The Holy See on sexual and reproductive health rights: conservative in position, dynamic in response


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This paper publisehed in Reproductive Health Matters presents a review of the meta-narrative guiding the Holy See’s positions, discourses and tensions with regards to sexual and reproductive health rights.

The Holy See represents a fundamentally conservative and stable position on a range of sexual and reproductive health rights concerns. However, the mission has been dynamic in the ways in which it has forwarded its arguments, increasingly relying upon secularised technical claims and empirical evidence; strategically interpreting human rights norms in ways consistent with its own position; and framing sexuality and reproduction in the context of “the family”.

Seen in the broader context of a “religious resurgence” in international relations, and in light of the fact that the Holy See has frequently sought to form alliances with conservative State and non-State actors, these findings make an important contribution to understanding the slow progress as well as the potential obstacles that lie ahead in the battle to realise sexual and reproductive health rights in a changing global political environment.

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