By Samantha Singson

  NEW YORK, March 27, 2008 ( The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) just released a new and updated version of their “signature” document that uses the non-binding recommendations of UN committees to argue that sovereign nations must legalize abortion as part of their international legal obligations.  “Bringing Rights to Bear ” claims that these recommendations reflect “the growing recognition among these UN bodies that reproductive rights are firmly grounded in international human rights treaties.”

  For years, CRR has been at the forefront of a what some have called a “stealth strategy” to redefine longstanding human rights like the right to life, the right to privacy and the right to be free from discrimination and insert abortion rights into those broad provisions.  An integral component of the CRR strategy is to get the UN committees that oversee nations’ compliance with their treaty obligations to reinterpret the treaties to include abortion. 

  UN compliance committees contain a large percentage of personnel from pro-abortion groups and have become increasingly active in reinterpreting UN documents and pressuring governments to follow their interpretations.

“Bringing Rights to Bear” catalogues the successes of the CRR strategy and cites numerous examples of UN committees calling for legalized abortion and widespread access to contraception.  Unlike the treaties themselves, the recommendations of the treaty monitoring bodies are non-binding, but the CRR paper argues that these non-binding recommendations must be used to “guide governments and advocates in further promoting human rights,” including abortion.  CRR calls for using these non-binding committee recommendations “to support legal challenges in national, regional, and international human rights institutions.”

  The CRR document urges the UN committees to continue to “emphasize that abortion should be a safe and legal option for women in the case of an unwanted pregnancy, even where there is a disproportionate reliance on abortion due to the limited availability of contraceptive methods.” 

  The document also urges the committees to issue detailed directions to tell states “how to overcome barriers to [contraceptive] access, such as lack of availability to certain methods, legal restrictions on contraception, excessive regulation (including requirements for third-party authorization), cost, lack of or inadequate insurance coverage, and coercion in the reproductive health context.”

  Even though CRR and its allies call for these reinterpretations, in fact only the most recent UN human rights treaty, on the rights of persons with disabilities, mentions “sexual and reproductive health,” and only with the strict understanding that the term does not include abortion.

  The left wing group Human Rights Watch notes that since 1995 there have been over 100 instances where the UN committees have pressed over 65 nations to legalize or increase access to abortion. Recently, though, some governments have begun to push back at the committees and stand up for their pro-life laws.

  CRR is one of the most influential abortion advocacy groups at the United Nations and works worldwide to mount legal challenges to abortion laws.  CRR’s “expert litigation committee” and board of advisors include three UN special rapporteurs, as well as the former head of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Nafis Sadik.

  The CRR will release briefing papers on maternal mortality as well as marriage and private life as part of its revised “Bringing Rights To Bear” series.


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