I was not at the World Congress of Families in Warsaw last week, but have been catching up on reports from the event. According to reports of the Congress, written by the conference organisers, the Congress included an inter-parliamentary forum involving some 50 parliamentarians. And there was a message of support to the Congress from the host country parliament. Apparently, there were at least 2,000 participants at the Congress itself.
From the pro-choice observers and reporters at the Congress, the general feeling seems to be that the Congress provided an "opportunity" to re-hear some "same old same old" anti-choice rhetoric, a chance for preachers to be preaching to the converted, an arena for the voicing of some pretty ridiculous opinions about the state of Europe (and the United States), and a chance for us happily modern and groovy pro-choicers to remind ourselves that the "pro-life" movement is woefully out of touch with the real world.
So is everyone happy? I guess so. The Congress provided an opportunity for the anti-choice to self-congratulate and self-validate. And the pro-choice, well, did the same too. (Euro for euro and dollar for dollar, I assume the pro-choicers came out ahead, having only funded a handful of people to attend the Congress, while the anti-choicers supposedly bussed them in by the thousands.)
Speaking with insight and pragmatism, Neil Datta, who is Secretary of the Inter-European Parliamentary Forum On Population and Development concludes that "even among their friends and political allies in the right/centre right, the Warsaw group of MPs [those who attended the inter-parliamentary forum] are a small and isolated minority. While it is important to be vigilant of anti-choice Parliamentarians and their actions, it is particularly important to know them and understand them." According to Datta, few if any parliamentarians attending the Congress wield any significant power at home or further afield.
Battles are worth fighting. Laughing at a disabled, and disarmed—if vaguely disarming—enemy is impolite and rather pointless. And vigilance is a much more powerful and strategic agenda than vainglory. We should take Datta's advice and look for the real power in the anti-choice movement in Europe and elsewhere. It does exist. It just sells itself in rather less obvious arenas than the Warsaw Congress, and in rather more invidious forms.