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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

Human rights
Universal and inviolable human rights are the basis of civilised society

The right to life of every human person from conception to natural death lies at the foundation of all authentic human rights. There is no such thing as right to abortion anywhere in the international law. On the contrary, all UN foundational documents uphold the dignity of every human life, no matter how young or old.

The Universal Bill of Human Rights consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976) and their optional protocols. The UDHR has served as the foundation for a number of national and international laws protecting and promoting human rights. The Declaration is founded upon the notion that there are authentic human values and these values are vested in every human individual, because of their "inherent dignity".

In the Preamble the Declaration states that "the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world" is the "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family". Further, the Preamble links human dignity, human values with human rights that it describes as "inalienable rights", rights of which we may not be deprived and cannot deprive ourselves. These human rights which reflect human values must, says the Preamble, "be protected by the rule of law" otherwise humankind may be driven, "as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression".

Universal right to life

As you can see in the quotes to the right, human life is held to be both inviolable and inalienable. Noting the order of the rights articulated is also important – life first, then freedom [liberty], and then security of person. Unless the State can guarantee the right to life then there are no meaningful rights to freedom or to security of person. The right to life is logically prior to considerations of the quality of the individual's life.

The question of whether UN documents were written with the intention of protecting all human life from the moment of conception is hotly debated and attempts to interpret them in the light of anti life ideology have increased.

The answer to this question, however, is clear from the Declaration on the Rights of the Child (1959) that sets out the Parameters, quoting the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Declaration of Geneva (1924):

  • WHEREAS the United Nations has, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status,
  • WHEREAS the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth,
  • WHEREAS the need for such special safeguards has been stated in the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child of 1924, and recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the statutes of specialized agencies and international organizations concerned with the welfare of children,

The preambular paragraphs of this declaration made in 1959 thus claim that the right to life is protected before as well as after birth and that the need for special safeguards to secure this right has actually been recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Human rights
The human rights of children in the womb are being unjustly denied

Rights of the Child

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was specifically written to protect every human being from conception onward. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation on this subject. It is not unusual to hear such claims as, "The Working Group made a compromise that allowed each State to do decide for itself the meaning of 'human being' in Article 1" or, "The CRC does not apply prior to birth." Those statements are untrue.

The Right to Health, in Article 24, expressly gives children rights during the entire pre-natal period:

  1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health...
  2. States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right, in particular, shall take appropriate measures: [...] (d) To ensure appropriate pre-natal ... health care for mothers. (Article 24; italics added.)

Pre-natal care therefore is given for the benefit of both the child and the mother, and the wellbeing of each is tied to the wellbeing of the other. The two beneficiaries of healthcare are recognized in the 1959 UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child:

The child ... shall be entitled to grow and develop in health; to this end, special care and protection shall be provided both to him and to his mother, including, adequate pre-natal and post-natal care. (Principle Four).

Interpretation and inconsistency

Children need special protection and care during the entire pre-natal period -- as stated in the Declaration, and as universally recognized in the life-cycle understanding of our existence --, and they need legal protection during this period to help ensure they receive the special care. This gives unborn children legal protection under international law. The interpretation that excludes them produces an inconsistency between the different parts of the Declaration, so it must be rejected.

While the text of this and other conventions are clear, various UN Committees have, however, set about expansion and/or reinterpretation of convention texts by issuing General Comments that are reviewed with certain intervals.

SPUC's most recent submission to the UN Human Rights Committee for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the preparation of a new General Comment on Article 6 (regarding right to life) is available here: https://www.spuc.org.uk/documents/submission_article_6_of_the_iccpr

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Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 3)

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 6)

Every child has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life