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GENEVA (ChurchMilitant.com) - United Nations human rights officials are proposing changes to a treaty that would exclude the unborn child from the right to life.
In July, the U.N. Human Rights Committee (HRC) completed a draft "General Comment" on the right to life as part of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a global treaty covering many aspects of human rights.
The draft describes the right to life as the "supreme right from which no derogation is permitted," affirming it as "most precious for its own sake."
The draft also refers to "the entitlement of individuals to be free from acts and omissions intended or expected to cause their unnatural or premature death, as well as to enjoy a life with dignity" and underscores that the right to life "should not be interpreted narrowly," noting, "Article 6 guarantees this right for all human beings, without distinction of any kind."
But a change now being considered would effectively exclude the unborn from the right to life. A new pro-abortion body of text is being inserted into the draft:
State parties must provide safe access to abortion to protect the life and health of pregnant women, and in situations when carrying a pregnancy to term would cause a woman substantial pain or suffering, most notably when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or when the fetus suffers from fatal impairment.
The draft characterizes abortion restrictions as "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment." It then goes on to prescribe legalization of euthanasia, saying states should "facilitate the termination of life" of terminally ill adults who "wish to die with dignity."
The HRC is responsible for issuing recommendations to states that have signed the ICCPR, but it has no power to deprive the unborn of the right to life, nor to enshrine abortion as a "right" in international law.
Pro-life scholars point out that abortion is not mentioned in U.N. treaties, and no U.N. treaty "can be fairly interpreted to include a right to abortion under any circumstance."
"Such interpretations of U.N. treaties are illegitimate," writes Stefano Gennari, director of legal studies at the Center for Family and Human Rights. "U.N. treaties should be used to expand protections for children in the womb, not take them away. They directly undercut the claim of a positive obligation to permit abortion, and they call into question the integrity of U.N. experts and their methods of interpreting treaties."
But there is the question of "soft power," the influencing of state policy through non-binding statements, resolutions and other manifestations of international pressure to conform.
Ireland, which in 2018 will vote in a national referendum on whether to legalize abortion, is under intense pressure to liberalize its laws.
Twice in the last year, the HRC has ruled that Ireland's constitutional protections for the unborn are "cruel, inhumane and degrading" to women and urged the country to legalize abortion.
"Abortion is not a human right," observes the World Youth Alliance, "and a U.N. committee can neither make it one nor 'affirm' it as one. The HRC does not have the authority to create international law, and it cannot read rights into international law that are not part of a treaty or custom."