Vatican Refuses to Sign UN Disabilities Rights Treaty over Pro-Abortion Language

By John-Henry Westen

  UNITED NATIONS, December 14, 2006 ( - Abortion advocates have for years battled with pro-life activists at the United Nations to get the controversial terms “sexual and reproductive health” rights included within an international treaty, since it has been interpreted by some nations as including a right to abortion.  Abortion advocates won their battle yesterday, but not by any means the war. 

  Yesterday, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the first new human rights treaty of the twenty-first century called the “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

  The Assembly approved the convention despite its mentioning the right to “sexual and reproductive health” services to be made available to persons with disabilities.  Speaking from inside the United Nations complex, Sam Singson of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute told that the battle would now move to the implementation of the convention where pro-life activists at the UN will work to ensure no nation is pushed to legalize abortion based on the Disabilities Convention.

  Singson explained that the “spirit of the document” was decisively against an interpretation of “sexual and reproductive health” as inclusive of abortion.  Fifteen nations made interpretive statements on the term “sexual and reproductive health” noting that it did not include abortion, with no nation contradicting that interpretation.

  Moreover, the Convention in article 10, guarantees the “right to life” for the disabled.  It states that nations which sign on to the convention “reaffirm that every human being has the inherent right to life and shall take all necessary measures to ensure its effective enjoyment by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.”

  The Holy See (Vatican) representative pointed out the irony in its statement on the adoption of the Convention.  “We opposed the inclusion of such a phrase in this article,” said the Holy See representative, “because in some countries reproductive health services include abortion, thus denying the inherent right to life of every human being, affirmed by article 10 of the convention.”

  The Marshall Islands said that rather than interpreting the convention as allowing abortion it would interpret it as denying abortion and euthanasia.  The delegate from the Marshall Islands noted that his country interpreted the ‘right to life’ as laid out in article 10 as “guarantee[ing] the right to life of disabled persons from the moment of conception, throughout their natural lives . . . until their natural deaths.” 

  In addition to the Marshall Islands and the Holy See, the United States, Canada, Peru, Honduras, Uganda, Egypt, Iran, Nicaragua, Libya, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Syria, and El Salvador noted their interpretations of the phrase ‘sexual and reproductive health’ as not including abortion.

  The US representative stated: “[T]he United States understands that the phrase ‘reproductive health’ in Article 25(a) of the draft Convention does not include abortion, and its use in that Article does not create any abortion rights, and cannot be interpreted to constitute support, endorsement or promotion of abortion. We stated this understanding at the time of adoption of the Convention in the Ad Hoc Committee, and note that no other delegation suggested a different understanding of this term.”

  The final speaker on the matter of the convention was the Holy See representative Archbishop Celestino Migliore who said that the Vatican could not sign the Convention since the language which could imply a right to abortion was not removed.  “It is surely tragic,” said the Archbishop, “that, whenever fetal defect is a precondition for offering or employing abortion, the same convention created to protect persons with disabilities from all discrimination in the exercise of their rights, may be used to deny the very basic right to life of disabled unborn persons.”  Archbishop Migliore added, “For this reason, and despite the many helpful articles this Convention contains, the Holy See is unable to sign it.”

  Concluding, the Archbishop said, “My delegation considers that the positive potential of this convention will only be realized when national legal provisions and implementation by all parties fully comply with article 10 on the right to life of disabled persons.”

  The wording of the Convention is available online here:

FREE pro-life and pro-family news.

Stay up-to-date on the issues you care about the most. Sign up today!

Select Your Edition:

You can make a difference!

Can you donate today?

Share this article