Posted on | September 30, 2014 by Grégor Puppinck, Ph.D
The Court ruled that it cannot be abusively instrumentalized for strategic litigation.
Andreea Popescu and Grégor Puppinck
On 30 September 2014, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), by nine votes against eight, declared inadmissible the case Gross v. Switzerland on the grounds of abuse of right of petition (article 35 §3 a) of the Convention).
This is an import case, as it was supposed to be a new step towards the recognition of a right to assisted suicide and euthanasia after the Court’s judgments in Pretty v. United Kingdom (No. 2346/02 of 29th April 2002), Haas v. Switzerland (No. 31322/07 of 20th January 2011) and Koch v. Germany (No. 497/09 of 19th July 2012). In the latest, the Court progressively elaborated “an individual’s right to decide by what means and at what point his or her life will end, provided he or she is capable of freely reaching a decision on this question and acting in consequence” (Haas § 51). Fortunately, the case-law of the Court was not further developed in this sense, thus it remaining the same as it was established in Koch v.Germany judgment. The difference between the previous cases and the present one was the fact that the applicant, an elderly woman, who wished to end her life with the support of the state, having access to a lethal dose of a drug in order to commit an assisted suicide, was not suffering for a clinical illness. She was healthy. Therefore, the case was actually about the right to decide to end one’s life with the assistance of the state.
The ECLJ has been authorized by the Court to intervene in the case as third party (amicus curiae) and has submitted a brief to the Second Section. The ECLJ has also recently published a detailed report on “The right to assisted suicide in the case law of the ECHR” in the International Journal of Human Rights.
Previously, the Second Section of the Court, in a highly controversial ruling reached by only four votes against three, decided on 14th May 2013 thatSwitzerland violated the private life of the woman, founding that the national law was not clear enough for the applicant to know whether she can have access to the lethal drug. Fortunately, this ruling is no longer making case‑law on the matter.
On the 7 October 2013, the case was referred to the Grand Chamber upon the request of the Swiss Government. While preparing its new observations, the Government discovered that on the 24 October 2011 the applicant received a prescription for the lethal drug and that on the 10 November 2011 she ended her life. She was dead one year and a half before the judgment of the Second Section. From the facts of the case, we find that the applicant’s lawyer did not know those essential aspects of the case. He affirmed that he accepted to keep the contact with his client through her confident who volunteers for the assisted suicide association EXIT. The applicant herself asked specifically her confident not to inform her lawyer about the prescription and her subsequent death, as she strongly wanted her case to “open the way for other persons in her situation”.
But the Grand Chamber was not dumb. In its judgment, it concluded that the applicant abused her right to petition to the Court, sanctioning severely her behavior. It could have stoke out the case (article 37 § 1 c) – it is no longer justified to continue the examination of the case), as the dissenting judges would have wished, maybe to hide the reality behind such cases, but it didn’t. Thus, the Court sent a clear and strong message, which it is not quite often seen in its judgments on societal issues: one cannot instrumentalize the Court to advance the rights of others, as they are understood by certain lobbies.
To arrive to this conclusion, the Court pointed out a problem in the acceptance of the lawyer of the applicant not to directly communicate with his client, as he was expected not to present deceiving information to the Court. Further, the Court noted that the applicant herself deliberately omitted to inform her lawyer, and implicitly the Court, on her prescription. Moreover, the Court observed that she also took all the necessary safeguards to hide her death, as she wanted to prevent any interruption of the procedure before the Court. Finally, the Court concluded that by those facts the applicant deliberately induced in error her lawyer and the Court on issues related to the core of her complaint at the Court.
Drafting a concurring opinion, judge Silvis would have preferred the Grand Chamber to “suppose” that the applicant deliberately induced the Court in error and not “to establish with enough certainty” that she did, as on his opinion, the reasons for this conclusions were rather subjective than objectives.
The dissenting judges (Spielmann, Ziemele, Berro-Lefèvre, Zupancic, Hajiyev, Tsotsoria, Sicilianos and Keller) interpreted the facts of the case differently. They considered that the required threshold to conclude to an abuse of right to petition was not reached. None of the behaviors (applicant’s, her lawyer’s or her pastor’s) denoted an intention to induce the Court in error. Moreover, they considered that such a reason for declaring the application inadmissible stigmatizes the remembrance of the applicant and sends the message that the present case wasted the Court’s time. Or, according to their opinion, the issue of the assisted suicide is a frequent issue in Europe, especially inSwitzerland, which can generate many applications to the Court. Therefore, it would have deserved to be examined by the Grand Chamber.
In fact, one can appreciate that it is regrettable that the case was not judged by the Grand Chamber, as it could have reconsider the so called right to choose the moment and the way in which one can end his life, right which was already elaborated in the previous Chamber judgments. ECLJ hopes that the Grand Chamber will be addressed with new such cases, as such “right” cannot be affirmed in Chamber judgments. On important matters, it is to the Grand Chamber to pronounce a judgment. Maybe Lambert and others v. France case will give this opportunity to the Grand Chamber. As this case is pending before the Fifth Section, the Court may decide to refer it to the Grand Chamber, given the particular circumstances of this case, the novelty of the legal questions, the significant attention of the media that it enjoys and the desire of the Court to examine it with priority. A favorable Grand Chamber judgment to preserve the life of Vincent Lambert has the advantage of being final. On the contrary, a Grand Chamber judgment in favor of those who want to see him dead, cannot be further contested by the parties and could be immediately executed.
On a general basis, ECLJ considers that this case shows the way the Court is used by certain applicants to advance the rights of others. The Court is not used for purposes of justice, but for political ones, in order to change the national norms. It is because the Court acquired this political supranational role that the applicant lied in the present case.
The European Citizens’ Initiative ONE OF US challenges the European institutions before the General Court of the European Union
Posted on | September 30, 2014 by Grégor Puppinck, Ph.D
Grégor Puppinck, PhD, President of the Citizens’ Committee.
On July 25th 2014, the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) ONE OF US lodged an application before the General Court of the European Union (Luxembourg) against the European Commission, the Council of the EU, and the European Parliament, asking for the annulment of the Commission Communication COM (2014) 355 final by which the Commission had decided not to transmit the One of Us legislative proposal to the European Parliament and to the Council, and the annulment of Article 10 (1) (c) of Regulation (EU) No 211/2011.
On the 28th of May, the former “Barroso Commission” vetoed the Citizens’ Initiative “ONE OF US”, the largest petition in the history of European institutions. This initiative, formally supported by almost two million people inEurope, is the largest petition in European history. It demands thatBrussels no longer finances any practice that destroys human life before birth.
In the application before the Tribunal, ONE OF US alleges the absence of appropriate answer to the European Initiative One Of Us’ legislative proposition and to the issues raised by the Initiative
- The Commission does not respond to the assertion that the human embryo is a human being;
- It wrongfully dismisses the CJEU decision C-34/10 Oliver Brüstle v Greenpeace e.V of 18 October 2011 though it is fully relevant to the definition of the status of the embryo;
- Obvious contradictions are not addressed:
- Research on the embryo is said not to be ‘encouraged’ but research presupposing the destruction of embryos is financed;
- Since the ‘triple lock’ system does not guarantee any specific ethical safeguard,
- Countries with the least protective ethical measures are financially favored;
- The decision of the Communication regarding the financing of abortion in developing countries is based on the erroneous assumption that
- Financing organizations promoting and practicing abortion in developing countries would be beneficial to maternal health;
- Offering access to abortion is an international obligation streaming from the ICPD Program of Action in 1994 and the UN Millennium Development Goals.
In the application, ONE OF US also alleges a violation of the democratic process by the Commission:
- The Commission does not provide any legal reason for its refusal to transmit the proposition to Parliament: neither impossibility, nor absence of necessity, nor redundancy;
- The Commission misunderstands the requirements of Regulation (EU) No 211/2011 and maintains a monopoly over the legislative process, contrary to the provisions of TEU and TFEU on the institutional dialogue;
- It does not set out its legal and political conclusions separately, though it is required by Regulation (EU) No 211/2011.
Finally, in its application, ONE OF US alleges the non-conformity of Regulation (EU) No 211/2011 to the Treaties of the European Union
- The objectives of the Lisbon Treaty are to improve the institutions’ democratic legitimacy and to encourage the participation of European citizens in the democratic process. If an ECI can be dismissed by the Commission for subjective or arbitrary reasons without being examined by Parliament, the objectives of the Treaty are countered;
- The rule of law is infringed if the Commission’s decision is not subject to legal review.
Finally, because it is meaningless to discuss any issue if there is no democracy, the main concern of this application is not primarily the substance of the ONE OF US initiative, but the way in which it has been handled by the European Commission. It is not only about the right to life, but firstly about democracy. The first purpose of the application is to ask the EU to clarify what a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is supposed to be, and how they believe it should be treated. All EU citizens, supporters and opponents of the ONE OF US initiative alike, will appreciate this clarification.
The One of Us application sets a clear alternative for the General Court of the EU: either this application will be successful, in which case the ECI will become what it was intended to be: a meaningful and practicable instrument of participatory democracy; or, it will be rejected, which would mean that the ECI is a fake mechanism of participative democracy.
European Commission: Czech Mafia Oligarch To Take Control Of Justice, Rule of Law, and Fundamental Rights?
Posted on | September 29, 2014 by J.C. von Krempach, J.D.
In one of the last editions of EuropeanVoice, there was a portrait of Andrej Babiš, the Czech Republic’s new political strongman. As one could read there, the man is a particularly disgusting example of a former Communist (and collaborator of the secret service StB) turned “democrat”. Having until 1989 worked as a well-paid management post at the State Enterprise trading with primary resources (and enjoyed a quantity of privileges ordinary Czechoslovak citizens could only dream of, such as the possibility to freely travel and live abroad), he was able to use the business know-how and contacts he had acquired in order to build up his own private business empire – notably by purchasing formerly State-owned enterprises far below their actual value. He is now a billionaire (Nr. 731 on the Forbes List in March 2014), and the owner of a powerful media group.
In 2011 he decided that, rather than influencing Czech policies from the outside, his business interest would best be served if he became himself a politician. He therefore founded a party called ANO (the abbreviation is for Akce nespokojených občanů, Action of dissatisfied citizens – but “ano” is also the Czech word for “yes”), which thanks to a well-oiled media campaign won 18.7% (47 seats) in the 2011 general elections. ANO is now part of the Czech government, in which Babiš serves as a vice-premier and minister of finance.
