Abortion and sexual rights continued to hold up agreement Friday for the fifth straight day at a U.N. population conference.
As a translation hitch held up a showdown between liberals and some Catholic countries over a text on abortion, controversy raged over the correct interpretation of sexual and reproductive rights.Haggling between liberals and Vatican-led religious conservatives over whether abortion could ever be considered safe or legal has cast a shadow over the conference, called to limit growth in the world's population over the next 20 years.
Discussion on the main paragraph of the text referring to abortion went on hold, but controversy over the procedure dogged discussion on another part of the 113-page document.
That controversy revolves around whether the term "sexual and reproductive rights" could include a right to abortion.
"There is a possibility that (such language) could be used to suggest the existence of a possible right to abortion or misunderstood in that sense," Monsignor Diarmuid Martin, a senior Vatican delegate, told the conference.
Martin suggested a small drafting committee reviewing the language "remove the ambiguity as much as possible" or "affirm that there is nothing in this program of action that can be construed as establishing a right to abortion."
The Vatican feels that if the document even indirectly established an international right to abortion, countries where it is still banned might feel under pressure to permit it.
Another unresolved point is whether the final document should say "couples and individuals" have a right to reproductive health or whether it should just mention couples.
A number of Islamic countries, including Egypt, Libya and several African Muslim nations, said they wanted only "couples."
"This (including individuals) would cause problems in our societies, which are Islamic societies," the Libyan delegate told the conference.
Muslim critics of the conference think the word "individuals" implictly condones homosexuality and other forms of sex they consider immoral.
The Vatican has said it has no problem with the wording on individual rights but wants it made clear that another part of the document that refers to "other unions" should not be seen as a reference to homosexuals.
"Ideally, parents should be a man and a woman brought together by love in marriage and committed to support one another and their children," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.
Zimbabwe and India said the document must guarantee sexual and reproductive rights to individuals and not only couples in order to protect women from having little or no say in traditional marriages.