How Can a UN Committee Against Torture be Pushing Abortion on Ireland?

International   |   Cora Sherlock   |   Dec 2, 2013   |   11:42AM   |   Dublin, Ireland

What do you think of when you hear the word “torture”?  

The images that come into your head probably aren’t all that different to mine.  The sad fact is that we live in a world where there are too many instances of torture to count.  Now, more than ever before, the international community needs a body that is ever-vigilant against this terrible crime and anything that tries to downplay or trivialise its effects must be avoided.

That’s why I was so disappointed at the latest assault on Ireland’s pro-life record, coming, as it does, from the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT).

UNCAT intends to issue a second Report into practices in Ireland but before doing so, it raised a number of questions to be answered by the Irish Government.  Among them, it has queried “whether adequate services for carrying out abortions exist in (Ireland)”.  It has also asked for “information on whether current legislation regarding termination of pregnancy upholds a woman’s rights to freedom from discrimination and to prevent other breaches of the convention.”

It’s sad to see UNCAT sully its own record in this area by buying into the misguided notion that a country that seeks to protect all human life in some way engages in an act of torture.  In fact, it is an absurd accusation when you consider the evidence against this claim.

Is it torture to subject an unborn human being to a procedure which ends his or her life?  What about the situation in the UK, as reported in The Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health 2007, which found that 66 infants survived NHS termination attempts in hospitals in England and Wales during 2005. For those babies, the abortion procedure didn’t end their lives in the womb.  They survived and managed to breathe unaided.  But the law in the UK didn’t provide for medical treatment to be given to them, so they eventually died.   As is the way with all humans, some had greater endurance than others.  Some lived for minutes before losing the fight for life.  One baby survived for ten hours.  Doesn’t this qualify as “torture”, or, to use UNCAT’s own phraseology, “cruel, inhuman degrading treatment or punishment”?  I think so.  The unborn baby is an entirely innocent human being.  In abortion, his or her life is ended on the decision of a third party.  For those babies like the 66 in the UK (and we’ll never really know how many more worldwide), their suffering continues, overseen and authorised by societies which have become numb to the effects of abortion.  We know too, that this practice of babies being born alive and left to die has been widespread in Canada, where over 490 babies were born alive and left to die over a six-year period.

UNCAT’s main Instrument is the United Nations Convention Against Torture.  The UK and Canada both signed up in 1985, but when these shocking facts emerged about the last minutes and hours of those born-alive babies, there was no outcry from UNCAT.  To date, they have turned a blind eye to one of the most horrifying statistics of the abortion debate.

Instead, they turn their attention to Ireland and promote the falsehood that abortion can save a woman’s life.  Their comments suggest that the Committee has not considered the psychiatric evidence which shows that abortion can have a severely detrimental effect on a woman’s physical and mental wellbeing.  Before attacking Ireland’s record in this area, perhaps the Committee should refer to the findings of another UN body, the World Health Organisation, which has consistently found Ireland to be one of the safest countries in the world in which to have a baby.



Perhaps most damning of all, this latest intervention by the Committee has done real damage to its own reputation for protecting the peoples of this world from genuine torture.  Ireland is a country that can boast of excellent maternal healthcare and a genuine, long-held desire to protect all human lives – regardless of their age, ability or social standing.  If a country like that can have its good name queried by UNCAT in this way, then the only logical conclusion to draw is that the group pointing the finger has badly lost its way.

In short, if a ban on abortion leads to an accusation of “torture”, then I fear for the victims of genuine torture, because somewhere deep in the UN, the inherent value of every human life is no longer given pride of place.

LifeNews Note: Cora Sherlock writes for the ProLife Campaign.