For those who are interested in getting an even juicier picture of Czech political culture, it is worthwhile to read the latest novel Mafie v Praze (The Mafia in Prague) by Czech satirist Michal Viewegh. In fact, this is not really a novel, but a collage of real facts, in which Viewegh just slightly changed the name of (some of) the protagonists – but not beyond recognisability. The mafia boss who has set up a private “security firm” that recruits former policemen and tasks them with spying on, or hunting down, political opponents is apparently intended as a portrait of Andrej Babiš…
Against this background, it is truly astonishing that Jean-Claude Juncker’s pick for the post of EU Commissioner for Justice is Věra Jourová, a politician who is a member of ANO and owes her political career entirely to Babiš. This means that in fact the policies relating to Justice and Fundamental Rights in the EU will, at least indirectly, be placed in Mr. Babiš’s hands, i.e. in the hands of a man whose past as a Communist cadre and collaborator of the secret services is notorious…
One fact that is known about Mrs. Jourová herself is that in 2006 she had to step down as a Minister for Regional Development (at that time she was member of CSSD, the Czech Republic’s socialist party) and spent one month in judicial custody on the grounds of allegations of corruption (ironically, the case involved the alleged misuse of EU funds…). She was later released, and the case against her was dropped.
Even though the presumption of innocence applies, Mr. Juncker’s choice to nominate Mrs. Jourová as Commissioner for Justice looks like nominating the dog as the guardian of the sausage. At the same time, one is also tempted to wonder what (except the desire to get some more seats at the EP) may have motivated ALDE, the EP group of “liberal and democratic” political parties, to have accepted ANO as one of their members. The “liberalism” that involves someone like Mr. Babiš, who has announced that “States should be run like private businesses” must be of a quite peculiar ilk.
There is still some time left for the European Parliament to prevent the absurdity of a Justice Commissioner with KGB-cum-mafia links. Mrs. Jourová’s appearance before the competent parliamentary committees is scheduled for Wednesday 1 October, 1.30 p.m. local time.
Posted on | September 29, 2014 by J.C. von Krempach, J.D.
Over at European Dignity Watch, there is an interesting post relating to European Parliament President Martin Schulz’ lonesome decision to twist and bend the Parliament’s rules of procedures for the hearing of the incoming Commissioner designates.
The controversial decision is specifically tailor made for Frans Timmermans, a former Dutch foreign minister (who has some notoriety for pushing sodomy “rights” at UN level, as reported on an earlier post on this blog).
It is of course not new that Martin Schulz disrespects rules (see here). But in this specific case, the consequences might be far reaching. Could it be that the brazen disrespect for a clear and unambiguous procedural rule will undermine the legality of the European Parliament’s vote to confirm the new European Commission? And what would be the consequences for the legality of the Commission itself, and for all the legal acts it will adopt?
The question is far from being clear. But its potential implications mean that they have to be taken very seriously.
As I see it, the EU Treaties confer a right (in the sense of: privilege) to the European Parliament to conduct hearings of Commissioner designates, leaving it to the EP itself to decide whether and how that right is exercised. Therefore the matter can be handled by the EP quite autonomously.
On the other hand, however, it remains that the EP has adopted internal rules how such hearings should be conducted, and that Mr. Schulz (who is an executive organ, and not the supreme legislator, of the EP) has brazenly violated these rules. A decision of the EP that disrespects the Parliament’s own procedural rules is usually considered null and void – as if it had never happened. If the European Commission is confirmed through a plenary vote that disrespects the EP’s own rules of procedure, the consequences could be quite considerable.
No one knows what may have driven Mr. Schulz to make this strange decision. But my kind advice to him would be to drop it. The matter is just too important to needlessly play around with the procedures. Allowing for even the remotest possibility that a vote like this could afterwards be challenged on procedural grounds is simply irresponsible.
Posted on | September 27, 2014 by Lisa Correnti
A High Level event at the United Nations this week abruptly ended when a women’s rights attorney directed a question to International Planned Parenthood Federation’s Director General about why harmful contraceptives were targeted to poor women in Africa.
Statement made by Kwame Fosu:
We all believe that women should have access to safe contraception. However, in Melinda Gates’ 2020 Family Planning Initiative, she is using Sayana Press or Depo Provera as one of the central contraceptives being targeted to African women. Depo Provera has serious side effects. Bill Gates’ own researcher Dr. Renee Heffron came up with research in October of 2011, which stated that Depo Provera and injectables significantly increased risk of transmitting and acquiring HIV/AIDS. Not only that, but Depo Provera also doubles the risk of breast cancer and causes [excessive] bleeding. So my question is this: in countries where HIV is a significant problem, where we don’t have access to good healthcare, why would we be using the most dangerous contraceptives for African women, when in countries like Holland, they all use very safe low-dose contraceptives.
Fosu’s statement was made in a meeting co-sponsored by IPPF, Denmark and Liberia which was meant to attract high level ministers in New York for the General Assembly.
Fosu included a reference to Holland because, as public health policy, long-term progesterone contraceptives such as Depo Provera and Norplant are rarely used by women in European countries.
Last year, Fosu released a definitive report charging that organizations like Planned Parenthood (PPFA), are not informing women of the dangerous side effects before administering the implant or injectable. The report details how reproductive rights stakeholders — Gates, USAID, Hewitt and Packard Foundations, western countries’ development assistance programs – largely the U.S., and UK, and PPFA/IPPF are complicit in the scale-up of these harmful drugs.
IPPF’s Director General, Tewodros Melesse, avoided answering Fosu’s question. Instead, Melesse made a general statement supporting Depo Provera, which did not give a reasonable explanation why African women were targeted with dangerous contraceptives rarely used by Caucasian women.
Despite some 30 minutes remaining and an earlier announcement of a second round of questions by the moderator — IPPF President Naomi Seboni abruptly ended the session. According to Fosu, IPPF wanted to avoid follow up questions from African delegates who immediately approached him for information.
The Family Planning initiative launched by Melinda Gates in July 2010 sets an ambitious agenda to reach a 120 million poor women and girls with long acting progesterone contraceptives like Depo Provera rebranded as Sayana Press and the implants, Jadelle and Norplant—removed from US markets in 2002 because of health risks, but still implanted in African women. Gates partnered with the drug manufacturer Pfizer – who at the summit announced they would increase production of the injectable by 50% and commitments of $4.6 billion were secured. This despite a Guttmacher report showing that only 8% of African women had an unmet need for contraception and that all women should be provided full informed consent to avoid coercion.
To commemorate World Contraception Day, the Gates Foundation and USAID released separate statements detailing additional efforts to scale-up Depo Provera and Jadelle. USAID is funding programs in 5 developing countries to trial the new self-inject version of Depo Provera – Sayana Press. Because the FDA has yet to approve Sayana Press, for now, it must be administered by community health workers.
The prioritization of harmful family planning programs over holistic maternal and child health programs will have devastating long term affects on African women. “We are already seeing the results of this,” said Fosu. HIV acquisition has increased among women in many of the regions where Depo Provera is being used and breast cancer in Africa is surging. In Botswana for example HIV rates are at 18% which makes it appalling public health policy to promote contraceptives that exacerbates HIV/AIDS infections, stated Fosu.
Funding for foreign assistance family planning programs reflects the same shift in policy. Family Planning programs have swelled 48% since 2006 where maternal and child health has increased just 16% over the same period.
Posted on | September 26, 2014 by Stefano Gennarini, J.D.
The reply of the Holy See to the Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child have been released by the Vatican. You may recall that the committee told the the Holy See that it should change Church teaching on abortion and same-sex relations to avoid running afoul of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The reply is scathing. It is actually so good, that I am posting it in its entirety:
Comments of the Holy See on the Concluding Observations
of the Committee on the Rights of the Child
1. The Holy See is well aware of its position within the international juridical system, as a sovereign subject of international law, as well as of its obligations as a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its Optional Protocols, which has been clearly articulated in its Reports, Written Replies and statements made during the inter-active dialogue. At this point, and pursuant to art. 45 (d) of the CRC, the Holy See intends to comment on certain passages contained in the Concluding Observations (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2; CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/CO/1; CRC/C/OPAC/VAT/CO/1) presented by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (hereinafter “Committee”), on 5 February 2014.
2. In specific regard to the Concluding Observations CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, the Holy See underlines that in executing the obligations under the CRC, its conduct has always been inspired by general principles of international law, which include respecting in good faith the obligations deriving from treaties. The specific details are set out in the Second Periodic Report (CRC/C/VAT/2) and in the Written Replies to the List of Issues of the Committee (CRC/C/VAT/Q/2/Add.1). The Holy See has acted in a similar way in relation to the application of the Optional Protocols as specified in its Initial Reports (CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/1 and CRC/C/OPAC/VAT/1) and in the Written Replies of the Holy See to the List of Issues of the Committee (CRC/C/OPSC/ VAT/Q/2/Add.1).
3. The Holy See, in affirming its proper nature as a subject of international law, reiterates that the international obligations contracted upon adherence to the CRC, with reservations and interpretative declaration, and its Optional Protocols are fulfilled first and foremost through the implementation of the aforementioned duties within the territory of the Vatican City State (VCS), over which the Holy See exercises full territorial sovereignty. Beyond this geographic territory, which it administers, the Holy See disseminates principles recognized in the CRC to all people of goodwill and to various local Catholic churches and institutions, which operate in different States in compliance with national laws. Therefore, the obligations of the Convention and its Optional Protocols refer to Vatican citizens, as well as, where appropriate, the diplomatic personnel of the Holy See or its Officials residing outside the territory of Vatican City State. The Holy See does not have the capacity or legal obligation to impose the abovementioned principles upon the local Catholic churches and institutions present on the territory of other States and whose activities abide with national laws. The Holy See, in accordance with the rules of international law, is aware that attempting to implement the CRC in the territory of other States could constitute a violation of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of States.
4. In light of the above, the Holy See takes note with satisfaction that the Committee has considered this position, indicating that it is “aware” of “the Holy See’s ratification of the Convention as the Government of the Vatican City State, and also as a sovereign subject of international law having an original, non-derived legal personality independent of any territorial authority or jurisdiction”, and that the Committee is “fully conscious that bishops and major superiors of religious institutes do not act as representatives or delegates of the Roman Pontiff ” (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, para. 8).
5. Indeed, as regards implementation of its obligations under the Convention and its Optional Protocols, the Holy See, for example, has made significant amendments to the criminal laws of Vatican City State. As was emphasized in theSecond Periodic Report on the CRC and in the Initial Reports on the Optional Protocols, in the Written Replies to the List of Issues of the Committee as well as in the interactive dialogue with the Committee, the Holy See has executed its commitments within the territory of VCS, where it has the obligation to implement the Convention and its Protocols.
6. On the other hand, by rejecting the consistent position expressed in international law and practice, and despite repeated explanations of the Holy See in its Reports, Written Replies and interactive dialogue, the Committee has overlooked important distinctions between the Holy See, Vatican City State and the universal Catholic Church. This,inter alia, has led to a grave misunderstanding of the Holy See’s international legal obligations under the Convention.
