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Women’s Conference Takes Up Laws Punishing Women for Abortions

September 10, 1995

BEIJING (AP) _ Almost all the 189 nations at the U.N. women’s conference are ready to urge a review of laws that punish women for having abortions, a conference leader said Sunday.

``There is in fact agreement, pending the instruction of one delegation or two,″ said Merwat Tallawy, chairwoman of the conference’s health committee.

Once the committee approves the language, it still requires a vote in a plenary session, but since all nations are represented in the committee that would be all but assured.

Tallawy said the committee also is close to agreeing on how much control parents should have over teen-agers’ access to sex education and contraception.

She said the delegates remained far apart on women’s control over their own sexuality _ what is known at the conference as ``sexual rights.″

``It’s a very sensitive issue if you take into account the various backgrounds and cultures of each region,″ said Tallawy.

Nearly 5,200 delegates have been working for a week on a document recommending how to move toward equality among men and women.

Going into the conference, about a fifth of the draft 120-page text was in dispute. With only five days remaining in the conference, much of that still is.

Western countries are generally pushing for more recognition of individual rights, while the Vatican and some Catholic and Islamic countries are urging a greater emphasis on marriage and the family.

A similar split at the U.N. population conference in Cairo last year kept the final document from mentioning women’s control over issues relating to their sexuality.

But Tallawy said she sees progress. A few years ago, she said, governments blocked discussion of issues like domestic violence and female circumcision at such conferences. Now, at least, they are on the agenda.

While Tallawy’s committee worked Sunday, most delegates took the day off and toured Beijing, taking advantage of sunny skies after more than a week of rain.

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