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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Migrants, Fertility Issues Spark New Cairo Debates

CAIRO, Egypt -- A day before the end of the UN population conference, another contentious issue emerged: whether migrants have a right to be reunited with their families. The debate over whether family reunification was a "right" or a "principle" heated up Monday, even as delegates still argued over wording on sexual issues.

Negotiators thought they had agreed Saturday on compromise language on "reproductive rights" in the conference's final report. But some words, including "fertility regulation," turned out to be still disputed.

The Vatican and its Catholic allies consider the phrase "fertility regulation" a code word for abortion, and have waged an intense, word-by-word battle over the conference's report.

The issue of reunification, meanwhile, pits poor nations which supply migrants against rich nations concerned about rising immigration from developing countries. A Western delegate said Zimbabwe had drafted a compromise that called for governments to "recognize the importance of the principle" of family reunification for migrants.

He said the United States, European Union and other Western nations had backed it, but three dozen developing countries demanded that family reunification be made a right, with no qualifications.

As the nine-day conference neared its end, Egyptian police and UN guards stepped up security at the Cairo International Conference Center.

Authorities have been concerned about increasingly dramatic outbursts by anti-abortion activists. On Monday, an American anti-abortion activist trailed behind chief U.S. delegate Tim Wirth, and shouted at him as he left a meeting room.

"This conference is about destroying life," yelled Sharon Turner, of Glenwood, Maryland. "This is against God."

Persistent disputes over words and phrases point up the conference's biggest obstacle: finding common ground among nations with different languages, religions and customs.

Pakistani delegate Attiya Inayatullah, a member of the 15-member committee working on "reproductive rights," said the compromise text retained "the substance" of the original draft but changed the "presentation."

The text uses the World Health Organization's definition of "reproductive health" and immediately afterwards says this includes "sexual health," she said.

Many references to "sexual" have been dropped. So most sections refer to reproductive health, a few to sexual health.