UN Working Group’s Attack on Pro-Life Values
Monday, June 25, 2018

The Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice, established by the Human Rights Council in 2011, issued its latest report and attacks what it labels an “alliance of conservative political ideologies and religious fundamentalisms,” that it charges is responsible for “unprecedented pushback” and “retrogressions” in the area of women’s rights “often in the name of culture, religion and traditions, and threaten the hard-fought progress in achieving women’s equality.”

The report is critical of pro-lie efforts against abortion and states, “It is in this context of rising fundamentalisms and backlashes against women’s rights that the current discourse on women’s sexual and reproductive rights is taking place at the international level. Too many women are being deprived of their sexual and reproductive health and rights.”

“The right of a woman or girl to make autonomous decisions about her own body and reproductive functions is at the very core of her fundamental right to equality and privacy, involving intimate matters of physical and psychological integrity, and is a precondition for the enjoyment of other rights.”

The Working Group, composed of unelected and non-paid individuals, further asserts its opinion that the right to life begins at birth and portrays it as accepted fact not the fiction that it is:

“In the current discourse, the need to put women’s human rights at the centre of policy considerations regarding termination of their pregnancy is being obfuscated by the rhetoric and political power behind the argument that there is a symmetrical balance between the rights of two entities: the woman and the fetus. However, there is no such contestation in international human rights law. It was well established in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and upheld in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that the human rights accorded under international human rights law are accorded to those who have been born.”

The Working Group calls on Member States to: “Ensure respect for women’s rights to make decisions about their own bodies and to receive comprehensive sexuality education so they can enjoy their right to sexual and reproductive health, including safe, legal and affordable access to contraception and termination of pregnancy.”

A more formal working arrangement within the UN system is sought as the Working Group seeks to: Ensure that the Working Group can contribute meaningfully to the work of the Commission on the Status of Women, including by institutionalizing the Working Group’s formal reporting before the Commission and by participating in the Expert Group Meeting that precedes each Commission session.

Internationally, the WG portrays pro-life organizations as anti-women’s human rights and speaks directly to abortion-minded organizations as it recommends that “civil society find synergies between the progressive movements defending women’s rights and strive to reconcile diverse objectives with a view to advancing common priorities and strategically challenging those fundamentalist actors who oppose gender equality” and “recommends that national human rights institutions leverage their unique position in the national human rights machinery and act as a bridge between Members States and international human rights mechanisms.”

The WG attacks culture, religion, and sovereignty and their use during negotiations on at the UN: “International human rights bodies and United Nations entities need to guard against the current backlash in order to ensure that the human rights legal framework is not undermined. The human rights community should make every effort to block any position in international human rights spaces that endorses patriarchal and discriminatory norms, misusing culture, religion and State sovereignty as fallacious justifications. Women’s human rights are fundamental rights that cannot be subordinated to cultural, religious or political considerations.”

A study by the pro-abortion Association of Women in Development (AWID)—Rights at Risk—attacks the work of pro-life and pro-family organizations working at the UN and is referenced by the WG which agrees with its radical views.  According to the WG report: As reported in a study on the impact of conservative actors in the international arena, there have been concerted efforts to water down existing agreements and commitments and to introduce regressive language in international human rights documents. There have also been attempts to undermine United Nations agencies, treaty monitoring bodies and special procedures. Anti-rights actors’ discourses and strategies have led to deadlock in negotiations and had a substantive impact on the human rights framework and the progressive interpretation of human rights standards, especially those relating to gender equality and sexuality.

In its conclusions, the WG announced that it would strengthen “cooperation and alliances with international and regional human rights bodies, working more closely with regional and grass-roots organizations and continuing its efforts to improve its outreach to all stakeholders.”

PNCI reported last month that the chair of the Working Group Ivana Radačić from Croatia, sent a letter to the Foreign Minister of Argentina on the day of the vote to legalize abortion in the Chamber of Deputies calling for access to abortion and took aim at religious values and beliefs claiming that “in accordance with international human rights law, religious arguments are not allowable to prevent the adoption of bills because this would violate the human right to religious freedom”.