Wednesday, May 12, 1999 Published at 19:15 GMT 20:15 UK
Vatican's UN status questioned
Aid agencies have called the Vatican "indifferent to human suffering"
Family planning organisations caring for Kosovan rape victims are calling for the Vatican's status at the United Nations to be reviewed.
The Vatican has said that the issuing of the "morning-after pills" to Kosovan refugee women by international aid agencies is a form of abortion.
As a result, they want the Vatican's observer status at the UN looked into.
Offering emergency contraception to Kosovan women who have been raped is not an automatic response of aid agencies.
"Women would at least like to be advised whether they have the possibility to prevent a pregnancy from developing. We know that these women are desperate to be advised about what they can do," said Ingar Brueggemann, Director-General of the IPPF.
The emergency contraceptive is only effective if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse. The Catholic Church has said that so soon after an attack a rape victim is too traumatised to make a decision.
"A woman in that condition has been violated physically, psychologically and emotionally. If you are in a state of emotional pandemonium, you are not in a position to be making a fair and informed consent," said Nicholas Coote of the Catholic Bishops' Conference in Britain.
Instead, he said, offering victims counselling and medical care was a more appropriate form of assistance.
The IPPF, and other aid organisations, feel that this is such an important issue that the status of the Vatican within the UN should be looked at.
Holding observer status within the UN means that, although the Vatican can be present at UN meetings, it does not have the power to vote.
The Catholic Church has said that the aid agencies are looking to have this status reviewed, or removed, simply because they object to its stance on birth control.
The row comes as tensions build over family planning policy in the run up to a major UN conference next month.
The Vatican has encouraged developing nations to divert family planning aid budgets into general development aid budgets.
Donor nations like the UK oppose this move. World population will hit six billion this year and is projected to rise to nine billion.