The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) during its 45th session (1 – 19 November 2010), held a Day of General Discussion (DGD) on the right to sexual and reproductive health in accordance with articles 12 and 10 (2) of the Covenant. The day was to provide an opportunity to exchange views and to garner insights from practitioners and academic experts. The day consisted of four panels on the following themes:
- Definitions and elements of the right to sexual and reproductive health;
- Cross-cutting issues and groups in focus;
- Legal aspects and State obligations; and
“The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) asserts that the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has no authority under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) to issue a general comment on the right to sexual and reproductive health. Furthermore, even if the CESCR did possess such authority pursuant to the ICESCR, a right to sexual and reproductive health does not encompass a right to abortion.”Pat gave a telephone interview to SPUC headquarters in London about the proceedings of this meeting. Far from being a balanced and fair exchange of views, Pat told us that:
“4 panels spoke during the meeting. Three panels had 3 speakers, and one panel had 2 speakers. They were all pro-abortion. The panels were completely unbalanced. This is the sort of thing that brings the UN into disrepute. The vast majority of the NGOs who spoke were pro-life.”Pat told us that, due to time constraints;
“I didn’t have time to present the whole statement. I wanted to underline the right to life of the unborn, so I presented these sections (emboldened below) as the most important.”At the time of writing this post, the day of comment is still underway. Pat will be reporting further on this meeting and the final outcomes. We are very grateful to Pat and fellow pro-life NGOs who are speaking up boldly and unequivocally in defence of the unborn and their fundamental and inherent right to life. Below is Pat's statement in full:
Mr. Chairman, my name is Patrick Buckley, I represent the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. I have already submitted a paper on behalf of my organisation challenging the right of this committee to draw up a general comment on a term not used in the carefully crafted wording of the Convention.Comments on this blog? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
We say in addition that the right to life of all human beings from the moment of conception to natural death, is protected in the bill of rights consisting of the UN Charter, the Universal declaration of Human Rights and the subsequently enacted Covenants and other legally binding Conventions.
We also say that the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognizes human rights during the entire pre-natal period of life.
First the preamble of the CRC expressly says that children need rights while they are in the pre-natal period of their life-cycle and this follows on from the original 1959 Declaration on the Rights of the Child:
“the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.”
1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest atainable standard of health …
- The CRC having used the term child in its preamble in respect of a human life before as well as after birth in Article 1 defines the word child as all “human beings” who are under 18 years of age (unless the State sets a lower age limit).
- The right to health, in Article 24 is for the benefit of the child who is the rights holder under the convention and expressly gives children rights during the entire pre-natal period.
- When Article 1 is read in the light of Article 24, “human being” covers children during the entire pre-natal period, that is to say, from conception onwards. Article 24 reads:
2. States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right, in particular, shall take appropriate measures: …
(d) To ensure appropriate pre-natal … health care for mothers.” (Article 24; italics and underlining added.)
The child is the right-holder of the right to pre-natal care, not the mother, according to the text of Article 24: States Parties recognize the right of the child … to pre-natal … care.
We also say that it is the duty of this committee to implement this Convention in accordance with the terms of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which sets out interpretive norms for all treaties.
- The fact that the text says “pre-natal …health care for mothers” (emphasis added) does not convert the right into the right of the mother. By definition, pre-natal care is medical care that is delivered to the mother’s body. The care to the child is delivered through actions directed at the mother’s body.
In other words, the child has the right to have health care given to his or her mother, for the purpose of ensuring the child’s well-being.
Article 31 of the VCLT says: "A treaty shall be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the treaty in their context and in light of its object and purpose."
In other words, attention must be paid to the actual text of the treaty and, as an aid to interpretation, to its surrounding context.
We say that there is no such right as a right to abortion, no right to take innocent human life and there never can be such a right. We also call on this Committee to reject pressure from powerful international organizations, which derive huge financial benefit from the taking of human life.
Finally we reiterate that this committee is not empowered to reinterpret the terms of the Convention and we further assert that there is no room for ideological crusades on the part of the Committee in attempting to expand the scope of the convention whilst ignoring the plight of the most vulnerable human beings, babies once conceived and awaiting birth.
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