On International Human Rights Day, Beware of Pro-Abortion Treaties

International   |   William Saunders and Kelsey Hazzard   |   Dec 10, 2012   |   1:33PM   |   New York, NY

With the news media dominated by grim coverage of the fiscal cliff, you may have missed some good news. Last week, the United States was faced with a cliff that it did not go over: the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD), a problematic UN treaty, was not ratified by the Senate.

Pro-lifers have traditionally enjoyed a strong alliance with disability rights advocates. We share the belief that all people—not only those perceived to have a certain level of “quality of life”—deserve respect and legal rights. Many pro-life organizations, including Americans United for Life, have fought to protect babies who are prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and other genetic conditions. We have also worked to protect disabled individuals from assisted suicide laws that would encourage a “duty to die.”

But pro-life groups wisely opposed the CRPD, because it is a poorly written and dangerous treaty. The CRPD would have done nothing to serve Americans with disabilities, who are already protected by numerous federal and state laws. The CRPD would have only harmed the pro-life cause.

The CRPD includes a right to “sexual and reproductive health,” and does not define that term clearly. UN human rights treaty bodies and various UN agencies, chiefly the World Health Organization, routinely interpret the term “sexual and reproductive health” to include abortion over the objections of UN member states. Furthermore, this is the position of the Obama administration; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated, “We happen to think that family planning is an important part of women’s health, and reproductive health includes access to abortion.” The CRPD’s loose definition of “sexual and reproductive health” would allow treaty bodies to engage in creative interpretation, potentially forcing signatory nations to adopt pro-abortion policies.

We avoided the CRPD cliff, but we must remain on the alert. In the near future, the Senate may consider other treaties with similar problems. For instance, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) contains vague provisions that abortion advocates will exploit to undermine parental consent laws, including laws protecting parental involvement before a girl can get an abortion. Likewise, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) contains vague terminology that has been interpreted by many in the international community to include abortion on demand, even though the word “abortion” appears nowhere in the treaty. Both CRC and CEDAW are likely items on President Obama’s second-term agenda.

Human Rights Day commemorates the day on which the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but for us, it must be a reminder that there is a war on human rights, a war in which some seek to advance false human rights (such as abortion) at the expense of true human rights (the right to life).



On Human Rights Day, we should pause to note the irony that treaties purporting to help women, children, and people with disabilities would be used to promote abortion. International treaties may have innocuous-sounding names, but they can pose serious threats to human life. Pro-life advocates must always be vigilant and look at UN treaties with a skeptical eye and be sure what they secure and protect are true human rights, not its counterfeits.

LifeNews Note: Bill Saunders is an Americans United for Life attorney and vice president. Kelsey Hazzard is the director of Secular Pro-Life.