Human Rights Watch Falsely Charges Argentina With Violating CEDAW on Abortion

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 23, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Human Rights Watch Falsely Charges Argentina With Violating CEDAW on Abortion

by Seana Cranston, J.D.
August 23, 2010 Note: Seana Cranston writes for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. This article originally appeared in the pro-life group’s Friday Fax publication and is used with permission.

New York, NY ( — A report released last week by the human rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch promotes abortion in Argentina and criticizes Argentina for not complying with international law.

The report, “Illusions of Care: Lack of Accountability for Reproductive Rights in Argentina,” charges that “[i]n Argentina, nationalistic interests combined with an orthodox Catholic discourse on ‘family values’ have historically underpinned some of the most anti-contraception and pro-population-growth policies in the region.”

The report erroneously cites several international human rights treaties and committees, including the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), for its claim that international law requires Argentina to provide abortion-on-demand. In fact, no international human rights treaty contains a right to abortion.

When CEDAW and ICCPR were negotiated, many of the negotiating countries had pro-life laws on the books that still remain in place today.

“Illusions of Care” further suggests that two other international treaties—the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)—require that Argentina allow adolescents the right to contraception or an abortion without the consent of their parents.

These two treaties do not mention abortion or contraception, and while the committees that oversee them can issue advisory opinions, they do not have the authority to make binding interpretations of treaty provisions.

The CRC specifically contains a “right to life” provision, which states that “every child has the inherent right to life . . . . States Parties shall ensure . . . the survival and development of the child.”

The preamble of the CRC calls for “appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth” for the child. The ICCPR states, “every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”

“Illusions of Care” also appears to suggest that one of the newest international treaties ratified by Argentina, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), requires Argentina to allow abortion-on-demand for its citizens with disabilities.

For example, the report cites language in CRPD that states that persons with disabilities are entitled to the same standard of health care as provided to other persons, “including in the area of sexual and reproductive health.” The word abortion is not mentioned in the CRPD, however, and more than a dozen countries made explicit statements upon the adoption of CRPD by the UN General Assembly that nothing in the treaty could be interpreted to establish any new rights, including a right to abortion.

Last month, the CEDAW committee also criticized Argentina’s abortion laws, stating that it “urges [Argentina] to review existing legislation that criminalizes abortion, with serious consequences for the health and lives of women.” The Committee additionally requested Argentina to ensure that “education on sexual and reproductive health is undertaken in all schools at all levels.”


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