7. The profundity of confusion regarding the nature of the Holy See, its internal legal order as well as its international legal personality, is fully revealed, for example, in Concluding Observation para. 8 (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2), when “religious obedience”,  in canons 331 and 590 of the Codex Iuris Canonici (CIC), is interpreted to construct a new form of “ecclesial governance,” where the Holy See is required to control the daily activities of clerics, religious and laypersons, living in the territories of sovereign States. 
8. In reference to the abovementioned canonical norms, the Holy See, as a sovereign subject of international law, reserves to itself the exclusive competence to interpret its internal fundamental norms, in conformity with pertinent international law, including the freedom of religion, with specific reference to the exclusive power of faith communities to organize and govern their internal affairs.
9. In addition, the Holy See wishes to underline that the treaty body has plunged into canon law, which is a juridical system, however, not equivalent to that of States. In other words, only the laws of the territory of Vatican City State are comparable to those of other States Parties to the Convention. Unsurprisingly, the position in para. 8 (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2) based on an erroneous interpretation of Canons 331 and 590, is fundamentally flawed, and in response, the Holy See reaffirms the following points found in either its Reports, Written Replies or statements during the interactive dialogue:
a. That canon law is a “complex unity of divine positive law, divine natural law and human law which reflect the Catholic Church: its origin, means, spiritual and moral mission, organizational structure, supernatural end, spiritual and temporal goods,” signifies that it differs from the laws of other States, in fundamental respects;
b. That the Church is a “communion” of mutual relationships means that interaction between the particular and the universal Church must “respect the principles of collegiality and primacy and the duties and rights in canon law of all members of Christ’s faithful;”
c. That the “religious obedience” of Bishops and religious Superiors concerns the unity of the doctrine of the Catholic faith and of the Catholic Church, founded and constituted as a society by Jesus Christ based on the communion of faith, sacraments and discipline, which are freely adhered to by members of the faithful;
d. That penal canon law provides certain sanctions for breaches concerning the public order of the ecclesial society (e.g. dismissal from the clerical state, penances) means it “differs greatly from State criminal law and [is] not intended to usurp or otherwise interfere with them or with State civil actions.”In specific regard to the distinctions between penal canon law and State criminal laws, the Holy See refers State Parties to its Second Periodic Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
10. Of general concern, for all States Parties, should be the fact that para. 8 (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2) offers a controversial new approach to “jurisdiction”, which clearly contradicts the general understanding of this concept in international law.
a) In particular, para. 8 contends that “by ratifying the Convention” a State Party has “committed itself to implementing the Convention” through “individuals and institutions” living and operating in the territories of other States. In the case of the Holy See, this amounts to a sort of “universal legal jurisdiction” over most States Parties.
b) This interpretation is contrary to obligations under the CRC, which are prima facie territorial, taking into consideration the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, and a facial reading of the treaty together with the general understanding of jurisdiction as previously discussed in the Holy See’s Written Replies.
c) Due to the grave implications of this erroneous approach for relations between States, the Holy See emphasizes, once again, that in accordance with international law and State practice, the Holy See does not ratify a treaty on behalf of every Catholic in the world, and therefore, does not have obligations to “implement” the Convention within the territories of other States Parties on behalf of Catholics, no matter how they are organized.
d) Moreover, the Holy See’s religious and moral mission, which transcends geographical boundaries, cannot be transformed into a sort of “universal legal jurisdiction”, which somehow becomes a matter under the mandate of a treaty body.
11. Before moving on to other issues, the Holy See, while maintaining its position on jurisdiction set out in Written Reply no. 32, wishes to correct the statement made in Written Reply no. 34 (CRC/C/VAT/Q/2/Add.1), wherein it refers to the “openness of the religious sisters to engage in discussions about issues of compensation, and their willingness to pay part of a compensation package developed by State authorities”. Rather, religious sisters had agreed with the Government of Ireland to pay a specific sum of money in relation to a “redress scheme” in 2002 concerning other entities, which did not include the institution under discussion.
12. As for the recommendations concerning the situations described in paragraphs 37-39 of the Concluding Observations (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2), such matters fall within the jurisdiction of the States in which the Catholic institutions operate. The functioning of these entities must be carried out in accordance with national laws and with respect for the competent State authorities tasked with investigating, prosecuting and punishing crimes or other illicit acts committed against children by members of these institutions.
13. As for para. 40 (b) (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2), the Holy See emphasizes that the criminal laws of Vatican City State punish acts of violence against children residing within this territory in accordance with due process and appropriate penalties upon findings of guilt: Law n. VIII, Complementary Norms in Criminal Matter, of 11 July 2013, Title II, and Law n. IX:Law Modifying the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure, of 11 July 2013.
14. In regard to recommendations concerning the accession to international instruments contained in Concluding Observations (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2), paragraphs 44 (j) and 62, the Holy See reaffirms that it operates within the international community like other subjects of international law, while maintaining its specific mission and end. For this reason, the Holy See has always sought to become a part of international multilateral conventions regulating various areas, also on behalf of Vatican City State, with the necessary evaluation of these conventional norms in respect to its nature and to the particular function of its internal juridical system. Pursuant to the principles and rules of international law, the Holy See accedes to conventions that do not contradict the character of its mission and the nature of its own internal juridical system or that directly support specific norms within its juridical system. Moreover, it is noteworthy to recall the well-known position of the Holy See that it becomes a State Party to certain conventions in order to contribute with its moral support in the construction of an opinio juris to encourage a rapid entry into force of the conventions and their effective observance.
15. Moreover, the Holy See highlights that the Committee makes certain recommendations that disregard principles of international law that underpin every treaty (e.g. the sovereign equality and independence of all States, the non-interference in the domestic affairs of States as well as the principles of free consent, good faith and pacta sunt servanda rule). For example, certain Concluding Observations (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2) : a) disregard a State Party’s own account of what it consented to when it ratified a treaty; b) adopt an erroneous view of the State Party based on an unusual interpretation of what was perceived to be the internal law of a State Party;c) recommend investigations, the enactment of laws, and the development of policies within the territorial jurisdiction of other States (with indifference to the territorial sovereignty of other States and the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other States); and d) ignore the reservations and interpretative declaration of a State Party. 
16. The Holy See is concerned about the lack of respect for the text of a treaty, which has been carefully drafted by States Parties, including the Holy See itself (the fourth State Party to ratify the CRC). In this regard, the Holy See in itsSecond Periodic Report and Written Replies has duly noted the introduction of new terms or principles by the Committee, which in its view marks a departure from the ordinary meaning of the words in the text. The Holy See ratified the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and is bound to follow the rules of interpretation therein. In addition, the Holy See reaffirms its own reservations, interpretative declaration as well as long standing principles recognized in international law as well as the Convention.
17. Of particular concern in the Concluding Observations is the advancement of controversial new expressions not contained in the Convention, and related principles, which contradict the ordinary meaning of the words in the text, and fail to respect the spirit of the CRC. In addition, these particular expressions are the subject matter of much debate on the international level, and certainly, have not been agreed to or otherwise accepted by the Holy See.
a) In a clear and open violation of the “ordinary meaning” of the terms of the CRC “in their context and in the light of its object and purpose”, the Concluding Observations advocate for “abortion.” This is completely unacceptable and such a recommendation is incompatible with the fundamental purpose and function of the international legal order. According to the CRC, children, defined as under 18 (art. 1), require “legal protection, before as well as after birth,” (preamble para. 9). By doing do, the Concluding Observations derogates from the child’s “right to life” (art. 6) as well as his or her right to “pre-natal and post-natal health care” (art. 24.2.d). In addition, it deviates from the principle that children should not be discriminated against on the basis of “birth” (art. 2).
b) The Holy See recognizes the variety of situations in which people live, and many due to tragic circumstances, however, the Concluding Observations promote “diverse forms of family” as a matter of principle. This expression is not found in the Convention, nor is it defined. It is worth noting that according to the International Bill of Human Rights both States and society have an obligation to protect the family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, the “natural and fundamental group unit of society”. The Convention recognizes this principle when it incorporates the International Bill of Human Rights in preamble paragraphs. 3-4 and acknowledges the family as “the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of …children,” which “should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community” (preamble para. 5, CRC).
c) In further regard to the natural family, the term “family planning” is used in the Convention. The Holy See pursuant to its reservation interprets the expression to mean only morally acceptable methods, that is, the natural methods. The expression “contraception” is not contained in the text of the CRC.
d) With respect to the rights of parents, “both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child” (art. 18 CRC), they have prior rights “to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” (preamble para. 3, CRC incorporates UDHR art. 26.3 by reference) and education should include “development of respect for the child’s parents” (art. 29 (1) (c) CRC). However, a State Party is urged to ensure “sexual and reproductive health education” and “sexual and reproductive health and information.” These expressions are not found in the text of the Convention nor are they defined in international law. On this matter, the Holy See takes the opportunity to reaffirm that the education of children (defined in art.1 CRC), boys and girls, including education about authentic human love, human sexuality, married love and related matters are primarily and fundamentally the right, duty, and responsibility of parents. The international principle regarding religious freedom recognizes that parents have the right to ensure that their child receives a religious and moral education in conformity with their own convictions, which also guarantees the freedom to teach a religion or belief. 
e) In the Concluding Observations, the principle of equality between men and women (boys and girls) (art. 2 CRC; cf. preamble para. 5, UDHR) and the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of sex (preamble para. 3, art. 2, CRC) are discussed within the context of “gender”, which is a word not contained in the text, and apparently employed to incorporate a larger ideological platform. In this latter regard, references to inherent dignity (preamble paras. 1-2, CRC) and inherent equality between the two sexes are dismissed as examples of “gender-based discrimination”, while subjective lifestyle choices and attractions are promoted as a matter of “rights”: “same sex couples”;“sexual orientation”.With reference to the term “gender”, the Holy See reiterates its position set out in para. 36 of its Second Periodic Report.
18. The fundamental premises contained in Concluding Observation para. 8 distort the entire Concluding Observationsand launch the Committee into matters protected by the right to freedom of religion. For example, suggestions are made relating to: a) the interpretation of scripture; b) changes to faith and morals; d) amendments to canon law; and e) revision of ecclesial governance.
19. Moreover, many of the recommendations noted in paras. 16-17 supra, may also be viewed through the prism of religious freedom, in particular regard to the autonomy of religious communities to express their doctrine, manifest their faith and worship. From this perspective, the Holy See offered a more profound understanding of inherent human dignity, as founded on the image and likeness of God, and equality between men and women, as being in harmony with the fundamental complementarity of men and women and their call to communion. In response, however, theConcluding Observations state: “complementarity and equality in dignity [are] two concepts which differ from equality in law and practice” and “justify discriminatory legislation and policies.” In addition, the Holy See emphasizes that the “concept of human rights” cannot be juxtaposed with the freedom of religion, as if the latter did not constitute a fundamental human right.
