet in the Soviet
Union and called attention to the needs of
Nicaraguans who lived in refugee camps in Costa
Rica.5 Choosing these projects was politically savvy,
since they appealed to a still thriving anti-commu-
nist impulse as well as a deep concern within the
Christian Right around issues of religious freedom.
By 1999, CWA realized the potential of generating a
framework for its international work.
A second factor has been the resurgence of con-
servative evangelical involvement in the political
sphere. While eschewing politics through most of the
20th century, evangelicals are now recognized as one
of the major contributors to the rise of the political
Right6 over the last 40 years. Early leaders of this shift
into politics, like James Dobson of Focus on the
Family and Tim and Beverly LaHaye, are among those
at the forefront of Christian Right international work.
Another reason to work at the UN is the oppor-
tunity to increase an organizations political power.
The UN is a meeting place for powerful people from
around the world. This convergence motivates con-
servative organizations to spend considerable
resources to travel extensively to gatherings hosted
in New York and around the
world. Because of their official sta-
tus as nongovernmental organiza-
tions (NGOs) at the UN, groups
can work directly with State
Department officials in the U.S.
delegation, particularly now that
anti-choice UN critic John Bolton
is ambassador. This has allowed
for greater incorporation of once
marginal political groups from the
Right. At the same time, the Bush administration
has implemented conservative elements into policies
like the Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief,
or PEPFAR. These moves signal sympathy with
socially conservative positions and provide rein-
forcement for the work of conservative U.S.-based
groups that seek to do international work.
Finally, an extensive network of health and fem-
inist organizations across the globe has successfully
advocated for womens sexual and reproductive
autonomy for decades, in both local and global are-
nas. The global womens health movement has made
substantial gains in guaranteeing access to health
services for women and girls, including reproductive
services, and the UN has increased its commitment
to women and children. These impressive gains have
attracted organizations that oppose abortion and
comprehensive sexuality education, igniting a small
but vigorous backlash movement at the UN.
UNd o i n g R e p r o d u c t i v e Fr e e d o m Christian Right NGOs Target the United Nations
POLITICAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATES 2006
The global womens
has made substantial
small but vigorous
at the UN.
5Concerned Women for America timeline, http://www.cwfa.org/history.asp.
6PRA defines the U.S. political Right as a wide range of institutions, individuals, and social movements that defend unfair power and privilege for
some and oppose full social and economic justice for all.