Vatican Won’t Sign United Nations’ Disability Treaty Over Abortion

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 15, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Vatican Won’t Sign United Nations’ Disability Treaty Over Abortion Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 15
, 2006

New York, NY ( — The Vatican is refusing to sign a new treaty to protect the rights and dignity of people with disabilities. The Holy See says that it’s concerned the treaty could be used to promote abortion despite assurances during the debate that the phrase "sexual and reproductive health" would not be construed as promoting abortion.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations says the Vatican approves the treaty in order to protect the disabled.

However, it will not sign the document over concerns that it could potentially lead to the abortion of disabled babies.

“The Holy See understands access to reproductive health as being a holistic concept that does not consider abortion or access to abortion as a dimension of those terms," Migliore said in a statement obtained.

"However, even with this understanding, we opposed the inclusion of such a phrase in this article, because in some countries reproductive health services include abortion, thus denying the inherent right to life of every human being."

"For this reason … the Holy See is unable to sign it," he concluded.

In lobbying during the drafting of the document, pro-life advocates say they were able to mitigate many of the concerns that the treaty would promote abortion or deny the disabled appropriate medical care.

Jeanne Head, a nurse who represents the National Right to Life Committee at the UN, told that the treaty contains "provisions include the right to life, food, water, and health care without discrimination."

Much of the debate leading up to the adoption of the treaty had to do with the term "sexual and reproductive health" which the United States and other nations worried could lead to promoting abortion.

But Head told that statements about the interpretation of the phrase, and construing it as not promoting abortion, went unchallenged.

As a result, the treaty "cannot legitimately be misrepresented to include abortion, create any new rights such as a right to abortion and cannot be interpreted to constitute support, endorsement, or promotion of abortion."

Despite the Vatican’s refusal to sign the document, other nations agreed that it does not promote abortion and many of them spoke up to that effect without opposition. Those nations included the United States, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Egypt, Iran, Nicaragua, Libya, Syria, Peru, Honduras, Uganda, and El Salvador.

The interpretation of the phrase is crucial because nations that adopt the treaty must change their laws to conform to it and dozens of pro-life countries that want to protect the disabled don’t want to remove their pro-life laws prohibiting abortion at the same time.

Head also said the interpretation of the phrase is important because UN committees have frequently lobbied pro-life nations to legalize abortion.