Posted on | March 14, 2013 by Wendy Wright
Over 20 groups are asking U.S. Secretary of State to end the U.S. obstruction over abortion at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Here is the letter sent today:
Dear Secretary Kerry,
This week the United States has an opportunity to advance international efforts to prevent violence against women and girls through the UN Commission on the Status of Women. We are disturbed to learn that the U.S. delegation is, instead, exploiting this effort to insist on language that the former Secretary of State and others say includes abortion. The delegation is also not supporting language that upholds national sovereignty.
It is especially shocking that the U.S. called for deleting a reaffirmation that every human being has the “inherent right to life, liberty and security of persons.” This contradicts a foundational principle of citizens and civilizations worldwide.
Last year, negotiations at this same Commission failed to reach agreement because the U.S. insisted on language that has been defined as abortion without limits. The U.S. also required that the agreement not recognize that countries have a say in how policies are implemented. This principle of national sovereignty is fundamental to U.S. independence and a necessary standard for other countries as well.
This position contradicts current U.S. laws, which allow limits on abortion and bans funding abortions internationally. The U.S. delegation’s work will lead people to believe that the Administration is attempting to undermine U.S. laws through little-noticed agreements at the U.N.
The delegations at the Commission are under exceptional pressure to reach agreement this year. It appears the U.S. is holding the agreement hostage to impose policies that violate America’s own standards. The U.S. delegation’s position risks our country’s reputation of helping women victims of violence worldwide, to replace it with abortion as the ultimate priority.
We respectfully ask that you direct the U.S. delegation to end its demand for controversial abortion-related language, and support language upholding national sovereignty.
Donna J. Harrison, M.D.
Executive Director and Director of Research and Public Policy,
American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Senior Vice President, Family Research Council
Senior Legal Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom
CEO & President, Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee
President, Susan B. Anthony List
President, Eagle Forum
President, Family Watch International
Charmaine Yoest, Ph.D.
President and CEO, Americans United for Life
Executive Director, Faith and Freedom Coalition
Thomas P. Kilgannon
President, Freedom Alliance
International Director, Priests for Life
E. Douglas Clark
President, The Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society
Executive Director, MCCL Global Outreach
Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Christian Coalition of America
President, Campaign Life Coalition
Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D.
Director, International Organizations Research Group
President, United Families International
Director of Communications, Human Life International
William J. Murray
Chairman, Religious Freedom Coalition
President, Catholic Advocate
UN Representative for the United Kingdom’s (UK)
Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC)
and International Right to Life Federation
Michael P. Farris, J.D., LL.M.
Posted on | March 13, 2013 by Rebecca Oas, Ph.D
The concept of “unmet need” for contraception was invented in an attempt to induce countries to pledge billions of dollars to send contraceptives to developing countries.
Experts have denounced this measurement as baseless:
“The usual numbers bandied about for estimates of ‘unmet need’ do not correspond to any definition of ‘unmet need’ that any economist (or just common sense) could agree to. They are an advocacy construct that has been successfully used in the overall political agenda for promoting family planning.” – Harvard economist Lant Pritchett
“Let’s hope that the term ‘unmet need’ for contraceptives indeed gets replaced by ‘unsatisfied demand’ — whatever the barriers are — and that we can find better strategies to help women space births and reduce unwanted pregnancies.” –World Bank economist Berk Ozler
“A need with no demand might make sense for political activism, but not for programs or policies.” -University of California San Francisco epidemiologist Dominic Montagu
“I agree that we should stop emphasizing “unmet need” as a rationale for family-planning (FP) programs. I agree that it does not correspond to what any economist would call demand.” –international economic development professor at Georgetown University Shareen Joshi
A common theme in criticisms of “unmet need” is the fact that it does not reflect actual demand. Women included in the totals include those who have religious or other objections to contraception. However, with the release of updated numbers on contraceptive use worldwide, UN researchers have come up with a creative solution to the problem of squaring “unmet need” with “demand” – redefining demand entirely.
A look at their latest publication in The Lancet medical journal reveals this bit of clever wordplay:
“Total demand refers to total contraceptive use (any method) and unmet need combined.”
Rather than amending the concept of “unmet need” to more accurately reflect what women are really asking for, they’ve redefined the word “demand” to include both their original flawed term and all those who are using contraceptives with no apparent barriers to access. Or, from the standpoint of the UN, that’s one group currently contracepting without the apparent need of UN assistance and one group that the UN has decided ought to be doing so, whether they want to or not.
Missing from this new study is any accurate measure of what women are actually requesting, but now that “demand” has been redefined, perhaps we’ll need a new word for it. As for what the UN is requesting/demanding, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has said $8.1 billion a year for family planning, although with the new numbers, that total is likely to increase…one form of rapid growth the UNFPA will probably see as a good thing.
Posted on | March 13, 2013 by J.C. von Krempach, J.D.
Well, that’s also a way of fighting against the rising tide of laws that, in various countries, seek to impose the legal recognition of same-sex “marriages”, and maybe not the least efficient one: to expose those legislative projecs to the ridicule they deserve.
As had to be expected, nobody is more talented for this than our friends from across the Channel, and in particular the upper house of their parliament, the House of Lords. I attach an article from today’s edition of the “Telegraph”:
‘Change Royal succession law for children of a lesbian Queen’
The laws on Royal succession should be changed to deal with the children of a lesbian Queen in a gay marriage who conceives using donor sperm, the House of Lords has heard.
David Cameron’s moves to legalise same-sex marriage raise “troubling” questions about the laws that determine which Royal children can succeed to the throne, a peer has said. Parliament is debating the Succession to the Crown Bill, which is intended to update royal laws to ensure that a first-born daughter to the Duke of Cambridge becomes Queen. Peers have considered amendments to the law which would make clear that only Royal children born in “a marriage between a man and a woman” could be considered valid heirs to the throne.
Under the 18th Century laws governing the succession, only an “heir to the body” can succeed. That phrase was intended to mean direct biological descendents of the monarch. Some experts now argue that advances in artificial insemination mean that the term needs to be redefined.
