“IT is a dark day in the world,” writes Austin Ruse, the president of the US-based Center for Family Life (C-Fam) in last week’s Friday Fax from New York.
Austin is an old friend who monitors 24/7 what’s happening to policies and laws on human life, the family and marriage in the United Nations and around the world. Last week, he and his colleague Stefano Gennarini, J.D. reported that the United Nations committee on human rights in Geneva has proclaimed, in a legal commentary, that the unborn child is not covered by the “right to life” in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
It is not known how the Philippine permanent representative to the United Nations in New York or in Geneva reacted to it, but this should have given President Rodrigo Duterte a chance to go to town against the committee for its obvious disregard of a fundamental human right. Although DU30 is not known as a pro-life and pro-family advocate, the committee decision gives him an opportunity to even up the score against the UN-based critics of his human rights record.
The critics’ turn
The shoe is clearly on the other foot; shouldn’t he take full advantage of it?
The last Philippine permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, who used to work closely with pro-life and pro-family workers at UN headquarters, would certainly have intervened strongly in defense of the unborn. I am eager to hear that Ambassador Teddy Locsin in New York, and Ambassador Evan Garcia in Geneva did not allow this committee decision to go unopposed. It is not too late for DU30’s voice to be heard. Let him for once criticize his own critics on human rights.
The ICCPR is perhaps the most important human rights treaty in history, adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1966 and in force since three months after the deposit of its 35th instrument of ratification or accession on March 23, 1976. As of February this year, it already had 169 state parties plus six more without ratification.
Although it holds its sessions in Geneva, it is not the same as the UN Human Rights Council based in Geneva, which has recently criticized DU30 for his murderous war on drugs. Its task is to monitor the ICCPR and review reports of state parties on the implementation of civil and political rights.
Who’ll protect the unborn?
Article 6 of the treaty protects “the life of every human being in every stage of its development as the inherent dignity of a human person starts with the very first moment of its existence.” It is a supreme right from which no derogation can be permitted, which must be interpreted widely and protected by law. It requires parties to take positive measures to reduce infant mortality, prevent arbitrary killing by security forces, and increase life expectancy.
While not specifically prohibiting the death penalty, it restricts its application to the most serious crimes and forbids its use on children and pregnant women or in a manner contrary to the Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Wikipedia).
The treaty does not exclude the unborn or the terminally ill from protection, nor does it include a “right” to abortion or euthanasia. But concerted efforts on the part of more than 100 governments and pro-life organizations, which include the US, Russia, Australia, Egypt, Poland and Malta, to prevent the committee, chaired by Japan, from issuing the commentary have failed to do so.
The 18 committee members unanimously agreed on a text that is more extreme than previous ones.
A US coalition
Last October, a bipartisan coalition of 51 members of the US Congress, led by Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, wrote the committee saying, “As lawmakers, we believe we have the duty to protect the weak, disenfranchised, unwanted and vulnerable from violence and abuse. Therefore we write to affirm that the most elemental right of all—the right to life—includes unborn children.
Smith is a well-known pro-life and pro-family advocate who has carried his fight for human life and the family to the halls of Congress, especially during the time of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Hillary, who eventually lost the last presidential election to Donald Trump, defined women’s rights as reproductive rights, which include the right to abortion.
I have visited with Smith a few times on Capitol Hill and had the privilege of hosting him in a meeting with pro-life advocates on one of his Philippine visits. He packs a powerful message, but apparently the US congressmen’s statement had no effect on the committee’s position.
No one expressed concern for the children in the womb capable of feeling pained or brought up the Convention on the Rights of the Child, reports Gennarini. The Convention expressly requires states to protect children before birth. Several American and European academics—including professor Olivier de Frouville of France, Yuval Shany of Israel, Sarah Cleveland of the US, and Mauro Politi of Italy, among others—-were reported to have exerted considerable influence on the committee decision.
They argued that abortion should be “affordable” and “effective” for women who have been raped or disabled and for mothers whose lives are at risk. The Japanese committee chair Yuji Iwasawa showed impatience and sought to rush the deliberation, saying the issues had been thoroughly discussed although there was no public record of the discussions, the report said.
The only notable objection, according to the report, came from the UN committee on disabilities which asked for a rewording of the draft to avoid expressions that demean the disabled. The committee chair agreed to smooth out the verbiage before the document comes back on second reading in March.
The doom of the unborn
Analysts are agreed the commentary is illegal and cannot give rise to any legal obligation on the part of any UN member state. But it could influence the debate on abortion and euthanasia and further sharpen the attack on human life and the family in the secular press. Austin Ruse’s fear is that the committee’s illegal proclamation “will have resonance around the world among radical lawyers, judges and parliamentarians. Quite simply this is a potential death knell for unborn babies,” he said.
