MPs defend unborn children’s right to life
Thursday, November 2, 2017

Statements from groups of pro-life parliamentarians were among the 160 or so submissions made to the United Nations Human Rights Committee as it considers the Draft General Comment No. 36 Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 6 of the ICCPR “recognizes and protects the right to life of all human beings” and asserts that it “is most precious for its own sake as a right that inheres in every human being…” but the HRC draft promotes abortion. It proposes:  States parties must provide safe access to abortion to protect the life and health of pregnant women, and in situations in which carrying a pregnancy to term would cause the woman substantial pain or suffering, most notably where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or when the foetus suffers from fatal impairment.  States parties may not regulate pregnancy or abortion in a manner that runs contrary to their duty to ensure that women do not have to undertake unsafe abortions.”

In response, pro-life lawmakers reminded the HRC that respect for life is recognized as beginning at conception and that Article 6 does not allow for exceptions to the right to life of unborn children as the Draft proposes. Pro-abortion organizations including Amnesty International recommended that the HRC “clarify that the right to life applies only after birth.”

Excerpts from three of the parliamentary statements follow:

The US Congressional statement reminded the HRC that it is beyond the committee’s competency “to impose any novel obligation upon States that they never contemplated at the time the ICCPR was negotiated, signed and ratified. As any such attempt by the HRC is contrary to the text and intent of the ICCPR and …is therefore illegitimate.”

The lawmakers stated “…we believe we have a duty to protect the weak, disenfranchised, unwanted and vulnerable from violence and abuse…we oppose any attempt by the Human Rights Committee (HRC) to reinterpret Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) so as to abrogate the right to life of the unborn human being…The HRC has no authority whatsoever by which to make the categorical statement “States parties must provide safe access to abortion.”  

Parliamentarians from Uganda expressed not only opposition to the HRC Draft but to what they see as a “concerning trend” that seeks to impose a western ideology. The statement included, “We are united in opposing the provision in the General Comment that seeks to exclude unborn children from the inherent right to life and to allow their demise through abortion.

“We have identified a similar concerning trend coming from Western and donor countries that seek to impose upon our countries an ideology that is contrary to our belief in protecting life from its earliest stage.  In no circumstance should abortion be disguised as a “health right” or described as a “woman’s human right.”  Abortion is a violent act of elimination that can never be synonymous with human rights.  It is abhorrent.”

Similarly, Parliamentarians from Kenya addressed the HRC from the African perspective,  “We believe that life begins at conception and are of the firm belief that the unborn child has a right to life and represent the most fragile and vulnerable member of the human family. African culture esteems the family and holds that association as the first and highest association of society. We express our deep dissatisfaction and opposition to any removal of the classification of unborn children from the human family and all necessary protections to protect the sanctity of life from conception.”

PNCI’s director, Marie Smith, as representative to the UN for Priests for Life advised the HRC in a submission that by advancing abortion while denying preborn children a right to life, the HRC fails in its duty to protect the rights of all human beings. She wrote, “Selective exclusion of the “right to life” for any member of the human family impacts the right to life of all by bestowing an arbitrary status to an inalienable right. It is our collective duty to ensure that no one is left out and that all are assured of their right to life. This includes unborn children who, as the youngest and most vulnerable members of the human family, represent the most at risk group in the world today. The GC is in conflict as it advances abortion—a denial of the right to life based on arbitrary measures— while stating that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life and that the right shall be protected by law”.

The HRC completed a discussion of the General Comment in the middle of the abortion paragraph and will resume discussion during the March-April 2018 session.