Lord True, a Conservative peer, proposed changes to the Bill that would explicitly define an heir to the body as the product of a heterosexual marriage. His amendments would also remove from the line of succession any child that was not the offspring of “both parties to that marriage”, excluding children conceived using sperm or eggs from a donor or surrogate. Lord True was supported by Lord Elton, a former Conservative minister whose wife is aide to the Queen.
Lord True told the Daily Telegraph he was not opposed to gay marriage, but believes that Royal laws should be updated to take account of it. He said: “What happens if we have a lesbian queen in a same-sex marriage who conceives using an egg implanted with donor sperm? The law should be clear, but this is a question that has not been thought through in the Bill.”
Lord Wallace of Tankerness, a Government law officer, told the Lords that after “much thought” that ministers had decided no change to the Bill is required. Existing laws already ensure that only a Royal child born to heterosexual parents can succeed, he said. “The laws governing the succession require that the heir must be the natural-born child of a husband and wife,” he said. “We do not believe that there is a need for this amendment.”
In response, Lord True agreed to withdraw his amendment, but said he remained “troubled” by the questions raised by same-sex marriage laws. If same-sex marriage becomes widespread, the current common law position on the succession could well be challenged in future, he told Lord Wallace. “My concern is that as the law arises in the future, that understanding may be challenged,” he said. “As same sex marriage becomes part of the settled life of our kingdom, as the Prime Minister intends, the law [on successions] will inevitably evolve.” Despite withdrawing his amendment, Lord True said the questions it raised will have to be answered one day. “This may seem fanciful or long in the future, but I believe Parliament should reflect on it,” he said. “I believe the question will inevitably arise.”
Only natural-born children of a husband and wife???? I suppose the Equality and Human Rights Commission must urgently do something about it…
Posted on | March 12, 2013 by Wendy Wright
As countries are deadlocked over negotiations going late into the night at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the US and European Union have played a deadly card. One that contradicts a foundational principle of citizens and civilizations worldwide, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
Last night, the US and EU called for deleting a reafirmation that every human being has the inherent right to life, liberty and security of persons.
This year’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) has become the equivalent of D-Day for abortion hard-liners. Last year’s CSW could not produce a final agreement because the US insisted it included “reproductive rights,” language that is used to legitimize abortion. The pressure to produce an agreement is intense – and is being exploited by abortion advocates, who are attempting to create the impression than a lack of agreement is the fault of those who want to protect the right to life for all, including unborn babies.
Abortion advocates have taken to Twitter, blogs and media outlets to accuse pro-life delegations of going backward on previous agreements. In the same breath, however, they demand this year’s document go farther than previous by including “reproductive rights.”
The New York Times ran an editorial criticizing nations that have formed an “unholy alliance.” An alliance, to be clear, that is holding the line on the foundational principle of civilization – that human beings have a right to life.
The NYT editorial repeats a statistic on violence against women that has become the urban legend of this Commission meeting, just like the false-but-widely-believed claim that more Super Bowl Sunday is the worst day of the year for domestic violence.
It claims “more women between the ages of 15 and 44 were at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria combined.” This clumsy (or devious) reformulation of a 20-year old statistic is intentionally misleading. Among several errors, the data from the original source, a World Bank report, actually shows the combined risks of cancer, car accidents, war and malaria are nearly twice as harmful to women aged 15 – 44 than rape and domestic violence.
And it implicitly undermines all the efforts in the last 20 years to address violence against women, such as the Cairo ICPD and Beijing Platform for Action, as being worthless. Efforts seen as victories for feminists.
The US and European Union’s call to remove a reference to the inherent right to life is certainly consistent with their demand for a right to abortion. Not often do they make the mistake of presenting their position so clearly.
It’s up to civilized people to oppose it.
Posted on | March 12, 2013 by Stefano Gennarini, J.D.
Lets say it plain and simple, the New York Times op-ed about the UN Commission of the Status of Women is a last gasp attempt to steer nations away from helping to end violence against women and girls, and instead promote controversial social policies.
Ending violence against women, the priority theme of this year’s meeting of the commission, is no joke. It is one of very few global challenges that 193 UN member states want to address concertedly. Why is it then that the United States and some European nations keep raising obstacles towards reaching consensus on policies to end this scourge?
The NY Times tries to paint a picture where the Holy See, Russia and Iran are the reason that negotiations, currently underway at UN headquarters, over a document that contains policies to end violence against women are stalling. That is simply false. The Holy See (not the “Vatican” – you’d think someone working at the NY Times would know that!) is the only delegation at the UN that consistently condemns all forms of violence against women, including forced sterilization and abortion, and sex-selective abortion. Most delegation, including the US and European countries don’t have qualms about ignoring these blatant human rights abuses. Instead they want to promote ambiguous terms that some countries and NGOs use as synonymous with abortion rights.
The reason negotiations are stalling at the commission isn’t because the Holy See, together with a majority of countries around the world (not just Russia and Iran), is insisting that cultures, traditions and religion should be taken into account when implementing UN policies, but because the US and some European nations (not all, by the way) are obsessed with “sexual and reproductive health” and “reproductive rights,” two terms that are controversial because they are used to mean much more than simply family planning.
“Reproductive rights” used to refer to the right to marry freely. Marriage has no longer anything to do with the terms unfortunately. The term is now used by groups that promote abortion on demand and IVF as human rights. These groups are involved in litigation in several countries to establish these so called rights. The terms are alos associated with Wealthy countries telling developing countries that they must decrease their populations by investing billion of dollars on condoms. They mean very little else if anything at all. Consider that “maternal health” is a category all to itself entirely separate from sexual and reproductive health on the WHO website (which also includes abortion as part of sexual and reproductive health). No wonder so many countries don’t like the terms.
It is not just the Holy See, Iran and Russia who oppose this excessive emphasis. It is also countries in Europe, Latin America, Africa, the Carribean, Asia, and the Middle East. They all object to this obsession of the US and European countries with sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.
