It is well known in the pro-life movement that the pro-choice/anti-life lobby at the United Nations has been advocating for sexual and reproductive health and rights for many years. The organizations that promote this agenda behave like termites, working to erode and demolish abortion restrictions in any and all countries in order to accomplish their ultimate goal of “abortion on request”—as the UN labels abortion on demand.
Those who see life as inviolable from conception to natural death uphold the “right to life,” words that are enshrined in Article 3 of the UN’s own Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” The “other side” interprets the Charter as not applying to the unborn. The former head of the UN Human Rights Council once told me that “a person is not a person until he or she is born.”
Last month, in a panel discussion on women’s rights and faith considerations during the Commission on the Status of Women, the representative of a British non-governmental organization (NGO) uttered a stunning response to a question concerning the innocence of the unborn and abortion. She stated unequivocally and loudly: “There are no fetal rights!”
Such a statement may represent one of the few times ever that an attempt has been made at the UN to negate a right. The gestation period of a human being is assigned to a sort of secular limbo in this novel manner of advocating for the ultimate in reproductive rights.
The defense-of-life argument has shifted to a somewhat different and more difficult tack. Merely wanting to protect the unborn may no longer suffice. The pro-life movement has to confront the challenge of a presumed absence of the pre-born human being’s right to make it to its birthday.
This UN encounter took place at an event discussing the intersecting issues of faith, norms, human rights, and women’s empowerment, and the potential role religious leaders play in helping to change people’s beliefs and traditions. The panelists themselves acknowledged that “conservative religious leaders were listened to” by faith adherents so it was essential to win them over to their cause.
Moreover, they acknowledged that faith-based organizations are significant providers of health- care services around the globe, and that they would dearly love to be able to capture such an extensive distribution system for their own “products and services.” Alas for them, the vast majority of healthcare, especially in poor countries, is provided by innumerable Catholic institutions whose leaders adhere to “Thou shalt not kill,” a mandate that does apply to the fetal stage.
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Vincenzina Santoro is an international economist. She represents the American Family Association of New York at the United Nations.