San Jose Articles Bolster Pro-life Prospects for 2012

International   |   Bill Saunders and Evangeline Jones   |   Jan 9, 2012   |   6:28PM   |   New York, NY

Thanks to a recently issued document that analyzes international law, pro-life supporters possess a new and potentially powerful tool to uphold domestic laws protecting unborn human life. This is very good news for pro-life nations pressured by influential international organizations and other countries to legalize abortion. It is also important for the United States, where some activist judges consider “contemporary” understandings of “rights” under international law as binding upon the U.S.

Increasingly, to impose their anti-life global agenda, abortion advocates falsely claim abortion is an international human right. These advocates include U.N. committees and non-governmental organizations that spread this false message to legislators, judges, and other leaders around the world. Misinterpreting international law, they wrongly argue that this “right” compels all nations to legalize abortion.

In response, last year an ensemble of legal, public policy, and medical experts from numerous countries (including one of the authors of this article) drafted the San Jose Articles. The Articles, a set of nine short proclamations and an annex of documented notes, serve an essential purpose: to provide expert testimony demonstrating there is no international right to abortion.

The Articles state the scientific fact that human life begins at conception[1] and that, as human beings, unborn children are “entitled to recognition of their inherent dignity and to protection of their inalienable human rights,” as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments.[2]

The Articles go on to declare “assertions by international agencies or non-governmental actors that abortion is a human right are false and should be rejected.”[3] In addition, “governments…should also reject and condemn pressure to adopt laws that legalize or depenalize abortion” and “treaty monitoring bodies, United Nations agencies and officers, regional and national courts” should “desist from implicit or explicit assertions of a right to abortion based on international law.”[4]

The release of the San Jose Articles meets a critical need. The false claim that abortion is an international right is making inroads. A few years ago, the highest court in Columbia re-interpreted its own law regarding abortion, citing a U.N. committee’s (mis)statement of international human rights. The mistaken belief that there is a right to abortion under international law increases pressure pro-life countries face when urged to liberalize their own abortion laws or risk reduced aid. Some examples include Kenya’s adoption of a new pro-abortion constitution, supported by the Obama Administration, and Sweden’s efforts to cut aid to Nicaragua when that country did not change its pro-life laws.

The threat remains that agenda-driven judges in the U.S. may interpret human rights documents according to their own dreams about “emerging international law,” instead of applying legal terms as intended by drafters of existing human rights documents. Mere recommendations by U.N. committees may come to be cited as authority for what international law requires.

Two fairly recent Supreme Court cases suggest these risks may not be far-fetched. In Lawrence v. Texas, the Court relied on “values shared with a wider civilization” to decide whether a state law violated the U.S. Constitution. In Roper v. Simmons, the Court cited a treaty never ratified by the U.S. Senate, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, when interpreting the Constitution.

The 29 signers of the San Jose Articles include world-renowned legal scholars, human rights attorneys, elected officials, diplomats, and public figures who understand the aggressive campaign waged by pro-abortion forces worldwide. The San Jose Articles strip away the myths and state the (rather straight-forward) truth. With this document in hand, it is hoped pro-lifers will be well-equipped to counter anti-life claims about “international law” and “human rights.”

[1] Article 1.

[1] Article 4.

[1] Article 7.

[1] Article 9. Note: Evangeline Jones is the Americans United for Life National Coordinator of Lawyers for Life. William Saunders, Senior Vice President of Americans United for Life, is one of the drafters and signers of the San Jose Articles.