Irish Pro-Life Leader Tells UN Unborn Children Deserve Human Rights

Cora Sherlock, Deputy Chairwoman of the Pro Life Campaign, yesterday told the United Nations Human Rights Committee (the Human Rights Committee) that the idea human rights treaties can be interpreted to allow a right to abortion is “completely without foundation”. The pro-life campaigner made the presentation during a discussion of Article 6 (The Right to Life) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Irish Times reports that in her submissions to the Geneva-based organisation Ms Sherlock stated that claims human rights treaties can be interpreted to allow a right to abortion are unsupported.  She said:

“The right to abortion is not supported by the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights which recognises the right to life, liberty and the security of the person. Additionally, the Convention on the Rights of the Child states in its Preamble that the Child ‘needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth’.”

Ms. Sherlock described as “regrettable” past criticism from the Human Rights Committee of Ireland’s pro-life stance on abortion, established in the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, by which the State acknowledges “the right to life of the unborn”.

She said the committee had a “duty to protect life” not to seek “to pressure countries to remove human rights from certain sections of society”. She added:

“The unborn child is a living human being and is entitled to all of the same rights as other members of the human family. It does not make sense to remove the fundamental right to life from an entire group of human beings. I hope the Human Rights Committee will reflect on its duty to comply with the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which when properly applied should act to protect human life especially the most vulnerable.”

Life News reports that speaking about her experience afterwards, Ms Sherlock said the UN also heard devastating testimony from other groups who spoke about the millions of lives lost to abortion and the effect it had on women.

“Throughout the morning we heard testimonies from groups like Silent No More who spoke courageously about how abortion has damaged their lives.  One woman broke down in tears when speaking of how she regretted her abortion. Another participant called for a minute’s silence for the millions of babies who have lost their lives to abortion. It was a chilling reminder of the number of people who have not been given the chance to be born.”

Ms Sherlock’s appearance in Geneva comes at a time of renewed attacks on Ireland’s abortion laws. Emboldened by the ‘Yes’ vote in the gay marriage referendum, campaigners have stepped up their efforts to liberalise abortion. For example, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty said:

“The recent Marriage Equality referendum showed a country that prides itself on being an open and inclusive society, but all is not well in the Republic of Ireland. The human rights of women and girls are violated on a daily basis because of a constitution that treats them like child-bearing vessels.”

However, not all pro-abortion campaigners believe the marriage referendum necessarily predicts a win for their side. Suzanne Moore writing in The Guardian stated her belief that “it is easier for people to accept gay marriage than the reproductive rights of women” pointing to the fact that in the US “some Republican senators are coming round to equal marriage but remain staunchly anti-abortion.”  

The idea that just because someone voted for gay marriage to pass in a referendum must mean they also favour abortion rights is, Moore says “a glitch in the matrix of liberal thinking.”

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