Last year negotiations over a final document of the commission on the status of women failed because the US and Norway would rather have no agreed policies to help women than recognize that countries with diverse, legal systems, cultures, traditions and religions have a say in how the policies are implemented. That paragraph is a necessary addition to any document that includes the controversial terms.
If negotiations fail again this year, it won’t be Russia or Iran’s fault, and certainly not the Holy See’s. The blame will lie squarely with the US and Europe, for failing to accept that their sexual agenda is not being adopted wholesale by the rest of the world.
Posted on | March 11, 2013 by Stefano Gennarini, J.D.
Here is a great new add for a group that is helping provide potable water to children. The Gates Foundation and UNFPA who are asking for 8B USD a year to give condoms to subsaharan women should take the cue…
Posted on | March 8, 2013 by Wendy Wright
Placing women in combat is touted today by the Obama administration as its primary accomplishment on International Women Day. Inserting women into the most violent situations in the world turns a War on Women into a War With Women.
US Secretary of State Susan Rice released this statement today.
Recall that President Obama criticized his political opponents for waging a War on Women for such things as opposing abortions of girls sex-selection abortions. Today’s statement heralds the Administration’s primary goals as pushing abortion (“reproductive rights”) worldwide.
This celebration falls during the UN Commission on the Status of Women, whose theme this year is Preventing Violence Against Women.
The story of a statistic: how one activist is exploiting a good cause and bad data to push abortion on an unwilling world
Posted on | March 7, 2013 by Rebecca Oas, Ph.D
As negotiations intensify over the outcome document of the 57th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), many participants in the two-week event are hearing the same sobering statistic being repeated, unaware that it is a disingenuous misrepresentation of the facts, and that one of the women who created it twenty years ago is currently sitting on the US delegation to CSW. The priority theme for this year is the prevention of violence against women.
An article published by AFP on March 5th reports:
“Much has been made at [CSW57] of a World Bank report which estimates that more women aged 15-44 are killed violently than die of malaria, HIV, cancer, accidents and war combined.”
Why the statistic is misleading
This statistic has taken on many forms and appears in a wide variety of places, including UNICEF, UNFPA, UN Women, Amnesty International, and the official UN resources for speakers, often without citation.
The source of the original data is the World Bank’s World Development Report 1993: Investing in Health (PDF). A 1994 World Bank Discussion paper on violence against women contains a further analysis and modeling of the data from the development report. This publication is titled The Hidden Health Burden (PDF) and was written by Lori L. Heise, Jacqueline Pitanguy, and Adrienne Germain.
The statistic derives from a table in the 1994 paper which compares the estimated global burden of a selection of diseases or causes of injury. This is expressed in “disability adjusted life years (DALYs) lost, which combines the effects of disability, poor health, and early death.
(From The Hidden Health Burden by Heise, Pitanguy, and Germain (1994))
The table reveals several flaws in the statistic. Most obviously, there is a disclaimer at the bottom which admits that “rape and domestic violence are included here for illustrative purposes” owing to the fact that, unlike the other items, they are classified in the original data as risk factors and not diseases in and of themselves. Simply, this is a comparison of apples to oranges.
Additionally, the choice of diseases is suspect. Women are most at risk for domestic violence during the reproductive age range (here classified as ages 15-44), but cancer risks are highest within an older age range, while malaria is most deadly among children. Without this context, the data are misleading. When you delete the portions of this graph outside the black lines, you get a very different picture indeed.
(Source data: 2010 Global Burden of Disease study; the interactive modeling feature can be found here.)
Based on the table in the 1994 paper, we can also conclude that the AFP quote is wrong to focus on mortality alone, wrong to claim that the combined effects of the other causes are less than that of violence against women (the sum of 18.2 being greater than 9.5), and utterly ridiculous to insert the reference to HIV out of thin air. The latter addition is particularly egregious when you consider that HIV rose from being the 33rd-ranked cause of disease burden and death in 1990 to 5th in 2004, a position it has retained as of 2010.
In summary, this outdated statistic is founded on an invalid comparison between poorly chosen categories and further compounded by inaccurate reporting, ludicrous exaggerations, and a near-universal failure to verify facts.
Why this is important
None of this is to minimize the very real problem of violence against women and girls that exists worldwide. However, flawed statistics will produce flawed solutions. Victims of violence deserve better.
Even if the statistic were scientifically sound, it is based on 20-year-old data that predates the 1994 Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and fails to incorporate the effects of efforts made at the UN and within member states and communities to address violence against women. To successfully track progress in preventing such violence, we must rely on accurate measures, legitimate comparisons, and rigorous statistical analysis.
Minimizing serious diseases like malaria and cancer and the devastation of war doesn’t help women who are desperate for services and justice. This is particularly important in the developing world – the 1993 World Development Report pointed out:
“[Violence against women] account[s] for about 5 percent of the total disease burden among women ages 15–44 in developing countries, where the burden from maternal and communicable causes still overwhelms that from other conditions. In industrial countries, where the total disease burden is much smaller, this share rises to 19 percent.”
The ulterior motive
The source of this inaccurate statistic was co-authored by Adrienne Germain, who is President Emerita of the pro-abortion International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) and a longtime advocate who has devoted her career to bringing abortion to the developing world. She is currently on the US delegation to CSW, using the context of violence against women to continue her efforts, which have been ongoing for over 20 years. In the 1994 paper, she and her coauthors write:
“The United Nations list of abuses…includes only acts perpetuated by an individual or the state and excludes laws, policies, or structural inequalities that could be construed as violent (laws against abortion, structural adjustment policies)…[It] provides insufficient guidance to determine whether items that are not listed, such as female feticide or restrictive abortion policies, would constitute gender violence.”
Germain and current members of IWHC are working hard to expand the UN’s definition of human rights to include abortion, and to expand its definition of violence to include restricting access to it. While a troubling statistic is always useful for advancing a cause, a table making a merely “illustrative” comparison doesn’t take on a life of its own and make its way into the talking points for multiple UN agencies without a calculated agenda behind it.
