To listen to some abortion advocates over the past few days, you would be forgiven for thinking that we were dealing with a court with full jurisdiction and authority over Ireland. This is not the case. The UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) is simply that – a Committee. It does not have the right to impose its views on Ireland.
The Committee came to its conclusion based on its interpretation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and specifically Article 7. That provides that “no-one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”. This is the headline which is receiving blanket coverage in the Irish media and is being used by abortion advocates to push the case for a referendum to remove the 8th Amendment which guarantees that unborn babies have an equal right to life under Irish law.
There are two important points to be borne in mind.
The first is that the HRC simply doesn’t have credibility to discuss “torture” in the abortion issue. This is because of how it constantly ignores other instances that would stand out as examples of extreme torture, caused by the abortion procedure. For example, the case of babies who survive abortions when they’re not meant to. Melissa Ohden spoke about this sick phenomenon in Dublin last weekend and the situation where, (in her words), “babies born alive after botched abortions are abandoned as they gasp for breath and struggle to stay alive.”
This happened to 66 babies in one year alone according to official records in England and Wales. It happened to over 400 babies in Canada over a 10 year period. This type of inhumane treatment of newborn babies amounts to “torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” by anyone’s reckoning – except maybe the HRC. They have certainly never publicly challenged this practice. They have never criticised the countries that have allowed this horrific abuse to take place. They have simply stayed silent.
Silent too has been Amnesty International, who were once a watchdog for all those who threatened the rights of human beings. Instead, they have fallen in line with a twisted notion of “human rights” which allows international bodies to push for laws that will allow lives to be ended.
This brings us to the second reason why everything this Committee says should be considered as a partisan comment. They don’t look at the bigger picture. There is no mention in their report of any rights that unborn babies might have. As far as the HRC is concerned, the baby’s rights count for nothing. This is despite the fact that Article 6.1 of the ICCPR states that “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”
This is a very strong statement of the right to life of “every human being”, and one that doesn’t distinguish between “born” and “unborn” human beings. Article 6.5 provides for the death penalty to be imposed on some individuals but notes that it is not to be carried out on pregnant women. Regardless of how you feel about the death penalty (and I oppose it), anyone reading this section of the ICCPR will see that its authors made a distinction between pregnant women, and non-pregnant women. They recognised that there was another human being involved – an unborn baby who could not have taken part in any crime and who should not have their life ended via the death penalty.
The Preamble to the ICCPR talks about how “the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”
Yesterday’s comments prove just how far the HRC have drifted from genuine human rights. Their viewpoint is so narrow that they have completely ignored the Article in the ICCPR which highlights the most basic human right, the right to life. The unborn baby doesn’t even get a look in. His or her rights are completely ignored. There is no attempt to acknowledge the fact that a pregnant woman and her baby are two individuals who are each entitled to rights under the law.
The Irish Constitution doesn’t have this kind of narrow focus. Thanks to the 8th Amendment, it protects the lives of all human beings in Ireland. In that sense, it is far more in line with the true intention of the ICCPR and what should be the goal of international human rights protection the world over – protecting the lives of every human being, born and unborn. It’s a sad state of affairs when this kind of positive protection is criticised by a Committee claiming to speak out for human rights.