The Daily Signal reported that the memo, or “general comment” on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, called for assisted suicide as well as abortion to be decriminalised globally.
The General comment No. 36 (2018) on article 6 of the Covenant on the right to life, replaces the comments adopted by the Committee in 1982 and 1984.
Countries should “not introduce new barriers and should remove existing barriers [to abortion] … including barriers caused as a result of the exercise of conscientious objection by individual medical providers,” it said.
In other words, if the memo is adopted, it would force doctors to perform the procedure even if they object to it.
Young people should have access to contraception as well as guaranteed access to post-abortion health care “in all circumstances, and on a confidential basis,” the draft stated while the stigma against abortion should be discouraged.
But a Harvard professor and human rights in international law specialist, Mary Ann Glendon, strongly criticised the draft’s proposals. “First of all, the UN Human Rights Committee has no power to create human rights,” Glendon told online publication Crux .
The committee’s assertion that abortion is a “fundamental human right, and its preposterous claim that abortion rights are derived from the right to life … show how susceptible UN bodies are to lobbying by interest groups that would like to see their agenda items recognised as universal rights,” Glendon warned.
Even though the UN comment is not legally binding, it will not prevent the bodies that enforce the treaty, such as the Inter-American Court of Human rights, to apply it when ruling on specific cases.
“Current attempts to expand the category of human rights are undermining the idea of universality,” Glendon explained. “Sadly, they are producing widespread skepticism about the continuing validity of the post-World War II human rights project that brought hope and freedom to millions around the world.”
Last year, the Human Rights Committee successfully ordered the Irish government to pay Siobhan Whelan compensation as well as provide her with psychological treatment because she had to travel to the UK for the procedure. Abortions were illegal in Ireland at the time.
Whelan was the second woman compensated on orders from the UN, post-abortion.
The committee that put forward the draft is headed by former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. Abortions were illegal in Chile until August 2017 when the procedure was legalised in cases of rape, fatal fetal abnormalities, or when the mother’s life was in danger.