20. Other comments, for example, made in the Concluding Observations promote negative stereotyping and manifestations of intolerance against members of the Catholic religion. For example, the Concluding Observationsallege that the “complementarity” between the two sexes and the “equality in dignity” of males and females “justify discriminatory legislation and practices”. In addition, promotion of the protection of the family, based on marriage between one man and one woman means that “Church run institutions” discriminate against “children on the basis of their family situation.” A reasonable observer might argue that the principle of non-discrimination has been applied in an unprincipled way, namely as a sword against freedom of religion.
21. Moreover, many of the recommendations noted in paras. 17-20 supra, deal with matters to which the Holy See has entered reservations and interpretative declaration, and therefore do not respect arts. 2 (d); 19-21 of Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Indeed, they completely disregard the Declaration of the State Party at the moment of its accession to the CRC, according to which “…the Holy See, in acceding to this Convention, does not intend to prescind in any way from its specific mission which is of a religious and moral character.”
22. The Concluding Observations include inaccurate statements that have no evidentiary foundation. Moreover, many materials presented by the Holy See, especially regarding child protection were dismissed or ignored. Lastly, it is noteworthy, that answers given by a State Party not considered in line with certain suggestions does not mean that a reply to a question has not been given. For example, the Holy See was repeatedly asked the same query on various matters (e.g. discrimination based on sex, views of the child, the meaning of family, reservations, new expressions not accepted by the State Party, and matters falling within the territorial jurisdiction of other States). Indeed, the interactive dialogue largely involved the repetition of questions in the Committee’s List of Issues to which the Holy See had previously responded in its Written Replies, which, in turn, left the impression that the interactive dialogue was predetermined by Concluding Observations that had already been prepared.
23. In conclusion, as was clearly explained during the interactive dialogue with the Committee on 16 January 2014, and keeping in mind the concerns raised in paras. 6-10; 15-22 supra, the Holy See:
a) Reiterates its commitment to make protection of the child a priority, in all situations, and continue to take appropriate measures pursuant to the Convention and its Optional Protocols, as unequivocally set out in its Reports, Written Replies and statements during the interactive dialogue;
b) Confirms its willingness to implement the Convention and its Optional Protocols, in accordance with its own nature and mission, and to consider, in a similar way, the pertinent suggestions proposed by the Committee, in line with its moral and religious mission, for a better implementation of its treaty obligations and for a systematic preparation and presentation of its Periodic Reports;
c) Reaffirms also as a sovereign of the Vatican City State, that implementation of the norms of the Convention and its Optional Protocols, as well as the relevant recommendations by the Committee, will be exclusively considered in light of its specific nature and mission (see paras. 3 and 6 supra), as recognized by the international juridical system.
 The Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations on the Second Periodic Report of the Holy Seeon the Convention on the Rights of the Child, CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, 31 January 2014; The Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations on the Initial Report of the Holy See on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/CO/1, 31 January 2014; The Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations on the Initial Report of the Holy See on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, CRC/C/OPAC/VAT/CO/1, 31 January 2014.
 Reservations of the Holy See: “a) [The Holy See] interprets the phrase `Family planning education and services’ in article 24.2, to mean only those methods of family planning which it considers morally acceptable, that is, the natural methods of family planning.
“b) [The Holy See] interprets the articles of the Convention in a way which safeguards the primary and inalienable rights of parents, in particular insofar as these rights concern education (articles 13 and 28), religion (article 14), association with others (article 15) and privacy (article 16).
“c) [The Holy See declares] that the application of the Convention be compatible in practice with the particular nature of the Vatican City State and of the sources of its objective law (art. 1, Law of 7 June 1929, n. 11) and, in consideration of its limited extent, with its legislation in the matters of citizenship, access and residence.”
 Declaration of the Holy See on the CRC: “The Holy See regards the present Convention as a proper and laudable instrument aimed at protecting the rights and interests of children, who are ‘that precious treasure given to each generation as a challenge to its wisdom and humanity’ (Pope John Paul II, 26 April 1984).
“The Holy See recognizes that the Convention represents an enactment of principles previously adopted by the United Nations, and once effective as a ratified instrument, will safeguard the rights of the child before as well as after birth, as expressly affirmed in the `Declaration of the Rights of the Child’ [Res. 136 (XIV)] and restated in the ninth preambular paragraph of the Convention. The Holy See remains confident that the ninth preambular paragraph will serve as the perspective through which the rest of the Convention will be interpreted, in conformity with article 31 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 23 May 1969.
“By acceding to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Holy See intends to give renewed expression to its constant concern for the well-being of children and families. In consideration of its singular nature and position, the Holy See, in acceding to this Convention, does not intend to prescind in any way from its specific mission which is of a religious and moral character”.
 Apostolic Letter, issued MOTU PROPRIO, Roman Pontiff Francis, On the Jurisdiction of Judicial Authorities of Vatican City State in Criminal Matters, 11 July 2013, entered into force 1 September 2013.
 The Holy See, Initial Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, CRC/C/3/Add.27, March 28, 1994, at paras. 1-2; The Holy See, Second Periodic Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, CRC/C/VAT/2, October 22, 2012, at paras. 1-5; The Holy See, Initial Report on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Prostitution, CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/1, November 8 2012, at paras. 4-5; The Holy See, Initial Periodic Report to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, CRC/C/OPAC/VAT/1, October 22, 2012, at paras. 4-5.
 The Holy See, Written Replies to the List of Issues in relation to its Second Periodic Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, CRC/C/VAT/Q/2 Add.1, January 9, 2014, at paras. 6-8; The Holy See, Written Replies to the List of Issues in relation to its Initial Report on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Prostitution, CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/Q/1 Add.1 January 9, 2014, at paras. 6-8.
 The Holy See, Presentation of Reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child at the Interactive Dialogue, 65thSession of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (13-31 January 2014), 16 January 2014.
 The “moral authority” or “moral leadership” of the Holy See, referred to several times by the Committee (see e.g., CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/CO/1, supra note 1, at paras. 16, 21), does not constitute legally binding authority over anyone. Such leadership cannot be transformed into a treaty obligation. That the central organ of the Church has openly“shared” best practices, especially about child protection going well beyond its strict obligations under the CRC, should not be misinterpreted as suggesting that intra-Church matters fall within the mandate of a treaty body.
 See e.g., CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, supra note 1, at para. 41 (“The Committee is also concerned that in spite of its considerable influence on Catholic families the Holy See has still not adopted a comprehensive strategy to prevent abuse and neglect in the home”). See also paras. 22; 32 (c); 41-43; 51.
 CRC/C/VAT/2, supra note 6, at para. 97; see also e.g., Comité des droits de l’enfant, Soixante-cinquième session Compte rendu analytique de la 1852ͤ séance, CRC/C/SR.1852, 21 janvier, 2014, at paras. 36, 41- 42.
 See e.g.,Convention on the Rights of the Child, G.A. Res. 44/25, at art. 49 (2), U.N. Doc. A/Res/44/25 (20 November 1989). In addition, the argument is framed in a manner that contradicts the plain meaning of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which, according to art. 49 (2) of the CRC, provides that States Parties are bound by their treaty obligations when the treaty enters “into force on the thirtieth day after deposit by such [twentieth] State of its instrument of ratification or accession”, and not upon ratification, as suggested by theConcluding Observations.
 See e.g., CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, supra note 1, at paras.16; 18; 20; 22; 24; 30; 32; 34; 40; 42; 49; 51; 53; 57; 59; 61; 63; CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/CO/1, supra note 1, at paras. 16, 18, 24, 26; CRC/C/OPAC/VAT/CO/1, supra note 1, at paras. 7, 13-14, 18.
 CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, para.12 (reservations, generally); para. 31 (reservation on the rights and duties of parents); paras. 36, 56 (reservation on family planning); para.55 (interpretative declaration on the right to life).
 See e.g., CRC/C/VAT/2, supra note 6, at paras. 23 a-n: (e.g. equality between women and men; special protection due to the family, the natural and fundamental unit of society; the right to life of the child, before as well as after birth; and the prior right of parents before the State to educate their child).
 In particular regard to these disputed terms, the Holy See takes the opportunity once again to reaffirm its position: “The three Reservations and the Interpretative Declaration are even more important given the attempted redefinition or creation of new terms and/or rights and/or principles, which do not correspond to an authentic and holistic vision of the human person and his or her rights and duties, nor present a good faith interpretation of the Convention’s text. The Holy See has never agreed to such terms, rights or principles often contained in the Committee’s General Comments and its Concluding Observations, and they certainly do not enjoy international consensus.” (CRC/C/VAT/2, para. 18).
 See e.g., Rome Statute of International Criminal Court, U.N. Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, 17 July 1998, U.N. Doc. A/CONF. 183/9 (1998), art. 7.2. f (situations that are relevant to pregnancy “shall not in any way be interpreted as affecting national laws relating to pregnancy”).
 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, G.A. Res. 217 (III) A, at art. 16, U.N. Doc. A/RES/217 (III) (10 December 1948); International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, G.A., Res. 2200A (XXI ), at art. 23, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (16 December 1966); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, G.A. Res. 2200 (XXI) A, at 10., U.N. Doc. A/6316 (16 December 1966).
 In its first reservation the Holy See stated the following: (“ [The Holy See] interprets the phrase `Family planning education and services’ in article 24.2, to mean only those methods of family planning which it considers morally acceptable, that is, the natural methods of family planning” ).. See also the Holy See’s response to the Committee on this topic CRC/C/VAT/2, supra note 6, at para. 51.
 Id., at para. 30-31; See also the Holy See’s Position on the Conference Outcome Document at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995); See also the Holy See’s Position on the Outcome Document at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo (1994 ).
 CRC/C/VAT/2, supra note 6, at para. 36 (“The Holy See understands gender “according to ordinary usage in the United Nations context, associates itself with the common meaning of that word, in languages where it exists…[as] grounded in biological sexual identity, male or female….”).
 See e.g., the Concluding Observations take issue with: “statements and declarations on homosexuality” (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, supra note 1, at para. 25); the principle of “complementarity and equality in dignity” between the two sexes (Id., at para. 22); promotion of the family, based on marriage between one man and one woman (Id., at para. 48); the Holy See’s “position on abortion” and “contraception” (See e.g. Id., at paras. 55, 56, respectively).
 Id., at para. 27 (The Holy See argued that each “human being is created in the image and likeness of God”. Moreover, it contended that the principle of complementarity between the two sexes better reflected an objective reality and avoided two extreme views of equality: one that would promote indistinct uniformity, on the one hand, or perpetuate irreconcilable and conflicting differences, on the other hand).
 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, supra note 2, at art. 2, (d): (“‘Reservation’ means a unilateral statement, however phrased or named, made by a State, when signing, ratifying, accepting, approving or acceding to a treaty, whereby it purports to exclude or to modify the legal effect of certain provisions of the treaty in their application to that State”).
