UN Tries and Fails to Convince Honduras to Legalize Abortion

By | May 4, 2017
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NEW YORK, May 5 (C-Fam) Honduran lawmakers refused to legalize abortion despite intense pressure from UN experts and international abortion activists. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández commented on the failed attempt to lift the 1983 criminal ban on abortion saying, “Only God has the right to take one’s life.”

Last week, article 196 of the new criminal code failed to make it to the Honduran Congress because it failed to make it out of committee. The article intended to legalize abortion in the case of rape, potentially life-threatening circumstances for the mother, and when the unborn child is thought to be fatally impaired.

On Thursday, the article was finally struck down by the Parliament, with a historical pro-life victory: 77 votes in favor, 5 against, and 8 abstentions.

The majority already expressed its intention to keep the law as it is, protecting life in all circumstances. The National party declared its resolute condemnation of any “legislative attempt to decriminalize abortion.” The party’s official statement says, “We believe in God” and “we love and defend life.” Even the Liberal party took the same position. Yuri Sabas, one of the Liberal Party leaders said, “We are a pro-life party.”

But according to national commentators, attempts to legalize abortion in Honduras came under an unprecedented international pressure. UN treaty bodies have been targeting Honduras pro-life laws for a decade.

A plethora of UN committees have come after Honduras claiming international law requires liberal abortion laws. It should be noted that these bodies do not have the authority to create international law including in the area of abortion. Nonetheless, they try.

In 2006, the UN Human Rights Committee charged that Honduras violated international law for its “unduly restrictive legislation on abortion.” It recommended amending Honduran law “to help women.” The UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review and the committee that monitors the UN treaty against torture offered similar recommendations.

Last November, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, using its own 2014 statement on “sexual and reproductive health and rights,” recommended Honduras review its “restrictive interpretation of therapeutic abortion.”  The committee referenced “accepted circumstances under which abortion must be decriminalized,” even though abortion is not a human right.

In Geneva, UN experts issued a UN press release immediately prior to the bill’s final defeat. “Honduras must allow wider scope for legal abortions … so that women and girls can enjoy their full human rights to sexual and reproductive health.”

These experts included the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice, Alda Facio, and Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences. Šimonović claimed that abortion was a human right during her tenure on the CEDAW committee.

The working group further claimed abortion’s decriminalization would “advance women’s and adolescents’ sexual and reproductive rights, in accordance with international human rights standards.” UN member states have never defined or approved “sexual rights.”

The same experts called for the liberalization of the “emergency pill,” and hoped legislators would not let “conservative and fundamentalist groups perpetuate the current legislative deadlock.”

Days ago, Amnesty International called the new bill a “historic opportunity.” According to Amnesty Director for the Americas, Erika Guevara-Rosas, criminalization of abortion is a “violation of human rights.” Human Rights Watch echoed the claim.

Abortion activists promote similar pro-abortion legislation in Chile, El Salvador, and Dominican Republic.