Another UN Committee Says Abortion May be a Right, but not on Basis of Disability

By | October 26, 2017

Mrs. Theresia Degener, Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

NEW YORK, October 27 (C-Fam) The UN committee that monitors compliance with the Disabilities Convention stated that nations must provide access to abortion as a human right, but that they should not do so on the basis disabilities alone. Such a distinction stigmatizes disabled people and is a violation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the committee said.

The statement came in response to a draft general comment by another UN committee, the Human Rights Committee (HRC), that recently announced its intention to interpret the right to life article in the 1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights with new meanings. This includes the exclusion of the unborn child from the “right to life,” and the acceptability of euthanasia.

Hundreds of pro-life groups, 51 members of Congress and national governments including the United States weighed in to protest.

The problematic passage of the HRC draft general comment says, “States parties must provide safe access to abortion to protect the life and health of pregnant women, and in situations in which carrying a pregnancy to term would cause the woman substantial pain or suffering, most notably where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or when the foetus suffers from fatal impairment.”

When the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) submitted its concerns, it said the HRC should remove the words, “most notably where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or when the foetus suffers from fatal impairment.” It did not take issue with the rest of the passage.

“Often it cannot be said if an impairment is fatal,” the CRPD Committee explained, “Experience shows that assessments on impairment conditions are often false. Even if it is not false, the assessment perpetuates notions of stereotyping disability as incompatible with a good life.”

The CRPD committee could have gone further and stated that abortion is a violation of the right to life. It could have stated that disabled persons should be protected from abortion altogether. The fact that it did not was disappointing to pro-life advocates who have criticized the general trend by UN experts to reinterpret the treaties with a right to abortion.

One pro-life UN expert told the Friday Fax, “The CRPD committee’s comment exposes the absurd logic of the UN human rights system’s notion of non-discrimination. It says you can perform a eugenic abortion as along as the stated purpose is not eugenic.”

The CRPD committee’s mixed message has proved ineffectual in the past. In 2011 it told Spain to abolish any distinction in its abortion laws on the basis of disability, but like their recent statement, took no issue with abortion in general. Spain ignored the CRPD committee recommendation when it revised its laws in 2015.

The pro-life European Center for Law and Justice saw a silver lining in the CRPD committee’s statement because it directly opposed the HRC’s use of fetal impairment, rape, and incest to push traditional countries to chip away at legal protections for children before birth. The HRC called the protection of a disabled unborn child in Peru “cruel and inhuman.” UN staff and other committees, including the Committee on Torture, have followed suit. The UN Secretary General cited the Peru instance when telling UN member States they were obliged to provide abortion as a right of reparation in situations of armed conflict.