Civil Society for the Family, an alliance of more than 180 organizations, including C-Fam, has denounced the committee decision, saying abortion and euthanasia are “hot-button issues that cannot and should not be decided by unelected, unaccountable and mostly obscure committee experts in Geneva.” But this is how fundamental laws on the dignity of human life, the family and marriage have been undermined and corrupted.
At the UN, unelected bureaucrats on certain treaty bodies try to misinterpret certain treaties by assigning to them nonexistent provisions and powers, and then try to influence representatives of member states to change their laws according to their illegal interpretation of these treaties. How many times have some Philippine diplomats been approached by these ideologues with a suggestion that their government change its laws on abortion, which is prohibited by the Constitution and penalized by statute?
Part of the offensive consists in arguing that many former Catholic Christian countries have long legalized abortion, so no predominantly Catholic country could continue to uphold its Catholic tradition against abortion without being regressive. This is a false argument that now belongs in the realm of fake news. The Philippines has no duty to imitate the dechristianization of Euope and other countries; its real duty on the other hand is to promote the rechristianization of the rest of the world.
Victory in Paraguay
Despite the apparent success of the LGBT lobby in the UN, significant victories continue to be made by certain governments in their fight for human dignity in their respective jurisdictions. Very few are as spectacular as the famous June 2015 meeting between Barack Obama and Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta where Obama tried to sell the “gay agenda” to Kenya and Kenyatta politely but firmly told the then-US president that “gay rights” were a “non-issue” in Africa.
But last month, Paraguay’s education ministry issued a resolution explicitly prohibiting the distribution and use of teaching materials based on gender ideology in public schools. Education Minister Enrique Riera said: “We respect diversity but this does not mean we support gender ideology… Gender ideology is a political issue affecting the whole world, but as Paraguayans, we have a clear picture: father, mother, children. There is no other way to say it. ”
This was a victory for pro-family groups that protested the policies of the previous administration forged in cooperation with the “somos gay” (we are gay) crowd. They asked the government to clarify Article 52 of the Paraguay Constitution, which provides: “The union in matrimony of a man and a woman is one of the fundamental components in the formation of a family.” Amnesty International condemned the resolution as an abject submission to the Church, while the national leftist newspaper La Izquierda insisted gender theory should be taught in school to combat premature sex and unwanted pregnancies.
In Costa Rica too
Earlier in Costa Rica, Dr. Marianna Orlandi, also of C-Fam, reports that a delegation of the Hemispheric Congress of Legislators has denounced the government of Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera for trying to introduce same-sex union and institutionalize gender theory in the country bypassing the legislative process. After asking the Inter-American Court on Human Rights for an advisory opinion on same-sex union and gender change in May 2016, Costa Rica began to incline toward the LGBT agenda. The Hemispheric legislators called on the Rivera government to reaffirm the provisions of the American Declaration Regarding the Independence and Self-Determination of Peoples in Matters Relating to Life, Family and Religious Freedom.
This is called the Mexico Declaration, signed by 600 American legislators—all members of the Organization of American States—in June 2016, and rejects “the creation of an alleged international obligation to authorize or subsidize voluntary abortion or expand scenarios where abortion is not punishable; or that limits the right of conscience of those who for serious reasons refuse to cooperate with voluntary abortion; that seeks to alter the definition of marriage as a union between man and woman in the internal legal order of States that are parties to the Convention or that seeks to create an alleged obligation on states to authorize the adoption of children by same-sex couples.”
Pope Francis has described gender ideology as a “utopia,” but certain developments may be sending the wrong signals to pro-life and pro-family workers. In 2013, Jeffrey Sachs, arguably the world’s foremost proponent of population control, was asked to keynote a forum at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, for no clear reason. Despite the scandal this caused, Sachs was asked, again, in May 2015, to co-host and moderate a forum at the Pontifical Academy for Life.
St. John Paul II had created this Academy in 1994, in honor of the French geneticist (Servant of God) Jerome Lejeune (June 26, 1926-April 3, 1994), in order to bring together the various branches of biomedicine to study and provide information and training on the principal problems of law and biomedicine pertaining to the promotion and protection of life, especially as they relate to Christian morality and the directives of the Church’s Magisterium.
Blessed Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae rejects contraception, sterilization and abortion as intrinsically evil. Under then-Bishop (now Cardinal) Elio Sgreccia, its former president and chancellor, the Academy laid down the clear bioethical foundation of this Church teaching. To these sacred precincts, Sachs came after Sgreccia had gone to plead for abortion, the very thing condemned by the Magisterium.