False idea that abortion is a human right attacks the humanity of unborn children
Published 26/06/2015 | 02:30
If the Law Reform Commission were to issue a statement based on human rights that don't exist. questions would be asked. Should the author be sacked? Has the commission lost its way? Or is it trying to manipulate the general public by misrepresenting what the law is?
These are important questions to bear in mind when reading the "concluding observations" of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which were issued last week following a two-day discussion in Geneva.
The committee took the opportunity to criticise Ireland's abortion laws but, much like the report that was issued earlier this month by Amnesty International, its comments are based on a blunder.
Both Amnesty and the UN committee act as if there is a right to abortion under international human rights law. But there isn't, and there never has been. You don't even have to be an expert in the area to know this - just read the half dozen or so UN treaties on human rights that are cited by Amnesty in its report.
It is these treaties that form human rights law and not the various ideologically-driven UN committees that Amnesty is so desperate to cite.
The committee's observations themselves do not form part of human rights law.
They are more political than legal in nature. They certainly do not amount to legally binding court judgments. Of course, many people may not realise this. But Amnesty certainly should - it's part of its job. Instead, Amnesty asserts that UN treaty monitoring bodies have the authority to rewrite human rights law.
It doesn't offer any support for this remarkable claim. That's because there is none: it's make-believe.
Even leaving aside the question of lack of jurisdiction, there are other reasons why these observations should not form the basis of any change in our laws.
For one thing, they are deeply hypocritical in their findings. On the one hand, the UN committee advises the Irish Government to "adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation". A few paragraphs further down, it advocates the introduction of abortion, blithely ignoring the fact that abortion is the ultimate discrimination, refusing the right to life to the most vulnerable members of our society, unborn human beings.
Similarly, the committee recommends that further work should be done for the disabled in Irish society.
But it cannot claim any credibility in this area when it refuses to address the serious impact that the legalisation of abortion has had in places like Britain, where abortion is legal up to birth when the unborn baby is diagnosed with a disability, and where 92pc of all babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted. There is not one word about this discrimination against the disabled in the committee's observations.
The false idea that abortion is a human right attacks the humanity of unborn children who have been diagnosed with severe life-limiting illnesses. Amnesty's report tells us that these children should be offered no protection under the law.
The argument seems to be that it is perfectly OK for the State to sanction their killing since they are profoundly ill and will probably die not long after birth anyway. It is a chilling argument, one that contradicts the philosophy underlying human rights: all human beings, regardless of health or age or anything else, are fundamentally equal in dignity and have an equal right to life.
This is not just about the law. It is about basic respect. By ignoring the humanity of these severely ill children and rejecting the chance to give a voice to groups like One Day More and Every Life Counts, which represent their parents, both Amnesty and the UN committee are deliberating airbrushing out of the debate anyone who has a different perspective to share.
The observations of the UN committee are biased in other ways too. Like the recent Amnesty report, there is no attempt to draw attention to obvious examples of human rights abuses that follow from legalised abortion. For instance, in Britain children who survive abortion and are delivered alive are left unaided in order to die - deliberately.
If this happened even once it would be outrageous. In one year alone, 66 babies died in this way in the UK. And what has the UN committee to say about this? Nothing.
Nor was any effort made to represent or speak to women who regret their abortions. Abortion regret is a real issue for many women and no one is helped by the continuing failure of many in society to talk about it or even acknowledge its existence.
The recent report by Amnesty and observations by the UN committee were opportunities to do something worthwhile. Those opportunities were missed.
The UN committee's failure to see the right to life as the most fundamental of rights, which must be protected is deeply regrettable. Their ignoring of human rights abuses that arise as a result of abortion and their suppressing of the voices of women and parents who value life at all stages is scandalous.
What both should have done was accurately cite the relevant international law in the area while also acknowledging the founding principle underlying human rights protections: where there are human beings, there are human rights.
Dr Ruth Cullen is a clinical psychologist and an educational officer for the Pro Life Campaign