Thursday, October 6, 2011

New Expert Document: No Right To Abortion Under International Law


San Jose Articles launched today at UN headquarters in New York


A new document launched today in New York clarifies once and for all that there is no right to abortion under current international law. The so-called ‘San Jose Articles’ contains nine articles which summarise the position of internationally binding treaties and customary law regarding abortion, drawing the conclusion that a right to abortion does not exist. Sovereign states, therefore, have no international obligation whatsoever to provide their citizens with access to abortion. 


This holds true even for the frequent claim that access to abortion should be provided for health, privacy, sexual autonomy or non-discrimination reasons. 


Despite the absence of a ‘right to abortion’, what legal scholar Mary Ann Glendon calls “rights talk” surrounding abortion has become commonly used language in international institutions such as the UN and the EU. Such rhetoric has become the key instrument used by such institutions to pressure countries around the world into allowing abortion – often against their will.  As recently as a few weeks ago the UN Special Rapporteur on Health, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Secretary General have all said a right to abortion exists. And, according to Human Rights Watch the CEDAW Committee has directed 93 countries to change their laws on abortion. The San Jose Articles strongly condemn such pressure tactics and reminds treaty-monitoring bodies, UN Agencies and non-governmental organizations that by asserting a ‘right to abortion’ they may be acting beyond their authority and contrary to their mandate.  

The purpose of the San Jose Articles is to prepare politicians, diplomats and citizens around the world to counter such assertions and calls on any state encountering abortion rights pressure from UN bodies, EU officials and others to demand accountability from their respective institutional system.  Ambassador Grover Joseph Rees, former US Ambassador to East Timor, said, “When I was in Timor I witnessed first-hand a sustained effort by some international civil servants and representatives of foreign NGOs to bully a small developing country into repealing its pro-life laws. 

The problem is that people on the ground, even government officials, have little with which to refute the extravagant claim that abortion is an internationally recognized human right. The San Jose Articles are intended to help them fight back.” The San Jose Articles were drafted by a group of human rights lawyers, legal scholars, public officials and international policy experts, including Professor Robert P. George and Ambassador Grover Rees, along with Professors Carter Snead and Paolo Carozza, both of Notre Dame Law School. Carozza is also a member of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  They were then negotiated and ratified by 30 experts in international law, public health and public policy from around the world. They include Lord David Alton of the British House of Lords, Lord Nicholas Windsor of the British Royal Family, Professor John Finnis of Oxford University, Carl Anderson (Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, and Giuseppi Benagiano of the World Health Organization and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO). 

The San Jose Articles will be released today at 11 a.m. (local time) at UN headquarters in New York. The European launch will take place in a press conference during the October plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Subsequent press conferences and panel discussions will take place throughout October in London, Madrid, Rome, Strasbourg, Buenos Aires, San Jose, Santiago, Calgary, Washington (DC) and Manila.

For more information, please visit: here (Sanjose articles)


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