Abortion advocates are committed to using this year’s CSW to advance their efforts to establish a human right to abortion in international treaties and UN consensus documents. From IWHC’s official Twitter feed:
As CSW continues, many of the side and parallel events feature the heartbreaking accounts of women around the world who have experienced violence, many of whom have been denied the help they need by ill-equipped or indifferent governments. The failure of the delegates to reach consensus on an outcome document would do nothing to help them or prevent other women and girls from finding themselves in the same situation. This begs the question the news media are not asking: will the abortion advocates be willing to set aside their agenda in order to avoid another stalemate? Or will they continue to seek cover by attaching their cause to that of preventing violence against women – a cause they disingenuously promote by disseminating false data and twisting the very definition of the word violence.
Posted on | March 6, 2013 by Piero A. Tozzi, J.D.
As reported in last week’s Friday Fax, Alliance Defending Freedom took the floor recently at a General Assembly forum on how to reform United Nations Treaty Bodies, calling on the Treaty Bodies not to usurp functions that do not rightfully belong to them.
These treaty monitoring bodies, also called “Compliance Committees,” are generally empowered to receive reports from States Parties on how States are meeting their obligations under a particular treaty, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child or the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
They are pointedly NOT empowered to rewrite the language of treaties or impose obligations on sovereign States Parties that they never agreed to. Yet that is often what they do, for example seeking to advance abortion “rights” in treaties that are silent on the subject or implicitly protect the unborn.
Such ultra vires actions undermine the rule of law and ultimately harm the international system. ADF attorney Sofia Martinez specifically flagged the following bad acts by the treaty bodies:
- The criticism of specific laws of countries, undermining the sovereign prerogative of countries to enact and preserve legislation that is not altered by anything written within the four corners of the treaty documents. This can be seen in particular with regard to abortion; there is not one single global United Nations treaty that contains a so-called “right to abortion,” yet treaty bodies act as if there is such a right, unwarrantedly pressuring countries to change policies protecting unborn life.
- Comprehensive general comments that pretend to authoritatively commit state parties to a particular interpretation of the treaties, essentially attempting to rewrite treaties or add terms to them which were never agreed upon by the States Parties that negotiated, signed and ratified such treaties.
- The confusing term given to the treaty body member’s views as “jurisprudence”. This term in several common law and civil law countries means binding legal precedent. Treaty body recommendations are clearly not binding. Also to be avoided are any words implying adjudication (such as “sentence” or “decision”) when referring to “Views” under optional protocols.
Interventions such as this one made by Alliance Defending Freedom and its civil society allies are important because they check the tendency of unelected and unaccountable “experts” who sit on treaty monitoring bodies to fabricate “soft law” norms out of whole cloth and impose their ideological predilections upon sovereign nations. They also help restore a proper understanding of international law.
Other recent interventions by Alliance Defending Freedom include one highlighting the role “traditional values,” properly understood, play in fostering respect for true human rights and dignity; another to the Committee for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) correcting erroneous interpretations of international law asserting that “access to justice” requires abortion decriminalization; and one to the Commission on the Status of Women pointing out that sex-selective abortion ranks among the most extreme forms of violence against women in many parts of the world.
As that report concluded, “Without a secure right to life, all other rights are illusory” – a self-evident truth, and one which the monitors of “human rights” would do well to take to heart.
Posted on | March 6, 2013 by Lisa Correnti
Once again the Obama administration reveals its priority to family planning over maternal and child health care needs of poor women and children in developing countries.
Yesterday USAID released the 2012 Report to Congress: Health-Related Research and Development Strategy, which is an overview of the Agency’s 2011–2015 plan to implement and accelerate health programs to help the lives of women and children.
A closer look at funding reveals a budget of $188 million for health research and development for 2012 allocated to over 7 health areas; Maternal and Newborn health, Child health, Family Planning and Reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, Maleria, Tuberculosis, Nutrition and Pandemic Influenza and Other Emerging Threats.
Almost half of the entire budget was allocated to HIV/AIDS – $93 million. Out of the remaining $95 million, $25 million is designated for Family Planning to “improve and expand the use of family planning methods in developing countries” and to “introduce and develop new family planning methods.”
Just $9 million is targeted for Maternal and Newborn health and $1.5 million to Child health, this despite a recent study showing 1.4 million deaths per year from diarrhea, with the majority being children.
It’s time the Obama administration clear-out some of the reproductive rights/population control advocates in his administration to make room for global development experts that will address real health issues and not those driven by abortion rights ideologues. Women and children’s lives depend on it.
Posted on | March 5, 2013 by Rebecca Oas, Ph.D
As the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women begins today, two news stories are already disingenuously implying that the Holy See, the Russian Federation, and Iran are effectively enablers of violence committed against women. These and several other UN member states oppose the inclusion of language that could be used to support a right to abortion – a topic that is always controversial within the UN system.
After the failure to produce a consensus document in last year’s CSW as well as in 2003, the last time the priority theme was violence against women, there is a great deal of pressure to come to agreement. While the priority of eliminating violence against women and girls would seem like an uncontroversial topic, the pro-abortion agenda being pushed by countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Norway has made the negotiations on the outcome document more contentious and raises the fear of another stalemate.
Early reports in the Guardian and AFP News appear to be setting up a narrative which would lay the full blame for such an impasse at the feet of the Holy See and its allies, with the implicit accusation that opposition to a flawed document is the same as tacit approval of violence inflicted on women.
Michelle Bachelet, the head of UN Women, told The Guardian that violence against women and girls “is a universal issue and there is no culture or religion that should accept this.”
The AFP story exposes its bias in the first sentence, and implicates religion as the source of the member states’ objections:
“The Vatican, Iran and other religious states are resisting efforts by a UN conference, which started Monday, to demand tougher global standards to prevent violence against women and children.”
Similarly, the Guardian article reminds us that this narrative is nothing new:
“Iran, Russia and the Holy See…are understood to already be calling for the removal of key lines of this year’s draft document that relate to reproductive health and rights, and those that suggest governments take responsibility for tackling gender violence. Lobbying by these factions was blamed for a failure to agree any conclusions at last year’s CSW, which focused on rural women’s empowerment.”
