International Law and the Right to Abortion

By Piero Tozzi, J.D. | March 3, 2010

Do treaty obligations exist that require governments to liberalize their laws on abortion? An increasing chorus of pro-abortion legal scholars, lawyers and other advocates answer yes. So far, only a few national judges have agreed with this proposition, but we expect many more to fall sway to these purely ideological and legally specious arguments.

While these advocates do not assert that any United Nations (UN) treaty explicitly mentions a right to abortion, they nevertheless claim such treaty obligations exist because of the non-binding comments, conclusions and treaty reinterpretations made by various UN treaty-monitoring bodies. These arguments are part of a coordinated legal attack not only on the unborn child but also on a genuine understanding of human rights, on national sovereignty, and international relations.

The following paper answers and effectively dismantles these claims. This paper will help legal scholars, parliamentarians and others who come under pressure from those making these profoundly harmful claims.

This paper is the first in a two part series on the question of international law and abortion. The second part will explore the question of whether there are treaty obligations to protect the unborn child from abortion. There is a small but growing chorus of pro-life legal scholars and advocates making similar but opposite claims that governments who have ratified various UN treaties are obligated under those treaties to protect the unborn child from abortion.