Tuesday, November 16, 2010

UN Committee debate "the right to sexual and reproductive health"

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural  Rights (CESCR) during its 45th session (1 – 19 November 2010), held a Day of General Discussion (DGD) on the right to sexual and reproductive health in accordance with articles 12 and 10 (2) of the Covenant. according to the website the day was arranged in order to provide an opportunity to exchange views and to garner insights from practitioners and academic experts. The day of discussion was arranged as a series of four panel debates with minimal general debate. The debate themes were as follows:

  1. Definitions and elements of the right to sexual and reproductive health;
  2. Cross-cutting issues and groups in focus;
  3. Legal aspects and State obligations; and
  4. Conclusions.
Several weeks ago when I became aware of the arrangements for the session I submitted a paper to the CESCR on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children challenging the right of the committee to draw up a new 'general comment' on the issue. I also attended the actual session  on Monday Nov. 15th and made a statement during the session.

The panel speakers were all pro abortion and it became clear during the first session that the creation of a right to abortion was one of the main underlying purposes of the whole exercise. Many of the speakers spoke of the need for access to so called "safe and legal" abortion. There was also a suggestion that for women to be able to access this so called right the issue of conscientious objection needed to be limited. The lack of balance in the panels is just another example of the blatant pro-abortion attempts to impose their anti life agenda on every country through the UN system.  This is the sort of thing that brings the UN into disrepute.

Representatives from a number of member states attended and with one exception all their interventions were pro-life.  Good Statements were made by Nicaragua, Poland, Egypt, Pakistan, Malta, Chile and Honduras. The meeting was arranged to limit the amount of debate from the floor but due to the fact that one of the panelists did not turn up there was additional time for NGO interventions. Once again while there were a small number of anti life statements the vast majority of the NGOs who spoke were pro-life and some excellent interventions were made.

Two members of "Silent no More " women who had been hurt by abortion spoke strongly against the concept of so called "safe and Legal abortion" and told the meeting that making it legal does not make it safe. It is never safe for the baby but many women suffer both physically and/or psychologically afterwards

The following is the statement I prepared but due to time constraints I had to curtail it to some extent.

(the bold text represents the parts of the statement actually made)
Mr. Chairman, my name is Patrick Buckley, I represent the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. I have already submitted a paper on behalf of my organisation challenging the right of this committee to draw up a general comment on a term not used in the carefully crafted wording of the Convention.

We say in addition that the right to life of all human beings from the moment of conception to natural death, is protected in the bill of rights consisting of the UN Charter, the Universal declaration of Human Rights and the subsequently enacted Covenants and other legally binding Conventions.

We also say that the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognizes human rights during the entire pre-natal period of life.

First the preamble of the CRC expressly says that children need rights while they are in the pre-natal period of their life-cycle and this follows on from the original 1959 Declaration on the Rights of the Child:

“the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.”
  • The CRC having used the term child in its preamble in respect of a human life before as well as after birth in Article 1 defines the word child as all “human beings” who are under 18 years of age (unless the State sets a lower age limit).
  • The right to health, in Article 24 is for the benefit of the child who is the rights holder under the convention and expressly gives children rights during the entire pre-natal period.
  • When Article 1 is read in the light of Article 24, “human being” covers children during the entire pre-natal period, that is to say, from conception onwards. Article 24 reads:
1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest atainable standard of health …

2. States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right, in particular, shall take appropriate measures: …

(d) To ensure appropriate pre-natal … health care for mothers.” (Article 24; italics and underlining added.)

The child is the right-holder of the right to pre-natal care, not the mother, according to the text of Article 24:  States Parties recognize the right of the child … to pre-natal … care.
  • The fact that the text says “pre-natal …health care for mothers” (emphasis added) does not convert the right into the right of the mother. By definition, pre-natal care is medical care that is delivered to the mother’s body. The care to the child is delivered through actions directed at the mother’s body.

    In other words, the child has the right to have health care given to his or her mother, for the purpose of ensuring the child’s well-being.
We also say that it is the duty of this committee to implement this Convention in accordance with the terms of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which sets out interpretive norms for all treaties.

Article 31 of the VCLT says:  "A treaty shall be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the treaty in their context and in light of its object and purpose."
In other words, attention must be paid to the actual text of the treaty and, as an aid to interpretation, to its surrounding context.

We say that there is no such right as a right to abortion, no right to take innocent human life and there never can be such a right. We also call on this Committee to reject pressure from powerful international organizations, which derive huge financial benefit from the taking of human life.

Finally we reiterate that this committee is not empowered to reinterpret the terms of the Convention and we further assert that there is no room for ideological crusades on the part of the Committee in attempting to expand the scope of the convention whilst ignoring the plight of the most vulnerable human beings, babies once conceived and awaiting birth.
Whilst it was clear that the panelists and the committee members were taken aback by the number of pro-life interventions from both member states and the NGO sector, it was also clear that they are determined to proceed with their stated objective of preparing a general comment on the so called "right to sexual and reproductive health"