As the document is negotiated, member states submit their recommendations for the addition, alteration, or removal of text. The decision to include controversial language can render the process more difficult, but it takes a lack of consensus to make controversy, and it takes (at least) two to make a stalemate.
By characterizing the states opposing abortion as the ones preventing decisive action to be taken to stop violence against women, the authors of these articles fail to ask why increased access to abortion is essential to the process, or whether its inclusion in the outcome document is worth sacrificing the outcome entirely.
Posted on | February 28, 2013 by Rebecca Oas, Ph.D
According to a press release from the Center for Constitutional Rights, (CCR) the Vatican has been “summoned before UN Committee on Rights of the Child,” allegedly to answer for the sexual abuse scandal. Omitted from the press release was the fact that Congo, Germany, Portugal, Russian Federation, and Yemen were likewise “summoned” to appear before the same committee.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child will be reviewing reports from the Holy See and the other five member states as part of a routine review that cycles through all the countries that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The Holy See will issue its own report, and other groups have the opportunity to issue their own alternate reports, as CCR and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) have done here.
This will be the second periodic review for the Holy See, which ratified the CRC in 1990.
The word “summons” in legal parlance refers to an authoritative citation to appear before a court. The countries that will undergo review before the Committee on the Rights of the Child are not being summoned in response to a reported grievance. By mischaracterizing the nature of the situation, CCR betrays a lack of understanding of the United Nations treaty system, a cynical desire to mislead their readers and exaggerate their own competence to make demands of sovereign states, or both.
Posted on | February 26, 2013 by Lisa Correnti
A letter from Republican lawmakers seeking an accounting for the millions of dollars flowing to Planned Parenthood and its affiliates was sent this week to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Planned Parenthood’s recent annual report shows they performed over 300,000 abortions, and questions remain on whether these funds are being used for abortion in spite of federal law prohibiting it.
Sen. David Vitter leads the effort on the Senate side and he is joined by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN)) and Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), with some 60 Republican members signing on. The last GAO report was in 2010.
It is important that Planned Parenthood’s international affiliates are included in this audit especially with the Obama administrations recent actions further prioritizing reproductive health and family planning in global development assistance.
There has been a steady increase in family planning funding since 2008 – and with the Mexico City policy being overturned, U.S. funding is flowing to many reproductive health organizations that are involved in aggressive family planning programs to lower the fertility of poor women in developing countries – International Planned Parenthood being just one of several.
The policies and initiatives established by President Obama and Hillary Clinton in the name of gender equality and women empowerment will expand reproductive health/family planning funding through a myriad of State Department agencies which will go well beyond the $620 million already being appropriated through USAID.
This fixation on sexual and reproductive health programs diverts funding from real health care programs that combat disease and reduce maternal and child mortality.
With Hillary Clinton’s admission while heading up the State Dept., — that abortion is included in reproductive health care – a GAO audit of the organizations running RH/FP programs in these undeveloped countries is warranted, especially since the groups receiving U.S. funding advocate for population reduction and abortion.
Had the woman been a man… Comments on the ECHR ruling of X and others v. Austria on homosexual adoption and the abandonment of natural law.
Posted on | February 26, 2013 by Grégor Puppinck, Ph.D
Director of the ECLJ.
The Court establishes that the impossibility of second-parent adoption in a same-sex relationship is discriminatory when such adoption is possible for unmarried heterosexual couples, although the exclusion of the biological parent. The reasoning may be thus summarised: If the woman had been a man, the adoption would have been possible, so it must be possible in the name of non-discrimination according to sexual orientation while the woman is not a man.
On the 19th of February, in a 50 page judgment, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled against Austria in the case of X and Others v. Austria (no. 19010/07) calling into question the impossibility of a woman adopting a child that was born to her partner in a previous relationship with a man (what the Court refers to as “co-parental adoption”). This decision established the principle that the adoption of children by same-sex partners should be possible, as it is for heterosexual unmarried couples.
The two (unmarried) women who took action on their own behalf and on the behalf of the child who was a minor, claimed to have suffered discrimination based on their sexual orientation and invoked the right to respect for their private and family life (art. 8) as well as the prohibition of discrimination (art.14). “They submit that there is no reasonable and objective justification for allowing adoption of one partner’s child by the other partner if heterosexual couples are concerned, while prohibiting the adoption of one partner’s child by the other partner in the case of homosexual couples.” (Presentation of facts made by the registrar of the Court.)
A slight majority of the judges (10 out of 17) adopted the reasoning of the LGBT organisations that supported this case (ILGA, ECSOL, FIDH, etc.). In contrast, the opinion published in the appendix of the seven dissenting judges cited and largely reflects the written comments submitted by the ECLJ to the Grand Chamber.
According to Austrian law, such an adoption is not possible because a child cannot have parentage divided between more than two parents who have to be a man and a woman, and the person adopting the child substitutes themselves for the biological parent of the same sex as them (art. 182 para 2 of the Austrian Civil Code). Thus, the adoption by a woman would break the relationship with his biological mother.
The two women have argued that when the couple is heterosexual, a man living with the mother of a child can replace the father and adopt the child (the same as a woman living with the father of a child can, in theory, replace the mother). However, in this case, the natural parent loses all ties to the child, even the right to see him. Such an adoption by substitution requires the renunciation by the parent of their parental rights or a court decision declaring the unworthiness of the parent to maintain his rights, if it is considered to be in the best interests of the child.
However, the mother and her new partner wanted to exclude the father in order to “found” a new family. In order for the mother’s partner to be allowed to establish parental rights, the two women asked the father to give up his own parental rights. The father refused; in fact, he maintains regular contact with his son, who bears his name and he also pays alimony. The women asked the Austrian courts to deprive the father of his rights so that the female partner could take his place as the second parent. After examining the case, the Austrian authorities found the application contrary to the best interests of the child and refused. The two women then proceeded to take their case to the European Court.
Thus, from the point of view of the interests of the child, the matter was simple: the child already had a father and mother, neither of whom wish to nor should have to give up their parental rights, the interests of the child were to keep a legal family ties with his both parents. The child is thus, not adoptable.