 See e.g., CRC/C/VAT/2 supra note 6, at paras. 96-99; CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/1 supra note 6, at paras. 26-31; CRC/C/VAT/Q/2 Add.1, supra note 7, at paras. 43-51; CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/Q/1 Add.1, supra note 7, at paras. 10.4-10.4.b; CRC/C/SR.1852, supra 17, at paras. 36, 38, 40-43, 46; and Committee on the Rights of the Child, Sixty-fifth Session, Summary Records of the 1853rd meeting, CRC/C/SR.1853, at paras. 9,15, 29, 31, 33, 36, 38, 41, 46, 50, 51, 53, 55, 56, 65, 67.
 It is worth emphasizing, that the specific nature of the Holy See was known during the drafting phases of the Convention and its Optional Protocols, accepted by the States Parties to the Convention and recognized at the time of the ratification, including its reservations and interpretative declaration made in accordance with the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, supra note 2.
Posted on | September 25, 2014 by Wendy Wright
“It’s been a difficult year for the LGBT community throughout the world,” Secretary John Kerry stated at the UN today. Laws opposed by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates “are metastisizing.”
Kerry spoke at an event for the “Free and Equal” campaign run by the UN Human Rights Office. The Netherlands hosted the short program to show lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights “are being considered at the UN at a high-level event although so many other crises are happening in the world,” a Dutch staffer explained.
Prince Zeid al-Hussein, the new head of the UN human rights office, sat in the audience as foreign ministers from Argentina and the Netherlands joined Kerry on stage to rally the activists gathered in the small auditorium.
Ban Ki Moon sent a video message. The “fight for homosexual, lesbian and transgender rights lies at the core of the mission of the UN,” said the Secretary General.
A self-described staunch Catholic, Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmerman bemoaned there are “still some people in the church who need convincing.”
“This is the first time this event is open to all delegations,” Kerry announced.
Diplomats in attendance were invited on stage for a photo. Fifteen officials surrounded Zeid, who was handed a sign stating, “LGBT rights are Human Rights.” Staff from the Netherlands later said 20 delegations had attended. The UN has 193 members.
LGBT activists have hoped Zeid would keep sexual issues a priority for the human rights office.
Navi Pillay, the former head of the UN office, launched the “Free and Equal” initiative. Glossy brochures, social media campaigns and a colorful Bollywood music video promoting LGBT outshone any of the office’s other work. Yet Pillay frequently complained that her office did not have enough money to accomplish the tasks assigned to it.
Priorities are often determined by funding. Nordic countries gave the UN human rights office funding to focus on LGBT rights. The Obama administration’s Global Equality Fund has given money to 200 foreign LGBT activists for activities like Gay Pride events. Norway and Sweden have contributed to that Fund.
Most persecuted minorities do not have wealthy backers to take up their cause.
The Free and Equal event — though sparsely attended — did accomplish one thing. No new initiatives were announced, or victories claimed. As world leaders gathered at the UN, as countries grapple with an ebola plague, gruesome terrorists, economic strains and other crises, these leaders made clear what is their priority.
Posted on | September 25, 2014 by Stefano Gennarini, J.D.
Below is one of the worst recommendations to ever come out of a UN committee. See the full report here.
- The Committee welcomes the consolidation of the National Programme on Sexual and Reproductive Health and the new protocol on adolescent health. It also notes the programmes undertaken to prevent and deal with unplanned teenage pregnancies. However, the Committee is deeply concerned that the State party has one of the highest rates of adolescent pregnancies in the region and that many of them result in maternal deaths. It is also concerned about the lack of access to safe abortion procedures due to a restrictive law on abortion and the lack of information on the actual impact of the programmes to reduce these pregnancies.
- In the light of its general comment No. 4 (2003) on adolescent health and development, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Collect disaggregated data on the number of deaths among pregnant girls and adolescents and undertake a study on the scope and root causes of these deaths;
(b) Review its legislation on abortion and provide for additional exceptions in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, when the pregnancy poses a risk to the health of the adolescents and when abortion is in the best interests of the pregnant adolescent so as to prevent her from resorting to unsafe abortion. The State party should ensure in law and in practice that the views of the child always be heard and respected in abortion decisions.
(c) Increase efforts to reduce maternal mortality among adolescents by implementing the existing protocol and providing adequate sexual and reproductive health services, including emergency contraception and ante-natal, delivery, post-natal and post-abortion services. In this endeavor, the State party is encouraged to consider the OHCHR’s technical guidance on the application of a rights based approach to the implementation of policies and programmes to reduce preventable maternal mortality and morbidity (A/HRC/21/22). The State party is also encouraged to seek technical assistance from UNICEF.
Why would the co-founder of the Endometriosis Foundation lend her image and story to the Center for Reproductive Rights?
Posted on | September 24, 2014 by Rebecca Oas, Ph.D
Padma Lakshmi, the host of Top Chef, has become the latest celebrity to shill for the aggressively pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), linking her own story and her advocacy for women who, like her, suffer from endometriosis, to the controversial organization.
In a brief video, Lakshmi talks about how she suffered from the pain of endometriosis for more than two decades, went undiagnosed until she was 36, and was incredibly fortunate to be able to have a child despite her condition, which is often associated with infertility.
She ends with a plea for “reproductive health care”:
“I think what politicians and representatives need to remember is that they represent us. Their responsibility is to allow all their constituents the right and access to good, sound healthcare, including reproductive healthcare.”
Lakshmi, the daughter of a Pfizer executive and a nurse, made no mention of being without health care or uninsured. Like many women, she believed that her condition was normal, particularly because her mother also suffered from severe menstrual pain – an opinion shared by the doctors she visited.
Precisely because of this experience and the desire to help other women living with endometriosis, Lakshmi co-founded the Endometriosis Foundation of America, which works to increase women’s awareness of the condition and raise money for research.
A worthy cause, and one that could generate broad support, regardless of one’s political persuasion. So why does Lakshmi worry that politicians are coming to take away women’s access to endometriosis treatment?
Her video is part of CRR’s “Draw The Line” campaign, which describes itself as “a national campaign to build support across the United States for robust protections of every woman’s constitutional rights and access to safe, legal, high-quality reproductive health care—no matter where she lives.”
Safe? Legal? Are we still talking about laparoscopy here?
CRR’s President and CEO Nancy Northup made the following statement: “It’s time to turn up the volume on stories like Padma’s and remind politicians that our reproductive health care is an essential part of our health, well-being, and lives.”
Stories like Padma’s…right. As heartwarming as it would be to think that the Center for Reproductive Rights is a champion for women with endometriosis, a quick search of the contents of their website reveals the following:
That’s right, nearly 4,500 references to abortion, and a paltry five for endometriosis: abortion is mentioned about 900 times more often.
While it’s understandable that the CRR would benefit from having someone like Lakshmi speaking on their behalf, it’s less clear what Lakshmi or her foundation gain by partnering with the Center for Reproductive Rights, whose major claim to fame is pushing abortion on countries all over the world using strategic litigation.
Much like the doctors who missed Lakshmi’s symptoms for over twenty years, CRR seems to have been fairly unaware of endometriosis – at least, until they seized a golden opportunity use it to raise money for pro-abortion lawsuits.
The ECHR to decide if returning a Christian convert to Iran would subject him to serious human rights violations
Posted on | September 23, 2014 by Grégor Puppinck, Ph.D
In its written observations, the ECLJ presented an overview of Iran’s current constitutional, legal provisions and international treaty obligations on religious freedom of Christians and their abusive interpretation by the Iranian authorities in the case of Christian converts. ECLJ mentioned that in practice, apostates are not considered Christians, as recognized by the Iranian Constitution, but they are seen as a threat to the security of the Islamic state, at times being charged of “enmity against God”, a crime punishable by death. Christian activities also amount to crimes such as “propaganda against the Regime” and “acting against national security”. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and other government officials have demonized Christianity and expressed that “[n]othing shall be accepted from others outside of those three [recognized] groups but Islam or death”. Morteza Tamaddon, currently the head of the Tehran Provincial Public Security Council and former governor-general of Tehran, expressed that evangelical Christians are a “deviant” sect of Christianity and accused them of using Christianity as a “cover” for their true intent to undermine Islam. Therefore, top Iranian officials have called for an end to Christianity in Iran and called on local authorities to expose Christian converts by putting pressure on and closed many of the official building churches, denying majority of Iran’s Christians the freedom to associate and gather peacefully for religious services. The Iranian Government also installed surveillance cameras aimed at the point of entrance for official building churches to monitor those in attendance, placed government agents to reveal converts to Christianity, obliged churches to submit membership reports and to report the addition of any new members or visitors to expose converts from Islam, and obliged every job applicant to indicate in its application its religion. Since mid-2010, Iran has arrested or detained roughly 400 Christians. They often face arbitrary detention, various forms of physical and psychological torture and they are denied medical treatment. According to the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom 2014 report, “[k]illings, arrests, and physical abuse of detainees have increased in recent years, including for religious minorities and Muslims who dissent or express views perceived as threatening the government’s legitimacy”.
The ECLJ brief also mentioned recent comparative case-law involving Iranian apostates, showing that several countries grant asylum status to Christian converts from Iran.
Finally, the ECLJ presented recent reports of persecution against apostates in Iran, namely the cases of Saeed Abedini, Farshid Fathi, Benham Irani, Abdolreza Ali, the ten Christian converts Ali Golchin, etc., hoping that the Grand Chamber of the ECHR will reverse the Fifth Section judgment and will consider that returning a Christian convert to Iran would subject him to serious human rights violations.
The ECLJ trusts that the Grand Chamber of the ECHR will take into consideration those aspects and will apply both its well-established case-law on this matter, recognizing that Christian converts face serious human rights violations in Iran, and the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union in which it was considered that the risk of actual acts of persecution should not be assessed in the light of the possibility open to an applicant of avoiding the risk by abstaining from his or her religious practice in question.
Z.N.S. v. Turkey (application no 21896/08, judgment of 19 January 2010, regarding an Iranian refugee converted to Christianity), M.B. and Others v. Turkey (36009/08, judgment of 15 June 2010 regarding an Iranian family converted to Christianity), M.E. v. France (application n ° 50094/10, judgment of 6 June 2013 regarding an Egyptian Coptic accused of proselytising Muslims);
 The judgment in Bundesrepublik Deutschland v Y and Zcase;
- See more at: http://eclj.org/Releases/Read.aspx?GUID=0567beff-1c53-4eb3-858c-785bc66e1105&s=eur#sthash.v0sxKJHj.dpuf
Posted on | September 18, 2014 by J.C. von Krempach, J.D.
