Last week, the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations in Geneva adopted a document that puts pressure on pro-life countries around the world to change their laws. The document, General Comment No. 36, replaces comments adopted by the committee 30 years ago on Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Specifically, the recent document states that protecting the rights of all human beings means states “must” legalize abortion.
Jonathan Abbamonte of the pro-life Population Research Institute explains, “The ICCPR is one of the most important and widely ratified international human rights treaties drafted through the U.N. system.” The reason why General Comment No. 36 is of importance, Abbamonte adds, is that its adoption “will inevitably provide pro-abortion activists in the U.N. system with sufficient grounds to place considerable pressure on pro-life countries to legalize abortion.“
Paradoxically, General Comment No. 36 states that legally protecting the right to life of women requires states to legalize abortion in several instances. The circumstances when it “must” be legal include rape, incest, when the life of the mother is at risk (even though it is never necessary to save the life of the mother), and “where carrying a pregnancy to term would cause the pregnant woman or girl substantial pain or suffering.” This last category is so broadly defined that it could be applied to virtually any circumstance.
While purportedly discussing the right to life during pregnancy, the document does not include a single instance of the word “baby,” even though there is a preborn baby in every pregnancy and questions of when and how the baby’s right to life must be protected are necessary.
The document does state that countries cannot enact pro-life laws that “compel women and girls to resort to unsafe abortion,” which falsely assumes that legal terminations do not pose a serious risk to the mother. Again, with no mention of the legitimate state interest of protecting preborn life, the document declares that countries “may not regulate” abortion in any way that might prompt women and girls to resort to obtaining them in an “unsafe” manner.
In another apparent violation of established human rights, the document rejects the legal protection of conscientious objection of individual doctors as a “barrier” to abortion that must be overturned.
The U.N. Human Rights Committee has displayed pro-abortion bias on other occasions. The adoption of General Comment No. 36 is a decisive step toward a more extreme pro-abortion position and the implications for pro-life laws around the world are troubling.