The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which is binding on all member states of the UN, 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.” (ICCPR, art. 6(1)).
This seems a pretty unambiguous guarantee that every human being has the right to life. There is no mention of abortion anywhere in the ICCPR. However, The Human Rights Committee, a treaty body at the United Nations Office in Geneva, has adopted a commentary on article 6 that seeks to actively deny the right to life to unborn babies.
Decriminalising abortion to uphold the right to life?
General comment No. 36 (2018) on article 6, the right to life, says that states “must provide safe, legal and effective access to abortion where the life and health of the pregnant woman or girl is at risk, and where carrying a pregnancy to term would cause the pregnant woman or girl substantial pain or suffering, most notably where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or is not viable.”
It also calls on states to remove criminal sanctions on abortionists who provide illegal abortions, to “remove existing barriers” to abortion and urges them “not introduce new barriers,”including “barriers” created by health care workers exercising their right to conscientious objection.
What does this mean?
The Human Rights Committee is tasked with monitoring the implementation of the ICCPR, one of the most widely adopted and highly esteemed international human rights treaties. From time to time, the Committee will issue General Comments, documents which seek to explain how the Committee interprets certain provisions, and which often provide states with what the Committee believes are their obligations under the treaty and provide recommendations for implementing the treaty.
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General Comment No. 36 seeks to reinterpret the ‘right to life’ in the ICCPR to mean that states “must” provide abortion access under certain conditions. While General Comments are not binding on states, and they are not required to follow the Human Rights Committee’s recommendations, statements like this often place pressure on states to legalise abortion or to weaken the enforcement of pro-life laws.
A travesty of human rights
This is the first General Comment from a U.N. treaty body saying that all states “must” legalise abortion under specified circumstances.
It is clear that there is no right to abortion in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. That an influential UN body can pretend that there is, and use it to pressure countries to liberalise abortion, is a travesty of the human rights culture in the UN.
LifeNews Note: Courtesy of SPUC. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children is a leading pro-life organization in the United Kingdom.