However, from the point of view of the adults, the case was more complicated as it is not the interests of the child that were being considered, but instead, equality between heterosexual and homosexual couples. It concerned equal rights over children. The difference in situation between heterosexual and homosexual couples in their inability to “have” children was perceived as discriminatory.
A case of adoption considered only from the perspective of the rights of adults
It is only from the perspective of the rights of adults in adoption and only in light of equality that the majority of judges ruled. The majority ignored the specific circumstances of the case and focused on the law, considering that “as Article 182 para 2 of the Civil Code contains an absolute prohibition on second-parent adoption in a same-sex couple, making any examination of the specific circumstances of their case unnecessary and irrelevant and leading to the refusal of their adoption request as a matter of principle” (para 126) The Grand Chamber held that this absolute prohibition had prevented the national courts from considering whether the best interests of the child would be met by the adoption by the mother’s partner and had prevented examining “whether there were any reasons which might justify overriding the father’s refusal to consent” (para 124). However the factual evidence stands to the contrary: the Austrian courts also considered that, having regard to the particular circumstances of the case, such an adoption would not be in the best interests of the child. However, this reproach could be used against the Grand Chamber; since it abstained from appreciating, in concreto, the interests of the child and of the father. The father did not participate in the proceedings at theEuropean Court; perhaps he was not aware of the case as the applicants were granted anonymity. The son also was not present before the Court either: being a minor, his mother acted in his name before the Court.
A case considered in abstracto through the prism of equality
The majority of judges limited their analysis of the general principles. They asked in abstracto whether the adoption would have been possible if the applicants were not of the same sex. The Court thus, found that if the mother’s partner had been a man, it would have been possible for him to become an adoptive father.
“Had the first and third applicants been an unmarried different-sex couple, the domestic courts would not have been able to refuse the adoption request as a matter of principle. Instead, the courts would have been required to examine whether the adoption served the second applicant’s interests within the meaning of Article 180a of the Civil Code. If the child’s father had not consented to the adoption, the courts would have had to examine whether there were exceptional circumstances such as to justify overriding his refusal under Article 181 § 3 of the Civil Code.” (para 125.)
For the Court, this establishes the existence of a difference in treatment based on the sexual orientationof the two women (para 130). This finding necessitates assimilating the physical sexual difference between a heterosexual and a homosexual couple to a difference in sexual “orientation”. But, on the subject of filiations, it is the physical sexual identity of the parents which matters, and not their orientation.
If one considers, as found by the majority, that neither the sexual otherness nor the biological parentage is crucial to be “the parent” of the child; then there is discrimination. The majority then evaluated and eliminated one by the one the justifications provided by the government in support of its legislation:
- the Court notes that the Government has not “adduce[d] any specific argument, any scientific studies or any other item of evidence to show that a family with two parents of the same sex could in no circumstances adequately provide for a child’s needs” (§ 142).
- The Court then disregards the Austrian law itself, affirming that “it merely reflects the position of those sectors of society which are opposed to the idea of opening up second-parent adoption to same-sex couples” (§ 143). Where is the minimum respect which the Court, in a European legal system based on the rule of law, is supposed to hold towards the national law and legislator, particularly under the principle of subsidiary? With such a statement, the Court openly places itself above the law on behalf of its enlightened conception of rights.
- the Court criticises the Austrian law to “lack coherence” in that it explicitly states that a child should not have two mothers or two fathers but allows adoption by a single person, even if this person is a homosexual and lives as a couple (§ 144). Note that the Court itself requires that when the adoption is open to an unmarried person, it shall be available without discrimination based on sexual orientation (Fretté v France; E.B. v France).
- The Court finally dismisses the observation of the government regarding the obvious lack of consensus inEuropeon homosexual adoption (§147 – 150): the teleological use of the notion of consensus proving here again to be legally unsatisfactory.
The Court finds that the government failed to “show that it would be detrimental to the child to be brought up by a same-sex couple or to have two mothers and two fathers for legal purposes” (para 146). Therefore, according to the Court, it cannot be excluded that it may be in the best interests of the child to allow the mother’s partner to replace the father; this issue should be resolved in court. This conclusion applies to all 47 states parties to the Convention: to not allow homosexual adoption, it must be proven that it is harmful to the child. But is it still possible inEurope to argue that having two mothers and two fathers is harmful? This is doubtful as it implies a negative judgment on homosexuality, which is widely prohibited inEurope.
Finally,Austria has been condemned as it does not make legally possible for a child to have two fathers or two mothers, while itmay have a fatherand a mother.
The abandonment of natural law
The main problem in this case is how the majority of judges deal with reality. They disregard the natural difference between a man and a woman, and the reality of the family and of the children. Everything is analysed in light of equality between heterosexual and homosexual sentiments. The physical sexual difference between a heterosexual and a homosexual couple is wrongly reduced to a simple difference in sexual “orientation”. Therefore, if the principle of non-discrimination depends on sexual orientation it would bring with it a prohibition on making distinctions according to the sexual identity of parents. Nevertheless, on the subject of filiations, it is the physical sexual identity of the parents which matters, and not their orientation.
Reality always precedes law: law is modelled on reality and on human relationships. If one distorts the understanding of reality, all of law becomes altered. Thus, the legal system for adoption is “made to fit” the natural family. The claimants complain of not being able to fulfil the requirements of this legal system, and they argue that this material impossibility constitutes a legal interdiction. The “interdiction” appears when the “reality”, on which the legislation is based disappears.
Judges choose to allow law to prevail over reality: The ideology underpinning this ruling is not new within the ECHR; it is a mixof positivism and historicism which consider firstly that the law (the human will) prevails over reality (positivism): this allows a child to have more than two parents or two parents of the same sex, which is impossible in the real world. Secondly, this ideology refutes that rules steaming from morality and the reference to nature may be “in themselves sufficient reasons for a complete ban” (S. H. v Austria I §74); from this steams the liberal doxa of deregulation which supports that nothing should be prohibited as an absolute manner, because in morality no truth could be provable, every situation would be culturally relative (historicism). As a result, all impossibilities or interdictions should be disputable in courts. Thus, the Court recently condemned Germany for banning in an absolute manner euthanasia without offering the possibility to asses in Court the legitimacy of the demand in case (Koch v Germany).
This clearly removes from human rights all of its substance which flows from the very idea of being human, and transformsit into a toolwhich liberates human behaviour, making it totally amoral and ultimately substituting morality for ideology. It is the abandonment of natural law.
A ruling with far reaching consequences
It is difficult to measure the extent of the potential consequences of this case. Even if the majority of the Grand Chamber “has accepted that the protection of the family in the traditional sense is, in principle, a weighty and legitimate reason which might justify a difference in treatment” (para 138), in reality, the majority gave preference to a non-biological and asexual understanding of the family, in which the natural family is but one of the multiple types. It is difficult to know what a “parent” is once the biological filiation, i.e. the reality is no longer the major reference of the social and legal filiation.
In addition, by affirming that is not harmful for a child to have two mothers or two fathers, the Court universally justified the claim that same-sex couples have an equal right to having a child, like heterosexual couples, whether it be by adoption or by artificial procreation.
To execute the Court’s decision, Austria could legislate to allow children have to more than two parents at the same time (nothing is impossible in law when it prevails over reality).Austria could also adopt a special law declaring – also fictitiously – that a child can have two mothers or two fathers. In that case, the two claimant women could make the father appear in Court and attempt to deprive him of his parental rights. The father would then have to prove to the judge that he is a better “parent” for his son than his ex-wife’s new partner, even if he no longer lives with his child…
In these two cases, the adoption of this decision would result in the child’s biological reality being in the hands of the adults, the legal fiction which establishes this new filiation is nothing but a lie to the child. We must be conscious that this case will not change anything in the daily life of the two claimant women. But this decision profoundly disrupts family law in all ofEurope, something which was its only objective.
It is doubtful whether this decision complies with international law, in particular because, as many international texts state, it is in the child’s best interest to keep its father and its mother and the father has the right and the duty to continue to look after his child. To allow artificial filiations is a serious threat to the rights of the child, as well as a clear violation of the Convention on the rights of the child which states that the child has “as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents” (article 7) and the right “to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations” (article 8).
It is also doubtful that it complies with international law since it extends the State’s obligations much further than they sovereignly consented to when ratifying the European Convention on Human Rights. Moreover, one can presume that the new obligation established through this case goes against the will of a large proportion of the 47 states parties to the Convention where it is supposed to apply, particularly against the will of Portugal, Romania, Russiaand Ukrainewhich explicitly prohibit the possibility of “co-parental” adoption by a same-sex partner. These states can, like the ten judges did, retort that this case “does nothing but “merely reflects the position of those sectors of the [Court] which are [favorable] to the idea of opening up second-parent adoption to same-sex couples” (para 143); this shows how dangerous it is for a Court to disregard the legitimate law, and the rule of law.
A ruling which weakens the Court and human rights
More generally, what can be the impact of this case when no less than seven judges expressed a dissenting opinion, two vice-presidents out of the17 inthe Grand Chamber, (judges Casadevall, Ziemele, Kovler, Jociene, Sikuta, De Gaetano and Sicilianos)? And out of the 10 judges in the majority, how many of them preferred to follow the LBGT political correctness rather than seriously considering the case? In a case on this ideological point which is so far removed from the original content of the Convention, the Court should have chosen the wisdom of law instead of the audacity of ideology. Despite its internal division, the tiny majority of judges chose instead to take “a forceful step” to impose its choice with the risk of weakening the Court and human rights.
There is no doubt that opponents of the Court will see this decision as a new reason to rejoice. The Court is internally divided and its prestige and authority are weakened among the public opinion of the 47 member states. The Court has adopted an enthusiastic logic for some people, for others it is worrying one. Depending on one’s degree of attachment to human reality, they will see in this ruling audacity or irrationality.
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Documents of reference:
- Grand Chamber judgment
- Written observations from the ECLJ for the case X and Ors v Austria (no. 19010/07) (only available in French)
- ECLJ, Synoptic analysis of the case X and Others v Austria (no. 1901/07)
- Video of the hearing from 3/10/2012
The European Centre for Law and Justice is an international, Non-Governmental Organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in Europe and worldwide. The ECLJ holds special Consultative Status before the United Nations/ECOSOC since 2007. The ECLJ engages legal, legislative, and cultural issues by implementing an effective strategy of advocacy, education, and litigation. The ECLJ advocates in particular the protection of religious freedoms and the dignity of the person with the European Court of Human Rights and the other mechanisms afforded by the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and others. The ECLJ bases its action on “the spiritual and moral values which are the common heritage of European peoples and the true source of individual freedom, political liberty and the rule of law, principles which form the basis of all genuine democracy” (Preamble of the Statute of the Council of Europe).
Posted on | February 25, 2013 by J.C. von Krempach, J.D.
Grégor Puppinck, a frequent author on this blog, has published a legal analysis on the website of the renowned European Journal of International Law, in which he concludes that laws allowing abortion on demand are in clear contradiction to the European Human Rights Convention, which in its Article 2 protects the Right to Life.
The difficulty for unborn children to vindicate their right is that they are not able to bring their case to any court. However, the European Human Rights Court (ECtHR) has at various occasions recognized that an abortion may affect the rights of other persons than the unborn child and its mother – for example, the child’s father or it’s grandmother. Consequently, Puppinck suggests, any such person could try to to turn to the ECtHR in order to obtain urgent and interim measures:
“All that such a father or grandparent has to do is to fax a letter to the Court under article 39 of the Rules of the Court, requesting it to take urgent and interim measures in order to avoid the realization of a serious and imminent risk of breach of a fundamental right. All they have to do is to request that the rights to life (art. 2) and to physical integrity and dignity (art. 3) of their unborn child or grand-child be preserved, and that their right to family life (art. 8) be protected. The relatives of the unborn child could successfully obtain from the Court an order to suspend the procedure of abortion, if they demonstrate that this abortion is not justified by a proportionate motives guaranteed by the Convention; they may also inform the Court that they are ready to rear the child. This procedure has never been used yet to stop an abortion, but it could be an effective way to save lives. It would be in continuity with the original meaning of the Convention and with the Court’s own case-law.”
I am less optimistic. Not because I think that Grégor is wrong on the legal issue, but because I think that the ECtHR has over the last few years into an institution that, in the name of a distorted concept of freedom, does more to dismantle human rights than to protect them. Nevertheless, it would be worth trying…
Posted on | February 25, 2013 by Stefano Gennarini, J.D.
Here is an article about abortion hotlines in Latin America that use WHO guidance on DIY abortions. The volunteers that run the hotline are not medical practitioners of course, they are abortion activists. Now they no longer need to rely on information from IPPF and Marie Stopes, now they can rely on WHO info, except that info is probably not the best.
Consider this statement from the article on the situation in Chile: “anti-abortion laws that force women to rely on underground activists and their telephone hotline to get a safe abortion.” Am I the only one that sees the irony? The only thing safe about those abortions is that if they go wrong there will be good doctors and hospitals to save the women who undergo them in Chile. Chile has on of the lowest mortality rates for mothers and provides excellent maternal health.
Posted on | February 20, 2013 by Stefan Kirchner
While bioethics is a well established academic discipline, biolaw is often overlooked. Unlike bioethics, which is concerned with the question of what should be done or avoided, biolaw aims to answer the question what must or must not be done. Often, issues of biolaw are considered to fall into the purview of health care law. legal philosopy or human rights. While this is often the case, biolaw as a discipline has to offer more. In this article, Lena Groth of the University of Hamburg not only describes a recent conference but also the emergence of biolaw and its relation to bioethics and biopolitics.
Posted on | February 20, 2013 by Stefano Gennarini, J.D.
Several pro-life and pro-family organizations have submitted statements to the Advisory Committee to the Human Rights Council to ask that universal values shared by all civilizations and cultures, including the right to life of unborn children and the natural family as the fundamental unit of society, are not forgotten in the quest to promote and protect human rights worldwide.
The statements come as the Advisory Committe of the Human Rights Council (HRC) is finalizing a study on the “promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind” requested by the HRC, the Geneva based subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly that discusses human rights questions. The Advisory Committee (AC) serves as a think tank for the HRC.
A first draft study had highlighted the right to life and the natural family, but those references were abandoned in a preliminary version of the final study produced last fall, that highlighted instead some specific practices in conflict with human rights, with special attention paid to discrimination against women and homosexuals. Even then, debate was still ongoing in the committee, and the advisory committee had to ask the HRC for more time to deliver a final version of the study.
A submission by Focus on the Family and the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) invites the Advisory Committee to not abandon the search and definition of universal values that underpin the human rights project, and give it legitimacy and scope.
In a submission prepared by Alliance Defending Freedom, Mujeres para la Mujer, and Priests for Life, joined by several others, the organizations asked the Human Rights Council to recall how the quest to uncover and promote universally shared values is at the very root of the human rights project that started at the UN in the aftermath of WWII.
The organizations asked the committee to focus attention on specific traditional values that are common to many cultures and civilizations, and are, in varying degrees, already an integral part of the human rights project, and are already recognized in legally binding international instruments. these include: the right to life of unborn children, the natural family, the prior right of parents to educate their children.
Posted on | February 20, 2013 by Stefan Kirchner
After a series of attacks against churches in the last months and the murder of a Catholic priest in front of the local Cathedral last sunday and the killing of a protestant pastor the week before, Islamist terrorists have threatened the Christian community on the island of Zanzibar (Tanzania) with “disaster” at the upcoming Easter holidays. So far the government of Tanzania not only has failed to adequately protect Christians, the president has promised the introduction of Sharia law in the current electoral campaign.
Adoption law: New rulings by the European Court of Human Rights and the German Federal Constitutional Cour
Posted on | February 20, 2013 by Stefan Kirchner
Yesterday, the European Court of Human Rights and Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court (which often takes a leading role in human rights jurisprudence which is frequently cited also by Supreme and Consitutional courts in countries outside Europe) have published decisions regard two separate cases involving the adoption of children by same-sex couples.
In the Germany, adoption by same-sex couples is still not permitted, although it is legal for one partner in a registered same-sex relationship to adopt the biological child of the other partner. In its latest case on the matter, the Federal Constitutional Court held that the current prohibition of successive adoption by same-sex partners is incompatible with the constitution. That means that in the future one partner in a registered same-sex partnership may adopt a child and later the other partner may adopt the same child. The court has instructed the legislature to change the law accordingly no later than 30 June 2014. Until then, the existing rule which allows for the adoption of the biological child of one partner is to be interpreted extensively to the effect outlined above. With this decision, Germany’s highest court has pushed the door wide open to a further weakening of the protection of the family, which is also enshrined in the constitution. In this case, after elaborating the need for an equal treatment for all children concerned the court dealt with the constitutional protection of the family only briefly. Unfortunately the court apparently did not find it necessary to deal with the question how life with two attachment figures of the same gender affects the wellbeing of children and their rights in this regard. One reason might be that the rights of children are thought to be adequatly protected by the fundamental rights which form the first part of Germany’s constitution.
Also on tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights, decided a case directed against Austria, X and others v. Austria. The Court held “that there had been a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights on account of the difference in treatment of the applicants in comparison with unmarried different-sex couples in which one partner wished to adopt the other partner’s child“.
These cases may might trigger a discussion as to the need to include children’s rights more expressly in the constituion. Yet, this seems unlikely, given the current political situation in Germany and Austria. In parts of Eastern Europe, though, the protection of the rights of children is taken more seriously. The last word has not yet been spoken on this matter but it remains important to take into account in particular the human rights of the children concerned and it should not be forgotten that while there is a right to found a family, there is no right to “have” a child – especially not at the expense of the well-being of the child. In particular the latter part remains under-researched and a more holistic approach which goes beyond politics and human rights law appears necessary in order to safeguard the human rights of children and families to the greatest possible extent.« go back — keep looking »