UN Ignores Pro-Life Concerns Over Pressuring Nations on Abortion

International   |   Stefano Gennarini, J.D.   |   Jul 12, 2012   |   3:11PM   |   New York, NY

New York, NY (CFAM/LifeNews) — The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has ignored concerns expressed by UN Member States and civil society organizations about UN treaty bodies promoting a right to abortion.

C-FAM (publisher of the Friday Fax) along with Alliance Defending Freedom and Focus on the Family filed a brief with the Commissioner last month pointing out that UN Treaty Monitoring Bodies overreach their mandate when they rewrite hard law treaties to include a right to abortion and then direct governments to adhere to the new norms.

These concerns, made also by UN Member States who have grown weary of answering these directives by UN committees, went unanswered in a report just issued by the High Commissioner, Navanethem Pillay.

Pillay’s report, “Strengthening the United Nations human rights treaty body system” makes several recommendations intended to streamline the work of the treaty bodies, but would also give the treaty bodies greater power and cost more than 110 million additional dollars annually.

Ten United Nations treaties deposited with the UN Secretary General establish a reporting system for state parties to those treaties. States submit reports periodically on their progress in implementing the treaties to monitoring committees. The present system is plagued by inefficiencies, backlog, and lack of legitimacy, and there have been efforts at reform for the past ten years.

More controversially, the treaty bodies have developed the practice of instructing countries on what legislation they should repeal or enact, being exceedingly critical of legislation that protects the unborn and does not grant homosexuals the same rights as married couples.

The C-FAM-ADF-Focus submission points out that the mandate of the treaty bodies, as defined in the text of the treaties that establish them, is a narrow one, and that treaty bodies have expanded their authority since the mid-1990s, without the permission of UN member states.

In particular, the submission highlights the purported authority that treaty bodies have been claiming for their opinions, especially when telling countries to change their laws on abortion and marriage. The treaties that establish these bodies never attribute to them any authority to make such claims. Their role, as defined in the treaties, is simply that of being the facilitators of dialogue between UN member states on human rights practices, and depositories of the human rights efforts of states parties to the treaties.

While the report by Pillay is not the final say on the direction that treaty body reform will take in the near future, since only UN member states have that authority, it is nevertheless very influential. As High Commissioner for Human Rights, Pillay is the highest ranking and most powerful, human rights official in the United Nations human rights system. Her office, known as OHCHR, is the normative and logistical control center for the United Nations human rights machinery, including the treaty bodies.



C-FAM has been working in the UN arena for 15 years. Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is the largest pro-life and family non-profit law firm in the world and has won 38 cases at the Supreme Court. Focus on the Family is the largest pro-family organization in the world. The organizations have been working closely together for months on treaty body reform.

LifeNews.com Note: Stefano Gennarini, J.D. 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.