December 9, 2005
LifeNews.com Note: The Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute is a pro-life organization that monitors the United Nations.
The UN Human Rights Committee’s recent directive that the government of Peru violated an international covenant by preventing a 17-year-old woman from having an abortion radically misstates the meaning of the covenant according an analysis of the decision by the C-FAM legal analyst Bradford Short.
Two weeks ago the Human Rights Committee ruled that the government of Peru violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights when it prevented a 17-year-old Peruvian woman, pregnant with an anencephalic unborn child, from getting an abortion. In an earlier report the Friday Fax notes that the Center for Reproductive Rights, a pro-abortion legal advocacy group in New York City, hailed the decision as a significant victory in the battle to establish an international right to abortion. But the Human Rights Committee is only empowered to issue non-binding recommendations, and therefore, its decisions are not national or international court precedent.
As noted in the Committee’s decision, Peru did not even appear at the hearing to answer the charges against it, further demonstrating that the nations of the world regard the Committee as insignificant and certainly not as a court.
But, according to Short, the Committee’s substantive claims about the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights show that "even if one were to grant the Committee juridical power its findings appear to be deeply flawed."
According to the Committee’s reasoning, refusing to allow a woman to abort her anencephalic child was "a violation of article 7" of the Covenant which declares that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." Short points out that that language is copied verbatim from Article 5 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet in 1948, when the Declaration was adopted by the General Assembly, several state parties had laws against abortion as restrictive, or nearly as restrictive, as Peru’s and no nation argued that such laws would fall under the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The Committee found that Peru’s prohibition of "cruel" and "inhuman" treatment "relates not only to physical pain but also to mental suffering." Among the ways the mother was said to have been subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment was that she "had to breastfeed her" anencephalic child "for four days." The Committee did not reconcile this conclusion with the fact that the anti-abortion laws that were in place in 1948 in UN member states often did not have expansive definitions of "mental health" that would have made it easy for women to obtain abortions under those laws.