GENEVA, April 5, 2013 ( – National delegates to the March 7 meeting of the UN Human Rights Council have rejected a report prepared on the “right of the child to the highest attainable standard of health,” after being warned by pro-life campaigners that it was a threat to parental rights and undermined their ability to protect children.

Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) described the report by Navanethem Pillay, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, as “appalling” in its efforts to push abortion as part of a comprehensive strategy for children’s health.

A significant bloc of national delegates refused to endorse the report, including the African Group, which issued a statement saying that “hazardous behaviors among children, such as sexual activity among minors and drug use, should not be a justification to normalize these practices and accept them.”


The Egyptian delegate told the meeting that his country's officials “express their deepest disappointment at the report.”

“Instead of providing a contribution to global and national efforts, the report presents a high-risk and culturally insensitive approach that disregards the priorities of the developing countries and departs from the main legal frame of reference embodied in” the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he said.

Delegates were warned in an analysis by Patrick Buckley, SPUC’s international affairs officer at the UN and EU, that the report “set out an agenda” for children’s health that highlighted “comprehensive sexuality education” and access to “confidential sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services” that included abortion.

SPUC director John Smeaton said that the defeat of the report is “a sign of better things to come – and shows what can be done when well-informed lobbying combines with the activities of nations, however weak they may be geopolitically, who are doing their best together to resist the population control imperialistic agenda of powerful western nations.”

The Human Rights Council described Pillay’s report as focusing on “child mortality, health challenges experienced by sexually exploited children, non-communicable diseases, mental health, children’s access to and quality of health care, and sexual and reproductive health.”

Buckley said it “attacks cultural norms and parental rights,” including parental consent laws, saying that these constitute “barriers” to SRH services. It encouraged states “to review national laws and policies” and amend them to secure the “right of the child to health” including the “removal of barriers relating to comprehensive sexual and reproductive information and services.”

The report cited concerns of the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child about the impact of “highly restrictive abortion laws” on adolescent girls. The Committee had, it said, requested states “to review their legislation on abortion with a view to ensuring that it is in full compliance with the best interests of the child, including by ensuring that single adolescent mothers are allowed access to safe abortions.”

During the panel discussion at the March 7 meeting, delegates were told that “reproductive health services” – always understood at the UN as a euphemism for artificial contraception, abortion and sterilization – were required as part of children’s health programs because 10 percent of all pregnancies were among girls under the age of 18 years, and 30 percent of all maternal deaths occurred in that group.

Speakers underlined the importance of “awareness-raising initiatives” on the right of the child to “the provision of sexual education” and the “dissemination of information on sexual and reproductive health.”

Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General for Family, Women and Children’s Health at the World Health Organization, said that “even if the right of the child to health was guaranteed by national constitutions, in many countries it was still not translated into a concrete package of services and benefits.”

Ignacio Packer, Secretary-General of Terre des Hommes International Federation, added that efforts to create universal health coverage for low and middle income countries had to focus “on the mother, child and reproductive health.” Selina Amin, representing Plan International Bangladesh, said that “comprehensive sexual education should be provided to children and adolescents as part of the school curriculum.”

The only mention of a dissenting opinion in the UN’s own summary of the debate was that of the national delegate from Syria, who is recorded as saying that the report’s emphasis on abortion “undermined the role and responsibilities of parents and did not take into account the dangers of such practices.”

But Buckley reports that the African Group delegates, the Arab Group and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) together with a number of individual states rejected the report claiming that its author had “exceeded her mandate.”

“During the debate,” Buckley said, “the African Group of member nations told the meeting it had been looking forward to the report but that it had concluded it presents a high-risk and culturally insensitive prescription that disregards the priorities of developing countries and departs from the main legal frame of reference embodied in Article 24 of Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

The statement from the African Group said, “The family is the natural and fundamental base unit of society and should be perceived as a valuable asset in protecting children’s rights.”

“Against this backdrop, we are alarmed by how the report tackled the issue of seeking information, education, and counselling by children in a way that severely violated the principle of the responsibilities, rights, and duties of parents in guiding and upbringing their children according to their evolving capacities, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and its related educational curricula,” it added.

The Egyptian delegate also said, “The family is instrumental in protecting children’s rights. Henceforth, we are alarmed that the report tackled the issue of information, education, healthcare services, and counselling by children in clear departure from the principle of the role of parents in guiding and upbringing their children.”