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Draft UN guidance says civil rights treaty signers have no obligation to recognize right to life of unborn children

GENEVA – Draft guidance from the United Nations Human Rights Committee regarding a treaty guaranteeing “the inherent right to life” of “every human being” shows that the committee will not affirm the right to life of the unborn and will instead provide express support for abortion.

“Every innocent life deserves to be protected,” said ADF International UN Counsel Ewelina Ochab. “But instead of focusing on the inherent right to life of unborn children, the draft guidance focuses on promoting abortion. We call on the committee to affirm the right to life of all members of the human family, no matter their stage of development, and reject this draft guidance. The protection of life at every stage is the kernel of the United Nations.”

In its forthcoming meeting 19 Oct. to 6 Nov., the committee will discuss the draft guidance, which concerns Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 6 guarantees that “every human being has the inherent right to life.” If adopted, the guidance will become the committee’s authoritative interpretation of the ICCPR, meaning that the 175 countries that have signed it will be accountable to the committee based on how they comply with the committee’s interpretation.

In June, ADF International lodged a submission with the committee which argued that the right to life should be applied to the unborn and that no “right to abortion” exists in international human rights law.

The draft guidance ignores this position, instead stating that “the committee cannot assume that article 6 imposes on State parties an obligation to recognize the right to life of unborn children.”

Moreover, the draft guidance implies that laws protecting unborn life can amount to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment” and that countries “whose laws generally prohibit voluntary terminations of pregnancy must, nonetheless, maintain legal exceptions.”

In its June submission, ADF International explained that the ICCPR explicitly protects unborn life, pointing to Article 6(5), which states that the death penalty “shall not be carried out on pregnant women.”

The committee’s draft guidance acknowledges this provision and states, “The special protection afforded to pregnant women stems from an interest in protecting the rights and interests of affected family members, including the unborn fetus and the fetus’s father.”

“The committee should reject the draft guidance and consider the ramifications of what it acknowledges here about ‘the rights and interests of affected family members, including the unborn fetus and the fetus’s father,’” noted ADF International Director of UN Advocacy Paul Coleman. “Clearly, a document intended to support the right to life should not be used as a vehicle to support abortion instead.”

ADF International is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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