Universal Periodic Review: Europeans pressuring Latin Americans to allow abortion

By Rebecca Oas, Ph.D. | November 18, 2014

El Salvador recently had its turn to receive recommendations from other countries as part of the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which is a mechanism that is supposed to engender positive peer pressure toward meeting human rights obligations as set out in international treaties.

Twelve countries used this platform to pressure El Salvador to change its laws on abortion, removing protections from unborn children and expanding the grounds for legal abortion.

However, the basis of the UPR is human rights treaties, none of which contains or can be rightly interpreted as containing a right to abortion.

The UPR is now in its second round, which concludes in 2016.  However, a look at the recommendations mentioning abortion reveals a disturbing trend:

As this chart shows, the vast majority of recommendations tend toward expanding abortion, both by changing the laws and by liberally interpreting them to make abortion more acceptable and frequent.

However, very few recommendations have been made (and none at all in the first review cycle) to address the persistent problem of sex-selective abortion in countries like India and China.

Furthermore, the pressure is highly concentrated by region:

The vast majority of recommendations to expand abortion and strip away protections for the unborn come from Europe and are targeted at Latin America.  The Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, and Finland) are particularly persistent, with Norway alone accounting for 13% of abortion pressure in the UPR system thus far.

Like the treaty monitoring bodies that have pressured countries to legalize abortion through a faulty interpretation of human rights treaties, the UPR is becoming a pro-abortion echo chamber and risks losing its credibility as a platform for upholding a valid concept of human rights.