"Sexual and reproductive rights" and "reproductive health services" are NOT recognized in international law
- No international human rights treaty includes these terms.
- The terms cannot be accepted under the concept of customary international law and numerous countries continue to object to these terms.
Pro-abortion actors define these terms as including abortion
- A number of non-governmental organizations, UN agencies, Treaty Monitoring Bodies, and countries have defined "reproductive rights" and "reproductive health services" as including abortion.
- Although not based in international law, his definition has gained ground in UN negotiations.
One regional treaty – the Maputo Protocol1 – includes abortion in the definition of "reproductive rights"
- The Maputo Protocol calls on States Parties to "protect the reproductive rights of women by authorizing medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or the life of the mother or the foetus." - Article 14.2(c)
International law includes numerous references to the importance of protecting the unborn
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that, "Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women." – Article 6.5
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that, "the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth." – Preamble
- The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War states that, "The wounded and sick, as well as the infirm, and expectant mothers, shall be the object of particular protection and respect." – Article 16
Chapter VII of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) defines "reproductive rights"
- "[R]eproductive rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognized in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus documents. These rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. It also includes their right to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence, as expressed in human rights documents." – Paragraph 7.3
Chapter XIII of the ICPD lists the components of "reproductive health services"
- "In the basic reproductive health services component - information and routine services for prenatal, normal and safe delivery and post-natal care; abortion (as specified in paragraph 8.25); information, education and communication about reproductive health, including sexually transmitted diseases, human sexuality and responsible parenthood, and against harmful practices; adequate counselling; diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and other reproductive tract infections, as feasible; prevention of infertility and appropriate treatment, where feasible; and referrals, education and counselling services for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, and for pregnancy and delivery complications" – Paragraph 13.14(b)
The ICPD makes clear that abortion is not to be promoted as a method of family planning
- "Governments should take appropriate steps to help women avoid abortion, which in no case should be promoted as a method of family planning, and in all cases provide for the humane treatment and counselling of women who have had recourse to abortion." – Paragraph 7.24
Most importantly, the ICPD states that it is the sovereign right of a State to determine its own laws on abortion and all references to abortion in the document are subject to this right
- "Any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process." – Paragraph 8.25
The ICPD reaffirms the importance of state sovereignty in its Principles
- "The implementation of the recommendations contained in the Programme of Action is the sovereign right of each country, consistent with national laws and development priorities, with full respect for the various religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds of its people, and in conformity with universally recognized international human rights." – Chapter II, Principles
ACTION POINTS FOR UN DELEGATES
- Call for the deletion of "sexual and reproductive rights" and "reproductive health services" from all UN texts
- Example from the Rio+20 draft outcome document "The Future We Want" (A/RES/66/288)
"We are committed to promote the equal access of women and girls to education, basic services, economic opportunities and health care services, including addressing women's sexual and reproductive health
and rights, and ensuring universal access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable modern methods of family planning." – Paragraph 241
- Call for the insertion of the Sovereignty Clause in all potentially controversial UN texts.2
- Example from the 46th Session of the Commission on Population and Development "New trends in migration: demographic aspects" (E/2013/25 E/CN.9/2013/7)
"Further reaffirms the sovereign right of each country to implement the recommendations of the Programme of Action or other proposals in the present resolution, consistent with national laws and development priorities, with full respect for the various religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds of its people, and in conformity with universally recognized international human rights" – Paragraph 3
Recall the importance of ICPD Paragraph 8.25 — it is the right of states, not the UN, to determine laws on abortion!
1This text was adopted by the African Union in the form of a protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. Of the 46 signatories, only 30 States ratified the protocol. Botswana, Egypt, Eritrea, and Tunisia did not sign. Five countries expressed reservations with regard to Article 14 on "Health and Reproductive Rights."
2The Sovereignty Clause was included in the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Commission on Population and Development outcome documents.