Definitely, we are living in strange times. Pro-lifers and defenders of marriage and family meet at a conference in Moscow, hosted by two men with close links not only to the Russian Orthodox Church, but also to Russian President (and former KGB-boss) Vladimir Putin just at a time when the latter is waging a war of aggression against neighbouring Ukraine (not to mention the very similar wars he has waged against Georgia and Moldova and, domestically, against the Chechens…). At the same time Barack Obama, supposedly the leader of the most powerful democratic country in the world, is not only the one of the world’s most active advocates of violence against unborn children, but also uses all the powers of his office to wage a full-fledged war, domestically and world-wide, against marriage and the family – which are the very fundaments of any democratic society. And we, perplexed, do not know which camp to choose.
The case of Russia is perhaps even more paradoxical than the US. To understand it, it is necessary to understand the particularities of the Russian body politic, and the continuities as well as the discontinuities that characterize it. Despite the changes in the prevailing political ideologies since the beginning of the 20th century, the way in which this country is governed has essentially remained the same.
Russia became a Christian nation in 896, when Grand Duke Vladimir of Kiev was baptized in the Dnipro. This makes Russia not the first, but also not the last member of the European family of nations to have embraced Christianity – and it also explains why many Russians continue to view Kiev as the cradle of their nation. The rise of Moscow only began long afterwards.
The particularity of the Christianization of Russia was that it was initiated by missionaries who had been sent from Byzantium – at a time when the links between Byzantium and Rome had already become very loose. The split between East and West became formal only when the Pope and the Greek Patriarch excommunicated each other in 1054 – but even before that, the Russian church depended on Byzantium, not on Rome. In all its history, the Russian Church never was a daughter of Rome.
The relationship to Byzantium, however, was not very close either. While Russia just began its career as a Christian nation, Byzantium was already in full decline. The Middle East had already been lost in 642, then came the internal strife known as the “Ikonoclasm”, and finally (beginning with the battle of Mantzikert in 1067) the Ottomans, who ate up the once glorious Byzantine Empire bit by bit, until they finally conquered its capital, Constantinople, in 1453.
In Russia, the fall of Constantinople gave rise to a new State Doctrine: “Two Romes have fallen. The third stands. And there will be no fourth. No one shall replace your Christian Tsardom!” It was for this reason that Grand Duke Ivan III of Muscovy, following his marriage with Sofia Palaiologa (a distant niece of the last Byzantine emperor) started using some of the insignia of the defunct Byzantine Empire, and his son and successor Vasily III. became the first Russian monarch to style himself as “tsar” (derived from Caesar, Kaiser, i.e. “emperor”).
In other words, Russia considered herself as the third and final Rome, the first among the Christian nations. And in full consistency with the Byzantine tradition, there was to be a close relationship between the Throne and the Church.
In that relationship, the Tsars always had the upper hand. Peter the Great even went as far as to abolish the Patriarchate of Moscow, proclaiming himself the Head of the Russian Church, and installing a layman (the so-called “Oberprokurator”) as the governor of al ecclesiastical affairs.
This arrangement was maintained until the end of the Russian monarchy. Only in 1917 was a new Patriarch of Moscow, Tichon, enthroned – only to become the most prominent victim of the terrible persecution that set in immediately with the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks later that year.
But behind the rupture there was a hidden continuity. Religion was replaced by the Leninist ideology (which itself could with good reasons be described as a bizarre form of “religion”), – yet the way in which the country was ruled essentially remained the same: an absolute monarch (Lenin, then Stalin) ruled with absolute power, based on a “State Church” ( aka the Bolshevik Party)to legitimize his rule, and an omnipotent/omniscient secret police (the Tsar’s “Okhrana” had been replaced by the NKVD, but actually many experienced police agents simply changed sides and continued as before…). This was how things had always been, and they continued being (albeit with a visible increase in brutality).
It seems to me that after the Soviet Union’s break-down in 1991 a similar shift has taken place. Marxism was dumped, and a new State Doctrine was needed. This new-old State Doctrine is the greatness and glory of the Russian nation – and the Russian Orthodox Church is its perfect incorporation. Old churches were restored, and new ones were erected. Whoever visits Moscow today will be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of churches in all possible forms, sizes and colours. It was not so when I first visited the city in 1986.
For most Russians, having an ex-KGB officer as their President is not a problem. It is normality. And the war in Ukraine (and elsewhere) is simply the continuation of the very same foreign policy that was pursued both by the Tsars and the Bolsheviks. As Tsar Nikolay I. once famously put it: ”где раз подняли русский флаг, он уже спускаться не должен” (i.e., “where once the Russian flag is hoisted, it must not be taken down again!”). Business as usual, so to say.
But the state ideology has changed once more – and whatever one may think of the close union between Church and State we see today, this change is for the better. For all practical purposes Christianity is more conducive to the common good than Marxism-Leninism. And the promotion of stable families is certainly a better idea than promoting class struggle and collectivization.
If we now turn to look at the United States, we see the nearly opposite scenario. While Americans are (at least by comparison to most Europeans) a very religious nation, they have a secular (not “secularist”) State, with no established religion. The purpose of the clause that there be no established religion is not to fight against religion, but to guarantee religious freedom.
The problem with the US today is that President Obama has a religion of his own making. That religion has abortion and same-sex “marriage” as its most precious sacraments, and Obama is its messiah.
If Obama kept his religion for himself, that would not be such a great problem. In actual fact, however, he puts his position as the head of the executive of the world’s largest and most powerful democracy entirely at the service of this novel religion, promoting sodomy and child-slaughtering domestically and abroad. This includes, in particular, the funding of abortion in developing countries through so-called “development aid”, the use of diplomatic pressure on developing countries to legalize abortion or sodomy, or the public endorsement given by US diplomats to “gay pride” events and other displays of obscenity. These provocative activities have, among many other countries, also targeted Russia – in particular at the Sochi Winter Olympics, where the US foreign Office orchestrated a “LGBT-rights campaign”. But there, as elsewhere, they have not won over the population for Obama’s noble cause, but provoked astonishment and disgust.
And this is, I believe, where the heart of the matter lies. I don’t believe for a moment that Putin is a devout Christian, nor that he has any particularly strong convictions on homosexuality. But he is not stupid either. He has discovered that, by promoting abortion and sodomy as “human rights”, the US and other Western governments have within a very short period of time depleted all the moral capital they had accumulated during the Cold War. Instead with sympathy and admiration, the West is nowadays viewed with contempt in many regions of the world. For the US, this loss of moral capital is a political disaster of unspeakable dimension – and one doesn’t have the impression that Foggy Bottom is even aware of it. For Russia, by contrast, it is a golden opportunity: stand up for a proper understanding of marriage and the family, gain credibility on human rights (which, for quite different reasons, isn’t really due to them, and act as the leader of a world-wide coalition of countries (including most of Asia and Latin America, and nearly all of Africa) that grow increasingly wary of Obama’s bizarre set of “values”. Putin isn’t a democrat. He simply is a politician who understands that cultural issues can play a very important role in world politics, and who is clever enough to draw an easy profit from America’s moral and social self-destruction. It doesn’t cost him a dime.
There is a second reason for Putin to fight abortion promote “large families”. That reason is that Russia cannot be great if its population is dwindling. Russia not only has one of the highest abortion rates in the world, but she is (for a variety of reasons, which include widespread alcoholism, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, economic problems, emigration, etc.) losing nearly 1 million inhabitants per year. To halt this decline, decisive action is necessary. It is a matter of survival for Russia as a nation (and hence for Putin as a political leader). Thus it seems to me that Putin is not necessarily fighting abortion out of a deep moral conviction, but for more profane reasons. But these reasons are, in and by themselves, certainly legitimate. One can do the right thing for the wrong reasons, and it still remains the right thing.
So whose camp do I choose, Putin’s or Obama’s? Neither. Both have, for very different reasons, a pretty bad human rights record. But both also do some good. When Obama sets out to restore peace and order in the Middle East, I do wish him the best of successes. And when Putin defends marriage and family at the UN, I also wish him all the best. There is not only black and white in this world. There are also many shades of grey.
 From that point of view, Catholics and Protestants are all heretics, and hence do not count. As regards the orthodox Churches, it seems natural that the Russian Church views itself as the most important among them. Of all orthodox Christians, 120 million (i.e. roughly 50%) are Russian, whereas the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople nowadays reaches out only to a residuum of some 10.000 Greeks living in Turkey and the Levante. This also relativizes the practical importance of the “ecumenical” gestures the Vatican has in past decades made towards Constantinople. The real shot-caller in the Orthodox community is Moscow, and so far all attempts at arranging a meeting between the Pope and the Russian Patriarch have sadly failed.
Posted on | September 18, 2014 by Rebecca Oas, Ph.D
The Guttmacher Institute recently announced a study saying that as of 2012, 40% of pregnancies worldwide are unintended, and that this is not much different from 2008.
Predictably, they also say that these “findings highlight [the] need for increased investment in contraceptive services.”
Let’s break this down point by point:
1) What is “unintended,” exactly?
The paper helpfully provides the following tautology by way of a definition:
“Unintended pregnancies consist of unplanned births, induced abortions, and miscarriages resulting from unintended pregnancies.”
(Amazing what academic journals will accept these days.) Fortunately, the Guttmacher Institute published a more comprehensive guide to the taxonomy of pregnancy by intendedness.
“Conventional measures of unintended pregnancy are designed to reflect a woman’s intentions before she became pregnant. Unintended pregnancies are pregnancies that are reported to have been either unwanted (i.e., they occurred when no children, or no more children, were desired) or mistimed (i.e., they occurred earlier than desired). In contrast, pregnancies are described as intended if they are reported to have happened at the “right time” or later than desired (because of infertility or difficulties in conceiving). A concept related to unintended pregnancy is unplanned pregnancy—one that occurred when the woman used a contraceptive method or when she did not desire to become pregnant but did not use a method. Intentions are often measured or reported only for pregnancies ending in live births; pregnancies ending in abortion are generally assumed to have been unintended. All of these definitions assume that pregnancy is a conscious decision.”
I included the entire paragraph in order to demonstrate the incongruity of that last sentence. The Guttmacher Institute apparently thinks that 40% of the world’s conscious decision-making is unintentional. If this is the case, medication may indeed be called for, but not necessarily of the contraceptive variety.
2) Regions with high “unmet need” for contraceptives do not necessarily have high rates of unintended pregnancy.
The new report says that Africa has the lowest rate of unintended pregnancy in the world (35%), compared with 45% in Europe and 51% in North America. This is despite the fact that Africa is repeatedly touted as the region with the highest “unmet need” for contraception. The “unmet need” concept is highly flawed, and as I explain here, even in Africa, less than 2% of married women claim they don’t use contraceptives because of lack of access.
