Abortion advocates on the UN anti-torture committee hectored Vatican representatives for two days running in Geneva this week, insisting that opposing abortion is tantamount to torture and therefore a violation of international law.
On Tuesday the Vatican rep pushed back hard.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told committee members, “The Holy See condemns the torture of anyone, including those tortured and killed before they are born.” This was a pointed comment to a committee manned largely by outspoken abortion advocates.
“Late-term abortion constitutes torture,” he said to Felice Gaer, an American and vice-chairman of the committee. Tomasi went on to charge Canada and the United Kingdom with torture for allowing late-term abortions from which children who survive are left to die without medical attention.
Gaer, a fierce abortion advocate, remained “concerned” about the teaching of the Catholic Church on abortion. “Women should have the right to choose abortion,” she told Tomasi. Another committee member compared the Church’s position to “psychological torture.”
Tomasi warned the committee about interfering with freedom of religion, one of the fundamental human rights from the Universal Declaration and insisted the Church has no power to impose its teachings on anyone, including Catholics.
The UN Convention Against Torture is silent on abortion. It does not even mention “reproductive health,” a phrase often used to promote abortion. No UN treaty mentions abortion, and only one mentions reproductive health, yet members of the treaty monitoring system decided years ago to try and force a right to abortion onto signatories of various treaties including the Treaty on the Rights of Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention Against Torture.
Some of the committee members seemed slightly cowed by public criticism of their abortion advocacy. George Tugushi, from the country of Georgia, said, “We all know the position of the Holy See on abortion.” He said the committee was mostly concerned about women being stigmatized after having an abortion.
The committee chairman, Claudio Grossman, denied having any conflict of interest or lack of impartiality even though he is an outspoken supporter of same-sex marriage and abortion.
Tomasi met head-on the issue of sex abuse of minors by priests, saying the Church has instituted strict guidelines for the protection of children and strong reporting requirements for any accusation. He insisted any such abuse also did not rise to the definition of torture in the treaty.
On Vatican radio last week Tomasi warned against “ideological attacks” against the Catholic Church and said the committee would harm itself if it showed any bias.
The committee will release its report on the Holy See by the end of May. Veteran UN watchers expect the committee to release a harsh report including criticism of issues not in the treaty.
Additional reporting by Stefano Gennarini.