Is abortion a human right? More likely a human evil

This file photo from June 24, 2022 shows anti-abortion activists celebrating outside the United States Supreme Court in Washington, DC after it overturned the Roe v. Wade of 1973 which protected the right to abortion. AFP PHOTO

first word

I ask the question because of the anguish and anger with which many American women received the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn its famous Roe v Wade decision on the constitutionality of abortion there half a century ago. America seems to split in two in its consequences.

It was British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who raised the intriguing notion that just as there are human rights, there are also human wrongs. She noted that at one point half of America worshiped slavery as their right, and even went to war because of it.

The UN does not dare to declare it

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The UN did not dare go so far as to make abortion a human right and include it in the historic declaration.

She played with the idea that “access to abortion is a human right”. Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organization allied with the UN, has been very diligent in promoting access to abortion as a human right.

HRW says of its position online:

Access to safe and legal abortion is a human rights issue. Authoritative interpretations of international human rights law establish that denying pregnant women, girls and other people access to abortion is a form of discrimination and jeopardizes a range of human rights. . United Nations human rights treaty bodies regularly call on governments to decriminalize abortion in all cases and to guarantee access to safe and legal abortion in at least certain circumstances.

Countries have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfill human rights, including those relating to sexual and reproductive health and autonomy. When safe and legal abortion services are unreasonably limited or not fully available, many other internationally protected human rights may be threatened, including the rights to non-discrimination and equality; life, health and information; free from torture and cruelty; inhuman and degrading treatment; privacy and bodily autonomy and integrity; decide on the number and spacing of children; to freedom; enjoy the benefits of scientific progress; and freedom of conscience and religion.

These rights are set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and protected by numerous international treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture , the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) believes that reproductive rights are human rights, including the right to access abortion. States have an obligation to provide pregnant women, girls and other people with access to safe and legal abortion as part of their basic human rights responsibilities.

As HRW has stated in amicus curiae briefs to high courts in countries around the world – from Brazil and Colombia to South Korea and more recently with partner organizations in the United States – international human rights law human rights and relevant case law support the conclusion that decisions about abortion rest with a pregnant person alone, without unreasonable interference or restriction from the state or third parties.

Is the right to life in danger when access to abortion is restricted or prohibited?

Yes. Legal restrictions on abortion often lead to more illegal abortions, which can also be unsafe and lead to higher maternal mortality and morbidity. Therefore, the lack of access to safe and legal abortion puts the lives of pregnant women at risk.

Even where abortion is technically legal, heavy restrictions can make it inaccessible to marginalized people. This forces pregnant women, especially those from marginalized groups, to seek out opportunities for clandestine and unsafe abortions and risk criminal or civil penalties, even when their situation falls within what is legally permitted.

What has the UN said about the lack of access to abortion and its criminalization?

United Nations human rights treaty bodies, which monitor countries’ compliance with relevant treaties and report or advise on human rights related to specific themes or countries, have consistently called for the decriminalization of abortion and the full realization of sexual and reproductive rights, including access to safe, legal abortion.

Setbacks on hard-won rights

At 88, Gloria Steinem has long been America’s most visible feminist and women’s rights advocate. But at 22, she was a scared American in London who illegally aborted a pregnancy so unwanted she actually tried to throw herself down the stairs to end it.

Her response to the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade is succinct: “Obviously,” she wrote in an email, “without the right of women and men to make decisions about their own bodies, there is no democracy”.

Steinem’s blunt remark goes to the heart of the desperation some opponents feel over Friday’s historic rollback of the 1973 case legalizing abortion. If a right so central to the global fight for women’s equality can be revoked, they ask, what does this mean for the progress women have made in public life over the 50 years since followed ?

“One of the things I keep hearing from women is, ‘My daughter is going to have less rights than me. And how can that be?’ “says Debbie Walsh, of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “If it works, what else can go? It makes everything precarious.”

Women who fought for these rights remember a decade of astonishing progress from around 1963 to 1973, including the right to equal pay, the right to use birth control, and Title 9 in 1972 that banned discrimination in education. To top it off, Roe versus Wade a year later, granting a constitutional right to abortion.

Many women who identified as feminists at the time had illegal abortions or knew someone who had. In fact, Steinem credits a “speaking out” meeting she attended on abortion in her 30s with when she transitioned from journalism to activism — and finally felt empowered to speak out about her. own secret abortion.

“Abortion is so intertwined with the women’s movement in this country,” says Carole Joffe, a sociologist at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine who studies and teaches the history of abortion. “With improved birth control, what legal abortion meant was that working heterosexual women could still participate in public life. It enabled the huge change we’ve seen in the status of women over the past 50 years.”

Of course, not all women believe that abortion is a right worth preserving.

Linda Sloan, who for the past five years has volunteered with the anti-abortion organization A Moment of Hope in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband, says she values ​​women’s rights.

But when it comes to Roe versus Wade, she says, “I believe the rights of the child in the womb are equally important. To quote Psalm 139, I believe that God ‘formed my inner parts’ and ‘knitted me together in my mother’s womb.'”

A human evil

How will the Dobbs decision impact the Philippines?

In his column here yesterday, Law and Religion Scholar Fr. Rannie Aquino had this to say:

“Dobbs will not end abortions in the United States. It left states the ability to enact laws authorizing, restricting, ending or penalizing abortion. the feet of the most rabid proponents of abortion. There is already a lot of talk about ways around the bans that abortion-disadvantaged states can legislate to put in place.

It is our good fortune in the Philippines that Section 12, Article 2 of our Constitution obligates the state to protect “the life of the mother and the life of the unborn child from conception”. I am of the opinion that this policy of the state is in fact an enforceable provision of the Constitution because when it obliges the state to protect the life of the unborn child from conception, no law of enactment or execution does not need to be adopted. Rather, the provision stands as a barrier against any legislative or regulatory action that would have the effect of threatening the life of the unborn child.”

Filipinos will most likely declare abortion to be a human evil.

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