Saturday, 18 April 2009

UN agreement could support health workers' conscientious objections

You may know that various United Nations documents defend unborn life. The 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child includes: "the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth". You can read more about how international conventions protect the unborn in What rights, if any, do the unborn have under international law? by Doctors John Fleming and Michael Hains on the Priests for Life website.

I mention such global agreements because another such document is being cited in the matter of the Australian state of Victoria's Abortion Law Reform Act. Our colleagues at New South Wales Right to Life describe how this law would force health workers to declare their opposition to abortion and to refer women who want abortions to people who will perform them. Lawyers point out that agreements which Australia has signed could invalidate this measure. Pursuing sources which NSW Right to Life use, we find that the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: "No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice." In a comment on that covenant, the UN's human rights commissioner points out that that document's provisions mean that "no one can be compelled to reveal his thoughts or adherence to a religion or belief."

In other words, not only are healthcare workers entitled to their beliefs (including an objection to abortion), but forcing them to declare such beliefs is against international agreements. Meanwhile, abortion supporters want abortion made an international human right.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Pressure on pan-American meeting to endorse abortion

A pro-life colleague in Washington, DC, warns that a current meeting between the nations of central, north and south America could be used to promote abortion. Mrs Marie Smith (left) of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues says that the International Planned Parenthood Federation is trying to influence a declaration of the Fifth Summit of the Americas which is taking place in Trinidad and Tobago and ends on Sunday. The federation wants the conference, due to be attended by President Obama and Ms Hillary Clinton, to acknowledge what it calls reproductive health and rights as essential to prosperity.

Mrs Smith writes: "Pro-life advocates need to be alert to attempts to use the declaration to advance reproductive health with language which can include abortion. These terms include reproductive health care, reproductive health, reproductive health services, sexual and reproductive health, and sexual health. Pro-life countries will need to remove these terms from the document if possible and clarify in an Explanation of Position (EOP) that nothing in the document advances abortion."

Mrs Smith points out that there is a move to make reproductive health (which can include abortion) part of primary health care and HIV treatment. She says that caution is needed even when dealing with such innocuous expressions as comprehensive healthcare and services, health services, and healthcare services.

Mrs Smith adds: "While the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton State Department support IPPF in all its abortion endeavors, and will fund it with hard earned taxpayer dollars, the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean are a long way from rejecting their cherished defense of the most basic human right, the right to life of the unborn child."

The Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues is run by Life Issues Institute, Ohio.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The pro-life battle in the US

I'm pictured above at a meeting in the US last month with Dr. Wanda Franz, president of National Right to Life (centre) and Darla St Martin, the organisation's co-executive director. Our American colleagues have a tough battle ahead of them as they confront a deeply anti-life administration led by President Obama.

While in the US, I attended Mass at Sacred Heart church, Suffern, NY. Mgr Joseph Giandurco, parish priest, wrote in his newsletter about how parishioners had filled in postcards opposing the Freedom of Choice Act and about the furore over Notre Dame university's offering the president an honorary degree. Before Mass, laypeople led the congregation in prayers for the defence of the sanctity of human life from conception till natural death. This is something which we in Britain may care to do too, with the permission of the parish clergy.

Symposium on theology of the body, Maynooth, June

An Irish youth movement is presenting an international symposium on the goodness, truth and beauty of human sexuality, and the divine plan for human love. Pure in Heart will host Man and Woman He Created Them: Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body from 11 to 14 June at Maynooth Campus, County Kildare. The event marks the 30th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's visit to Ireland and the of first papal audience on the theology of the body.

Bishop Philip Boyce of Raphoe will offer the opening Mass and conference speakers will include Fr Don Calloway MIC, Sister Mary Timothy Prokes FSE, Dr Mary Shivanandan and DDr Michael Waldstein.

The event is sponsored by the Theology of the Body Institute and 3ltv. You can find out more and arrange to attend by visiting or emailing