The United Nations has decided abortion is a “right to life” issue. Unfortunately for the preborn, it is not their right.
Late last year, the U.N. Human Rights Committee adopted General Comment No. 36, a document expounding on article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 6 posits that every human being “has the inherent right to life” and that this right “shall be protected by law.”
At first, the Human Rights Committee’s newest document appears to affirm this unambiguous message:
“It is the supreme right from which no derogation is permitted… It is most precious for its own sake as a right that inheres in every human being, but it also constitutes a fundamental right whose effective protection is the prerequisite for the enjoyment of all other human rights and whose content can be informed by other human rights.”
However, when it comes to the matter of preborn life, the document makes clear that this “supreme right” is not one afforded to them:
“Although States parties may adopt measures designed to regulate voluntary terminations… restrictions on the ability of women or girls to seek abortion must not, inter alia, jeopardize their lives, subject them to physical or mental pain or suffering…”
The document goes on to explain governments “must provide safe, legal and effective access to abortion” in the case that the pregnancy would potentially cause the woman “pain or suffering.” In addition, no laws or barriers may be placed that may push women towards “unsafe” abortions, including those caused by the “exercise of conscientious objection by individual medical providers.”
The last point may prove quite problematic for doctors and institutions that find abortion unethical. Will they still be allowed to opt out of providing abortions due to moral or religious objections? Or will they be mandated by the state to breach their own ethics?
Beyond that, certain terminology used in the document is ambiguous. For instance, what constitutes “mental pain?” Does raising a child constitute mental pain? Does giving a baby up for adoption? And certainly, you would be hard pressed to find any mother who found the process of childbirth itself entirely devoid of “pain” and “suffering.” Given that, does this mean abortion is never actually restricted? In effect, does this mean any woman could claim exemption from abortion laws at any point?
At the end of the day, this all comes down to one question: does every human being have an inherent right to life or not? If this question can be answered clearly, then everything else should fall into line. The U.N. needs to come forward with whether or not they still stand by the words articulated in the original International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Because, at this moment, it appears they do not.