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UN Again Ignores National Laws against Abortion

by | Jun 23, 2015

By Marie Smith, Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues

UnitednationsHQreThe United Nations’ treaty monitoring body for the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) ignored the pro-life laws of four countries under review during its recent 55th session and strongly urged the countries to change their laws or policies on abortion, despite the fact that the treaty does not mention abortion.

The Committee for the CESCR issued observations to four countries with restrictions on abortion–Chile, Ireland, Uganda and Venezuela–that included enacting new legislation on abortion and adopting new guidelines on abortion.

Ireland’s constitutional protection of life from conception was targeted for elimination as the Committee told Ireland:

“The Committee recommends that the State party take all necessary steps, including a referendum on abortion, to revise its legislation on abortion, including the Constitution and the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, in line with international human rights standards; adopt guidelines to clarify what constitutes a real substantive risk to the life of a pregnant woman; publicize information on crisis pregnancy options through effective channels of communication; and ensure the accessibility and availability of information on sexual and reproductive health.”

The term “human rights standards” comes straight from the pro-abortion legal toolkit. No international human rights treaty includes abortion as a human right and no matter how many times the claim may be repeated, the destruction of an unborn child in abortion is a reproductive wrong, not a human right. There is no universally recognized “right to abortion.”

Chile is considering a new law to allow abortion for limited exceptions but the Committee expressed its dissatisfaction and told the pro-life country with the lowest maternal mortality rate in Latin American that it wanted the legislation to go further saying it was concerned about “a strict ban on abortion.”

Uganda was told that abortion in its country is “too restrictive” and was instructed to “…revise its abortion legislation, including by considering decriminalizing abortion and providing for exceptions to the general prohibition on abortion in certain cases.”

Venezuela’s law restricting abortion was also irrelevant to the Committee which instructed it to:

“Review its legislation regarding the prohibition of abortion to make it compatible with other fundamental rights such as health and life of women and their dignity.”

Kyrgyzstan which allows abortion on demand was told that the Committee was concerned that despite abortion being legal; it was not covered by public health insurance. It was recommended that the country “…increase financial resources allocated to the health sector” and “Provide confidential access for everyone, including adolescents, to contraceptives and safe abortion services, which are fully covered by health insurance.”

The actions of the CESCR Committee, a UN entity disrespecting sovereign laws against abortion while promoting increased access to the violence of abortion and claiming it is a “human right,” comes as countries are in final negotiations of the Zero Draft on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with targets on access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. Target 5.6 includes

“Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development…”

Countries with laws against abortion have felt a level of protection for their national abortion policies by inclusion of references to the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)–known as the ICPD caveat–where the Programme of Action stated that laws on abortion were to be decided at the local or national level according to the national legislative process.

However, as demonstrated by the CESCR Committee, certain treaty monitoring bodies treat national laws with contempt as they issue instructions to countries under review to change their laws and policies on abortion, regardless of what is stated in the ICPD Programme of Action. While the observations and recommendations issued by members of treaty bodies are mere “interpretations” of the respective treaty, they are increasingly used to advance support for abortion and other issues related to the broad agenda of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) which are not universally recognized human rights but which SRHR activists claim reflect so-called “human rights standards.”

The Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues (PNCI) expresses its deep concern for the ongoing distortion of international treaties to promote the killing of preborn babies and advises countries with laws restricting abortion to defend their sovereign laws and reject the recommendations from treaty bodies, acting as SRHR agents, to change their laws and policies to allow easy access to the violence of abortion.

PNCI notes that as the process to finalize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets nears completion in September, proposals to allow treaty bodies to act as monitors of country progress for the targets, especially those on sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, must be opposed.

Editor’s note. This appeared at and is reprinted with permission.

Categories: United Nations