The article says:
“The proportion of pregnancies that were unintended can be low in traditional societies, where many couples want large families”
So, conscious decision-making is at work here. However, the constant pushing of contraceptives on these traditional societies does have an effect – it can actually drive up the percentage of unintended pregnancies. Explaining why the rates of unintended pregnancy haven’t changed much since 2008 despite expanded access to contraceptives globally, the authors write:
“This finding is not surprising because, whereas increases in contraceptive use might cause a decrease in the proportion of births that were unplanned, the growing desire to have smaller families can easily offset the effects of contraceptive use on this proportion.”
Let’s think about that for a moment: increased contraceptive use is linked to a desire to have fewer children. So why would this drive up the rate of unintended pregnancy, unless this contraceptive use were highly prone to failure?
3) Contraceptives are prone to failure
As I noted above, both Europe and North America have rates of unintended pregnancy that are above the global average, despite being industrialized, developed, low-fertility regions. Now, particularly in light of the recent Supreme Court rulings, some will say that in the United States, contraceptive access remains an issue, but if we turn instead to England, we see this:
“Amongst developed countries, England has the highest rate of unintended pregnancy after the United States (US). Compared to the US, where contraceptive coverage is limited by insurance and reimbursement difficulties, contraception in England is provided free of charge by the National Health Service (NHS) and is used by 88% of women at risk of pregnancy.”
That’s right, contraception available for free, with the government footing the bill, and lots of women are using it. They’re also getting pregnant, and many are seeking abortions. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service published new data earlier this year, saying that two thirds of women who came to them for an abortion were using a contraceptive when they became pregnant. (I discuss it here.)
4) Scratch a contraception advocate, find an abortion advocate
Continuing with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the most telling quote is this, from the organization’s chief executive:
“Ultimately women cannot control their fertility through contraception alone, and need accessible abortion services as a back-up for when their contraception lets them down.”
The new Guttmacher report doesn’t explicitly call for increased abortion access, although their organization unambiguously promotes this in many of its publications. But given the human and technical failures of even the most modern forms of contraception mean that pregnancies will still occur, and while many contraception advocates will plead for support from the pro-life community, saying their products will reduce abortions, it’s very rare to find one who will explicitly say that in the event of a pregnancy, the woman should not be offered an abortion.
5) Unintended (and even unwanted) pregnancies often result in beloved children
Not only are parents of “surprise” children highly likely to accept and love them, they also have a tendency to “reclassify” them as having been intended all along – much to the chagrin of the architects of complex taxonomies of pregnancy wantedness. Some snippets from the new article:
“the results are likely influenced by changes in women’s attitudes toward these births over time.”
“some women who say they do not want to become pregnant but then do become pregnant and have a child will later report that the pregnancy was intended”
“some pregnancies that are unwanted at conception may be reported some months or years later as mistimed or wanted”
Because this tendency could lead to lower estimates of unintended pregnancy, the authors took steps to gather data in a way that ensured that “women might be less prone to rationalizing the planning status of such births.”
While a certain degree of technicality is to be expected in an academic paper, it’s worth pointing out that this “rationalizing of planning status” could also be described as not only accepting a surprise pregnancy, but becoming so attached to the child that one couldn’t fathom seeing him or her as anything other than wanted from the very beginning. Of course, some women (and men) find this acceptance comes less easily:
“one can also argue that the births women continue to claim are unintended, even retrospectively, represent those that a woman had a particularly strong or persistent wish to avoid.”
One could argue additionally that if the Guttmacher Institute was really interested in doing something helpful for women with unintended pregnancies, it could study the factors that tend to encourage women’s acceptance of their children and look for ways to foster these things on a global and regional level.
Posted on | September 16, 2014 by Rebecca Oas, Ph.D
The UK-based organization Christian Aid released a briefing paper dated September 2014 detailing its position on the post-2015 development agenda currently under discussion at the UN.
Under their “Gender Justice” recommendations, Christian Aid calls for:
“Mainstreaming of gender into other areas including health, education, natural-resource management, energy access, peacebuilding, accountable governance and access to justice. This should include specific targets on maternal mortality and on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).”
The term “sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)” is highly controversial language that has never been formally defined and is being promoted as a way to promote abortion and homosexuality. No country that does not support abortion and homosexuality in the UN context supports the term SRHR.
This isn’t the first time Christian Aid has promoted it, either. Last year, another report they published on the post-2015 development agenda included this:
“The mainstreaming of sexual education into school curriculums is another important issue – and the integration of all SRHR services, to make sure they are all under one roof, would also encourage women to seek and utilise these services that could save their lives. […] We all need to increase our advocacy in these areas, especially on SRHR, and greater involvement of faith-based actors would be particularly positive.”
That reference to integrated, one-stop SRHR services might as well have come from International Planned Parenthood Federation’s advocacy materials. Needless to say, it would not only include abortion, but ensure that it is delivered as part of a comprehensive package of services and thus more difficult to isolate and stigmatize.
So does Christian Aid promote abortion? This might be problematic, given that they claim the Greek, Russian, and Oriental Orthodox Churches among their official church sponsors, as well as over 30 other (Protestant) bodies that may individually take issue with such a stance.
For instance, the Holy Orthodox Church, which includes the major Orthodox groups in the United States, expressed the following in a 1988 submission to the US Supreme Court:
“The Holy Orthodox Church was founded by Jesus Christ and the Apostles, and bears witness to that continuous and unbroken faith. The precepts of the Orthodox Christian faith mandate the protection of innocent human life, especially that of unborn children. The Church regards abortion as murder, and as such, takes a very active role in opposing legalized abortion.”
No ambiguity there – very forthrightly stated. What if one were to ask Christian Aid about its stance on this issue?
In their Winter 2011 newsletter, Matt Gibbs did just that when he wrote, “Your International Director Paul Valentin says: ‘Part of the answer is improving reproductive health services.’ Can you tell me if this includes abortion?”
Mr. Valentin responded:
“To clarify, we are talking about giving poor men and women choice about how many children to have and when. This starts with providing basic health services to ensure safer childbirth and better mother and child survival. It also includes giving information about sexual health and the provision of safe, effective contraception without coercion. Christian Aid does not consider abortion to be a desirable form of contraception.”
Anytime a simple yes-or-no question receives a paragraph in response, there’s likely to be some obfuscation in play. First it should be clarified that abortion is not a form of “contraception” at all, since it does not block conception. The kindest term one could use would be “birth control,” but I’ll concur with the Orthodox statement above and go with “murder.”
Second, whether abortion is deemed to be “desirable” or not, that is not the question Mr. Gibbs asked. The relevant matter is whether Christian Aid is promoting abortion through their advocacy work (which their position papers on the development agenda would seem to indicate) or funding it either directly or indirectly. Mr. Valentin’s response did not address those points.
While Christian Aid may be reluctant to take a clear position on the abortion issue, they published a report in 2011 updating the status of a health project in Sierra Leone. In it, they cited the importance of developing “strong links with a range of local stakeholders” including “other international organizations working on complementary projects. […] Particularly relevant is a link with Marie Stopes…”
Relevant, indeed. Marie Stopes is an organization that performs abortions and actively advocates for abortion, including in Sierra Leone. The Marie Stopes clinics in Sierra Leone do not explicitly offer abortion among their available services , but claim to “provide a full range of high quality, affordable and client-focused sexual and reproductive health services to women, men and young people.”
Marie Stopes was previously directed to suspend their operations in Zambia after disclosing that it was performing illegal abortions there. They have also admitted to performing illegal abortions in Kenya and, in a video clip recorded in London in 2007, their Programme Director in South Africa admitted to doing illegal abortions all around the world.
All of this raises some very important questions. First, why is Christian Aid so hesitant to own its own position on abortion? If they think it is valid health care and good for women, they should be bold in saying so, and if they think it is the needless killing of innocent children, they should be equally forthright – and refuse to partner with organizations that actively commit abortions with no regard for national laws, much less the lives of the unborn. Second, given Christian Aid’s dubious track record thus far, why do the Orthodox Churches whichever other sponsoring churches claim a pro-life position continue to lend credibility and support to this organization?
All international aid organizations have a weighty responsibility to be good stewards, for the sake of both their donors and their beneficiaries, and that includes transparency about their work and the values that guide it. Those organizations that bear the name of Christ have an even greater duty in this regard, as they are explicitly sent to serve the least among us, in His name, not to destroy them.
Posted on | September 15, 2014 by Rebecca Oas, Ph.D
On Friday, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was a keynote speaker at a two-day conference of international feminists in New York. During her remarks, she was asked whether the United States was likely to ratify the international treaty to combat discrimination against women, known as CEDAW.
The question prompted laughter from the audience, and then Clinton gave her answer:
“Well, you would think the answer was likely…but honestly, as a senator who tried, as a secretary of state who tried, we have to change the Senate and try to get people who will support that, I mean, we submitted the disabilities treaty which you would have thought would have been pretty much…easy to pass. It was modeled on the Americans with Disabilities, and even Bob Dole on the floor of the Senate couldn’t get the votes that were needed. On CEDAW, we are just still struggling to try to get a favorable committee that would then pass it on to the floor and try to get the votes for it.”
She went on to say:
“The short answer is, not for lack of trying, but for absence of support, and we just have to keep working on it. It is embarrassing, I mean, really, it’s embarrassing.”
Her embarrassment was shared by John Podesta, who was White House chief of staff during the Clinton administration, a co-chairman of President Obama’s transition team. During his remarks on Thursday, the current chair of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress said:
“We remain embarrassed that the United States Senate can’t ratify CEDAW, but we’re not done trying, we’ll keep at it. There are a bunch of people who think that the United States can’t ratify anything these days, but we’re going to keep working at it.”
Both Clinton and Podesta alluded to the repeated failure of the US Senate to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which has been generally regarded as less controversial than CEDAW.
Robert Menendez, a Democratic Senator and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, alluded to the US’s general reluctance to bind itself to UN treaties – inadvertently slighting the importance of the issues facing those with disabilities in the process. In a November, 2013 interview on PBS, he said:
“And then, finally, you know, if we cannot pass [CRPD] — this treaty is about as much as motherhood, apple pie as you can get — if we cannot pass this treaty, we’re not going to pass any treaties here on any substantive issues.”
Emphasis on “substantive” rather than “any.”
Given that former Secretary Clinton’s speech Friday was to a room full of leaders in the global pro-abortion movement, motherhood and apple pie probably weren’t in much demand there either.
Posted on | September 8, 2014 by Stefano Gennarini, J.D.
Fascinating article on little known regional population control policies in India that have had a terrible effect on their people. The laws in question prohibit anyone with more than two children from running for office. Researchers from the United States, The United Kingdom, and India, are showing that this has had a very bad impact on sex ratio. More alarmingly, the laws had the opposite of their desired effect by leading to more poverty. From the article: “There is evidence that men were divorcing their wives to remain eligible for elections, and that such laws were putting the third children at a disadvantage.”
