Motherhood is not a liability but a gift to women, Vatican says at U.N.

Msgr. Robert Murphy, the Holy See’s deputy permanent observer to the United Nations, reads a statement at a committee meeting during the U.N. General Assembly in New York Oct. 4, 2023. (CNS screengrab/United Nations)

by Justin McLellan

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Through a “narrow focus on pregnancy prevention” and the promotion of abortion, many international organizations too often view motherhood as a liability to the advancement of women, the Vatican said.

“Respect for women must include cherishing their unique gifts and capacities, including motherhood,” said Msgr. Robert Murphy, speaking on behalf of the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations.

Addressing a committee meeting focused Oct. 4 on “the advancement of women,” Msgr. Murphy, the deputy permanent observer, criticized efforts to reduce maternal mortality through pregnancy prevention without working to make childbirth safer, as well as the promotion of abortion while ignoring the need to ensure greater support for the mothers of unborn children.

The Vatican representative also condemned the practice of prenatal sex selection — the use of techniques to choose the sex of child, including embryo implantations following in vitro fertilization and the selective termination of pregnancies — which, he said, has led to “millions of missing girls” and is “an affront to the dignity of women.”

“Women and their children are also increasingly commodified through assisted reproductive technologies. In particular, turning the capacity for pregnancy into a commercial matter as in egg donation or surrogacy, rather than an act of love, undermines and demeans women,” he added.

The monsignor’s comments came during a meeting of the U.N. committee dealing with social, humanitarian and cultural issues during the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

“Poverty, lack of education and family instability” put women and girls at risk of being trafficked,” Msgr. Murphy said. “We must address the causes that make trafficking so easy and profitable, and work to identify victims and prosecute traffickers and smugglers.”

A significant portion of sex trafficking victims are forced to participate in the creation of pornography, he said, and even women who voluntarily participate in the porn industry “detail violence, coercion and substance abuse after leaving it.”

“This is not accidental or incidental, but intrinsic to the nature of a business where women who often find themselves in vulnerable situations are taken for commodities,” he added.

Yet the harms of pornography extend beyond its production, the monsignor said, criticizing its “violent and demeaning content, often grounded in misogynistic and racist stereotypes” and its widespread availability.

“We must be honest,” he said, “any form of pornography objectifies and belittles women, and toleration of its creation and consumption is incompatible with respect for the equal dignity of women.”

“The advancement of women can only be achieved when women are cherished and respected in their whole being and will not be reached as long as women are treated as objects to be acquired, exploited, and cast aside at will,” Msgr. Murphy said.

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