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NRL News
Page 27
Fall 2011
Volume 38
Issue 8

UN General Assembly Told That Every Nation Must Legalize Abortion

By Paul Stark and Jeanne Head, R.N.

On October 24 the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Anand Grover, presented his latest report to the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly in New York. Mr. Grover’s report explicitly calls for every nation to “decriminalize abortion” on the grounds that abortion restrictions violate the right to health protected “by international human rights law.” The report drastically exceeds the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and is fraught with inaccuracies.

Mr. Grover had bypassed the Human Rights Council in Geneva by sending his report directly to Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who transmitted it to the General Assembly, stating that he had the “honour” of doing so.

After the Special Rapporteur’s presentation at the October 24 meeting, the report was praised by the European Union countries, Norway, South Africa, and the United States. Several pro-life countries strongly objected: Chile, Swaziland, Egypt, Honduras, and The Holy See.

Egypt’s delegate criticized Mr. Grover’s “systematic attempts to reinterpret internationally agreed conventions.” The delegate from Swaziland noted that the report largely ignores the Special Rapporteur’s mandate. Rather than concentrating on health-related issues such as hunger and disease, the report focuses on a “non-existent right to abortion.”

The Holy See said the report is simply wrong in claiming that abortion restrictions violate the right to health. In fact, the delegate explained, “the very opposite is the case: abortion is itself a violation of the right to health both of the unborn child and of the mother.” Chile’s delegate emphasized the importance of recognizing the right to life of all human beings, including the unborn.

It would be a mistake to assume from the number who intervened in opposition to Mr. Grover’s report that every other country supports it, particularly the 135 countries whose laws provide some protection for unborn children. Since the October 24 meeting, contacts made with at least 78 delegates from 66 countries revealed that all disagree with the Grover document.

In his report, Mr. Grover claims: “Criminal laws penalizing and restricting induced abortion are the paradigmatic examples of impermissible barriers to the realization of women’s right to health and must be eliminated.” The report goes even further by condemning a number of modest regulations of abortion, including informed consent laws, parental involvement requirements, bans on government funding of abortion, and protections of the conscience rights of pro-life health care workers. These measures “serve to reinforce the stigma that abortion is an objectionable practice,” Mr. Grover complains.

The report also alleges that legal restrictions do not significantly influence the incidence of abortion, and that they serve only to make the procedure less safe, leading to health complications and death for many women.

The Special Rapporteur and his supporters are wrong on all counts. An important new document called the San Jose Articles (www.sanjosearticles.com), drafted by international experts and launched at the UN Headquarters in New York on October 6, notes with extensive evidence that “there exists no right to abortion under international law, either by way of treaty obligation or under customary international law.” Mr. Grover is blatantly wrong to suggest otherwise.

On the contrary, international law protects the dignity of every human being, including the unborn. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states, “Every human being has the inherent right to life.” The Convention on the Rights of the Child says children require “appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.” The science of embryology shows that the human embryo or fetus is a distinct, living and whole organism of the human species; therefore, he or she is due the same respect and protection as every other member of the human family. The killing of unborn human beings by abortion should not be permitted.

The San Jose Articles will support and assist those pro-life countries that are under enormous pressure by UN Treaty Compliance Committees and others who tell them they are required to legalize abortion under international law. The CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women) Compliance Committee alone has pressured more than 83 countries to legalize abortion.

Mr. Grover’s report is also mistaken about the effect of abortion laws on the incidence of abortion: Legalizing abortion has the clear consequence of increasing the number of abortions that occur. Moreover, worldwide evidence shows that legalized abortion does nothing to solve the problem of maternal mortality, which can only be addressed by improving maternal health care—a crucial goal that the Special Rapporteur only mentions in passing. Women in developing countries need better medical care throughout pregnancy, at delivery and postpartum. They do not need abortion.

Abortion, in fact, poses serious physical and psychological risks to pregnant women, whether it is legal or illegal. These risks are exacerbated in countries where basic health care is lacking; the legalization of abortion in such countries—triggering an increase in demand—will likely lead to more women suffering and dying from abortion. The above facts are explained in more detail in “Why legalized abortion is not good for women’s health” (available at http://www.mccl-go.org/pdf/mm_%20brochure%202011.pdf  and http://www.nrlc.org/docs/mm_%20brochure%202011.pdf

Rather than focusing on ways to improve maternal health, Mr. Grover and others at the United Nations are pushing a radical agenda to promote and expand abortion all around the globe. This agenda must be opposed for the sake of women and their unborn children.

Editor’s note. Paul Stark is Communications Associate for Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life GO (Global Outreach). Jeanne Head is National Right to Life’s Vice President for International Affairs and UN Representative for National Right to Life.