Posted on | September 5, 2014 by J.C. von Krempach, J.D.
Following the world-wide astonishment and outrage over British “humanist” Richard Dawkins’ rant that mothers giving birth to children who have been diagnosed with Down Syndrome are acting “immorally”, we are surprised to find that neither the British Humanist Association (BHA), nor the European Humanist Federation (EHF), nor the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) have found it necessary to clarify whether they agree or disagree with this statement.
Mr. Dawkins is not only a well-known evolution biologist, but also pontificates as a promoter of “humanism”, “reason”, and a “scientific world view”. It is for this reason that BHA gave him their ‘Services to Humanism’ award in 2012. In fact, it seems that Mr. Dawkins is getting the same award every other year, given that already 2009 one could read that BHA and IHEU had jointly awarded him a prize for his merits in promoting reason and science across the world. Further distinctions Mr. Dawkins has received for his “humanist” achievements include (without claim to completeness) the honorary doctorate from the (masonic) Université Libre de Bruxelles, the American Humanist Association’s Humanist of the Year Award (1996), the 2001 and 2012 Emperor Has No Clothes Award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Bicentennial Kelvin Medal of The Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow (2002), or the Deschner Award, named after German anti-clerical author Karlheinz Deschner.
Pushing their adulation for Mr. Dawkins still one step further, the the Atheist Alliance International has since 2003 awarded a “Richard Dawkins Award” during its annual conference to honour outstanding atheists.
Mr. Dawkins callous attack against the right of life of disabled persons has caused embarrassed silence among the promoters of “humanism”, who in fact for so many years seem to have honoured a veritable anti-humanist. How will (BHA-style) “humanism” be able to claim that it stands for respect and non-discrimination, when its most prominent figurehead publicly asserts that people with handicaps should not be allowed to exist?
Or maybe the silence is not one of embarrassment, but of complacency? Maybe those self-appointed “humanists” all agree that people with a handicap should be extinguished? This would then raise further questions: for example, whether that judgment applies only to people with Down Syndrome, or also to other disabilities? Would there be any disability that the “humanists” would be prepared to accept or at least to tolerate? If so, which?
On a more practical note, there is also a question the European Commission might want to answer: is it really appropriate to continue receiving the EHF and similar organisations within the framework of the Commission’s regular meetings with “philosophical and non-confessional organisations” under Article 17 of the TFEU? What are people with Down Syndrome (or their parents) supposed think of the Commission’s rolling out the red carpet for EHF?
So there is an urgent need for clarification. Given that the representatives of EHF here in Brussels, whom I know to be assiduous followers of this blog, will not fail to read this post, I am sure they will soon explain us their point of view.
Should they prefer to remain silent, there is only one possible conclusion: QUI TACET CONSENTIRE VIDETUR.
Posted on | August 20, 2014 by J.C. von Krempach, J.D.
There are people who have compassion with the weak, the sick, the handicapped and the elderly. And then there are so-called “humanists”.
According to the world-renowned champion of “humanism”, it is “immoral to allow babies with Down-syndrome to be born“.
Always the same story: old distinguished white-haired professor proffers a crazy theory, some years later someone will start putting it into practice…. Karl Marx was such a guy: he himself didn’t kill anyone with his own hands, but the ideology that bears his name was one of the most murderous in history. Same goes for Dawkins: from now on nobody should pretend he wasn’t aware how dangerous his ilk of “humanism” is.
‘Baby Gammy’ raises awareness for true nature of ‘surrogacy motherhood’. But the European Court of Human Rights has no qualms…
Posted on | August 12, 2014 by J.C. von Krempach, J.D.
After two weeks of media reports on baby Gammy, is difficult to discern which version of the story is the one we should believe. Is it true that the Australian couple who used the services of a Thai “surrogate mom”, upon learning that one of the two children that the “surrogate mom” was expecting suffered from Down syndrome, asked her to have an abortion? Is it true that, when finally the “surrogate mom” gave birth to both children, the wannabe “parents” took the healthy child home to Australia, leaving the “surrogate mom” with the handicapped one? Is it true that they were aware that they were in fact having two children instead of one? Or is it true, as they claim, that the agency that was handling the “surrogacy pregnancy” never informed them of the second child and its handicap?
Whatever may be the case, one thing is certain: such cases are bound to occur, and even with great frequency, wherever the practice of “surrogacy motherhood” is accepted. Surrogacy motherhood is the quintessential expression of a mentality that is unwilling to accept parenthood as a gift, but that assumes that everybody has an entitlement to have a child. And of course, once this “right to a child” is accepted, it soon evolves into a “right to a healthy child”. Children that suffer from mental defects or physical malformations need not be accepted, because our self-given entitlement is to have only children that fully correspond to our ambitions.
Children, it appears, are now a commodity. It is a “flesh-for-cash” business. In other words: a new form of trafficking, or of slave trade.
It is a strange coincidence that more or less at the same time when the Gammy story surfaced the international media, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has issued two judgments in which it castigated France for not having given full legal effect to the “surrogacy agreements” French couples had concluded abroad.
Upon reading those judgments in closer detail, it appears that the Court did not intend to explicitly recognize the use of “surrogacy moms” as a new human right.
For all practical purposes, however, this is what those judgments do. Bizarrely, they argue that this is in the best interest of the children concerned, as it might spare them all uncertainties regarding their entitlement to the French citizenship as well as regarding the legal recognition of their “family lives”.
This reasoning is (as is habitual with Europe’s undeservedly “prestigious” human rights institution) completely unfounded, both legally and factually. Both cases concerned children who were created in vitro in a California based fertility clinic, using the sperm of their French fathers and the ova of American women who, according to this peculiar business model, “donated” them. Being the children of French citizens, they always were under French law entitled to French citizenship – irrespective of whether the State was, or was not, going to recognize the “motherhood” of their fathers’ respective spouses (who, in both cases, were infertile, and biologically completely unrelated to the children). The truth is: no application for French citizenship seems to have been made – and therefore, no such application had been rejected. How can it then be claimed that the State had violated anybody’s rights?
The second limb of the Court’s reasoning is equally bizarre. In order to give legal recognition to the children’s relationships with women who are not their mother, the Court obliges the French authorities to adopt legal decisions that would sever all legal relationships with the women that are, indeed, their mothers. Just another step in the Court’s gradual re-definition of “family life”, which from a well-defined biological reality is turned into some kind of social role-play…
It is very good that the Gammy case has, at least for some days, shed some light on the implications brought about by the horrible practice of “surrogacy motherhood”.
Maybe if such cases come up in the media with greater frequency, this will at last trigger some kind of reflexion process even at the ECtHR…
Posted on | August 5, 2014 by Lisa Correnti
At a recent Family Planning Conference in Kampala co-hosted by Uganda’s Ministry of Health and UNFPA, sexual health advocates and development partners addressed young people on access and information for modern contraceptives — leaving out though — how these contraceptives could result in contracting HIV/AIDS, increasing breast cancer risk and rendering them sterile.
UNFPA champions sexual and reproductive rights throughout the developing world which includes comprehensive sex-ed to the very young, and access to modern contraceptives and so-called “safe” abortion. Abstinence programs don’t seem to make the agenda.
Prioritized and distributed through intermediaries like International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International are long-acting hormonal progesterone contraceptives not only among married women but among adolescent girls. These implants and injectables are being promoted among adolescent girls despite a black box warning for osteoporosis, a double risk of breast cancer and increased risk of HIV transmission.
The injectable depo provera is not recommended for more than 2 years of use due to irreplaceable bone mineral loss. Women also experience prolonged bleeding and delay or loss of fertility. The drugs manufacturer Pfizer does not recommend its use for women that want to have more children.
Reproductive rights advocates, the World Health Organization and US agencies are all aware of the serious nature of these progesterone only hormonal contraceptives. Yet, the scale-up throughout developing countries continues. Why? Because these stakeholders view pregnancy as the worse outcome weighing it up against the risk of possible health issues from injectable use.
The same reproductive rights advocates who loudly yell for sexual and reproductive health policy as a human right have colluded in the coverup of information about the serious side effects of progesterone contraceptives.
This week civil rights attorney Willie Gary visited members of the U.S. Congress informing them he will bring suit against Pfizer for fraud and requested lawmakers take action to stop funding Depo Provera and Norplant 2 through development assistance programs.
While rich foundations may continue to fund global abortion providers for the distribution of these injectables – funding from the US should soon end.
Posted on | August 1, 2014 by J.C. von Krempach, J.D.
Following the flat refusal of the European Commission to take any action in response to the successful European Citizen Initiative ONE OF US, the organisers of the initiative have now filed a formal lawsuit against the EU’s executive.
In the 30-page complaint (which we make available online on this blog for the convenience of our readers), the citizens’ committee meticulously exposes the lack of argument and intellectual poverty of the Commission’s answer to the initiative, which had been signed by nearly two million citizens. It comes to the conclusion that this response was inadequate, and hence violates the Commission’s obligations.
It will be very interesting to follow the further developments of this lawsuit. The inadequacy of the Commission’s response to the initiative will be clearly apparent to anyone who reads the well-drafted complaint, and it is unlikely that the EU judges will be able to find any words of praise for the way in which the Commission has reacted to a legislative proposal that would ban the funding of abortions through the EU budget. But the fundamental question that the Court will have to answer is a different one: whether or not EU Regulation 211/2011, which provides the legal basis for such formal petitions, gives the Commission the right to give inadequate responses to unwelcome citizens’ initiatives.
In other words, this is not about abortion anymore. It is a real test case for democracy in Europe. The outcome of this lawsuit will determine the future not of the ONE OF US initiative (which in any case has spelt out a political agenda that seems likely to remain on the table for years to come), but of the European Citizen Initiative as an instrument of participative democracy.
The Court thus faces a dilemma: on the basis of a strict reading the wording of Regulation 211/2011 it may well find that the Commission has a nearly unlimited margin of appreciation in dealing with successful citizens’ initiatives, and thus may turn them down on the basis of the flimsiest reasoning (or, in the extreme case, without any reasoning at all). But that would simply mean that it makes no sense for citizens to use this new instrument. On the other hand, if the applicants’ claim is upheld, this would mean that the Commission’s monopoly of initiative would have come to an end.
The Court may be strongly tempted to wriggle out of this dilemma by finding some formal subterfuge for not dealing with the complaint. But such a strategy would not work out: rejecting the complaint on formal grounds would simply mean that citizens have no possibility to legally challenge the Commission’s response to their initiative, even if that response is clearly inadequate. And this would in turn mean that the citizen’s initiative, which was introduced in 2011 to add an element of democracy to the EU, is nothing than an empty promise.
There is no way out: the EU’s citizens want to know what a European Citizen Initiative is really good for. And the Court, one way or the other, must give them an answer.keep looking »