Small victories for pro-lifers at the UN

Small victories for pro-lifers at the UN

Babette Francis

At the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) meeting in Geneva in June a report by Yakin Erturk, UNHRC's special rapporteur on violence against women, linked bans on abortion with violence against women.

Fifteen Years of the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences (1994-2009): A Critical Review claims that 'criminal sanctions against all forms of abortions and contraception' imposed by the state constitute an indirect act of violence against women because they are not recognising nor enabling 'women's sexual autonomy.'.

However, due to the valiant efforts of the Holy See, Egypt and Pakistan, who opposed adoption of this report, and the lobbying of pro-life groups such as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (CAFHRI) and Patrick Buckley of the UK Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), the report was dropped from the final Resolution.

Calling the report an 'extreme pro-abortion anti-family report', Patrick Buckley told the UNHRC, 'Irrespective of what the report says, there is not and never can be a human right to abortion. The idea of trying to create a right to terminate the life of the most vulnerable human beings by tearing them from their mothers' wombs, is the very essence of violence against women and their babies.'

Although dropped from the UN Resolution after protracted negotiations, the report was subsequently referenced in a Canadian resolution on 'Violence Against Women'. No doubt it will rear its ugly head in future conferences in Canada on 'domestic violence' and 'violence against women.'

Although Canada supposedly has a conservative government, our Canadian cousins truly suffer from the tyranny of feminism, with biased conferences and pro-abortion initiatives funded by taxpayers.

Another attempt to promote a global right to abortion by UN agencies such as the World Health Organisation, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) at the UNHRC's Geneva meeting was to link 'universal access to reproductive health' (a broad term which abortion advocates claim includes a right to abortion) with 'maternal mortality reduction'.

Critics contest any linkage between abortion and maternal mortality reduction. Patrick Buckley emphasised that 'maternal mortality stems from poor nutrition, lack of basic health care such as adequate pre- and post-natal care, transportation, etc, rather than lack of legal abortion.'

Again after protracted negotiations, the final UNHRC Resolution referenced Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG 5) in which the mention of 'sexual and reproductive health' is qualified by placing it in the context of the right to enjoy 'the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health', and does not expand the meaning of the phrase nor create any new rights. This can be seen as a victory for pro-lifers who lobbied delegates on the document's language.

East Timor

Meanwhile, there's good news from East Timor whose parliament has resisted concerted pressure from UN agencies and pro-abortion NGOs by enacting a revised penal law that continues to criminalise abortion in virtually all cases.

In June with a vote of 45 to 0 and only seven abstentions on the main paragraph, the East Timor parliament retained penal sanctions on abortion, except in instances where abortion is the 'only way' to prevent death of the mother as attested by three independent physicians. A preambular paragraph states that life 'from the moment of conception' is entitled to protection.

Abortionists are subject to up to eight years imprisonment, depending on the circumstances, and the law also recognises the conscience rights of doctors to refuse to perform abortions.

Efforts to broaden the abortion licence to include cases of fetal abnormality and pregnancies resulting from rape were rejected. In addition, an abortion law that would have included broad exceptions for cases affecting the physical or mental health of the mother, that had been adopted in early April by the executive branch's Council of Ministers, was effectively overruled by the June legislation.

East Timor has been targeted by the international pro-abortion movement. The Alola Foundation, an NGO backed by UNFPA and headed by East Timor's Australian-born First Lady, intervened repeatedly in the Timorese debate by seeking abortion liberalisation.

Echoing arguments made by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, they cited treaties such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. There is no support for such assertions in the language of either treaty, however, nor in any other treaty to which East Timor is a signatory.

Grassroots NGOs with on-the-ground membership such as Organização das Mulheres Timorenses, whose bona fides were established during the resistance to Indonesian rule, opposed liberalisation, reflecting popular Timorese sentiment.

East Timor will be justifying its legislation when it is cross-examined by the UN committee monitoring compliance with CEDAW; it has already submitted a report responding to questioning over its legislation protecting life.

The example of East Timor illustrates why the language in UN Conventions and Resolutions is critical and why the work of organisations such as SPUC and CAFHRI is important. Pray for them, and for Endeavour Forum Inc., which is the only Australian pro-life political lobby having special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN.

We need to insist that Kevin Rudd and Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, respect the laws of East Timor and do not fund abortion or abortion advocacy in that country.

Babette Francis is the National and Overseas Co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc.

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