By William Saunders, JD, Program Director of the MA in Human Rights at The Catholic University of America
In November, the UN Human Rights Committee published Comment 36 to guide the understanding and implementation of article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In doing so, the HRC attempted to make abortion an accepted part of every nation’s law and practice. First, it is important to note that, other than a regional protocol in Africa, no binding international document mentions abortion. Abortion advocates have, thus, long sought to shoehorn abortion into the provisions of binding international documents. This is precisely what the HRC is trying to do with Comment 36.
The ICCPR is a treaty; that is, it contains legally binding obligations for any nation that ratifies the treaty. Most nations have ratified it, but those that have not are not bound by its terms. The ICCPR is one of the two major treaties designed to implement the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was issued by the United Nations after World War II.22 It is worthwhile to pause and consider the preamble to the Declaration in order to understand how far off-line the HRC went with Comment 36.
Originally published in the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly.