By Samantha Singson

  NEW YORK, November 16, 2007 ( – Perhaps for the first time ever, a debate about protecting the unborn child from abortion erupted in the UN Third Committee of the General Assembly yesterday. Led by mostly Muslim states, the effort was at least partly an attempt to strike at the efforts of the European Union-led resolution condemning the death penalty.

  Several sponsors of the death penalty resolution argued that the right to life amendments were not in keeping with the main focus of the text and that they were merely introduced to sow confusion and division. The representative of Egypt stated that since the resolution was aimed at respecting life, it was appropriate to widen the scope to include protection of innocent human life. 

  Egypt, Bahrain, Iran, Libya, Kuwait, Mauritania and Sudan sponsored the right to life amendments. Their first amendment calling for a new operative paragraph to be included in the draft text read, “Urges Member States to take all necessary measures to protect the lives of unborn children.”  The amendment was rejected in a recorded vote of 28 for, 83 against with 47 abstentions.

  Egypt’s second amendment called for the inclusion of another paragraph; “Reaffirms that every human being has the inherent right to life and stresses that abortion should only be admissible in necessary cases and only when the life of the mother or child is at serious risk.”  The second amendment was defeated in a recorded vote of 26 for, 84 against with 46 abstentions.

  The Philippines, San Marino, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Gabon, Honduras, Haiti, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Panama stated that they agreed with the substance of the amendments, but as co-sponsors to the death penalty resolution they still did not agree that the amendments were germane to the draft text. Most countries agreed that the right to life issue as presented in the amendments deserved more time for deliberation and consideration and several delegations called for a separate right to life resolution to be brought up at next year’s General Assembly.

  While voting against the resolution as a whole, the United States voted in favor of Egypt’s first amendment. In their explanation of vote, the US agreed that unborn children deserve protection and urged fellow member states to be as scrupulous in regard to protecting unborn life.

  The non-binding resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty was passed in a recorded vote with 99 countries for, 52 against and 33 abstentions.  


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