The San Jose Articles and the Right To Life


On becoming a Catholic, Lord Nicholas Windsor renounced his claim to the Throne. He also became committed to the  right to life of the unborn – and in a Committee Room of Parliament he recently gave voice to his support for the San Jose Articles and to his conviction that there is a subversive international campaign falsely claiming that abortion has become a human right and that all Governments are duty bound to support it. Lord Nicholas asserted that “I see the San Jose Articles as an attempt to draw a line and fight back against the strong drift towards conjuring a fully-fledged right to abortion from out of the provisions of international human rights law.”

 

The nine San Jose Articles on the status of the unborn child have been drafted and signed by more than 30 senior politicians, diplomats, lawyers, scholars and public figures from around the world including  John Finnis, Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy at Oxford University, and John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy at St Andrew’s University, Scotland.  The Articles  enjoy the support of the mainstream pro life groups –  Right to Life, LIFE, the Pro-Life Alliance and CARE.

 

The Articles were drafted and first signed in San Jose, Costa Rica, on 25th March 2011 and earlier this month they were launched at the United Nations by the internationally recognized scholar, Professor Robert George, of Princeton and former US Ambassador, Grover Joseph Rees, who challenged claims made by UN personnel and others that there exists a fundamental right to abortion in international law.  Further launches of the Articles have taken place in legislatures all over the world – with Jim Dobbin MP and Fiona Bruce MP, the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the All Party Pro Life Group, joining me for the launch at Westminster.

 

 

The importance of promulgating the Articles was recently underlined when the UN Special Rapporteur on Health, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the UN Secretary General all wrongly stated that a right to abortion exists.  And, according to Human Rights Watch, who lamentably, with Amnesty International campaign for abortion as a human right, a U.N. Committee has directed 93 countries to change their laws on abortion. Can they not see that it is precisely this approach which has led to the gendercide that has claimed the lives of more than 100 million girls – aborted because of their sex. Some right; some fate.

 

 

The San Jose Articles categorically refute the claim that taking the lives of the unborn is a right – an obligation, even – and, instead, set out the duties we owe in international law to the unborn child; and the rights which they enjoy.  Not only is there no international law asserting the right to abortion, the laws of over two-thirds of all UN member-states clearly reflect a continuing recognition that unborn children deserve protection. In reality, only 56 countries permit abortion for any reason, and only 22 of these are without restriction.

 

What is being waged is a subversive campaign by some UN agencies, Non Governmental Organisations and wealthier countries to bully and manipulate nations  – from Nicaragua to Kenya; from Columbia to Ireland,  into changing their laws on abortion. They do this by misquoting Treaties and even more deplorably  – and immorally – aid and development is being used as a form of blackmail – with developing countries being told that they will lose help for the poor if they fail to conform. When these countries refuse to step into line it can lead to retaliation and retribution. Sweden, for instance, withdrew all assistance to Nicaragua, after its National Assembly failed to pass a liberal abortion law. In justifying this shocking intrusion into a sovereign decision of a free nation Sweden said abortion “is super important to us”.  Important but obscene.

 

 

And, make no mistake, some countries are undoubtedly succumbing to the bullying and being taken in by the bogus assertion that there is an international requirement for countries to end the lives of  children in the womb.  For instance, the High Court of Colombia changed their country’s laws on abortion based on this belief.

 

Be clear, no UN treaty defines reproductive health as including abortion or even mentions abortion; customary international law does not include abortion as there is not a more unsettled issue internationally than abortion.

 

The San Jose Articles were drafted to refute and counter these false statements; they remind us that there is no international right to abortion, and that any group or person making that argument is making a false argument, one never agreed to by the UN General Assembly. The Articles further show that the unborn child is already covered by various human rights treaties.

 

The San Jose Articles begin by asserting the scientific fact that human life begins at conception and then demonstrate that not a single United Nations treaty gives legal abortion the status of a so-called “reproductive right”. On the contrary, a number of human rights treaties recognise the humanity of unborn children and the rights and duties of governments to protect them as members of the human family.

 

 

While there is no right to abortion in international law, the right to life is set out in Article 3 of The 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which  had its genesis in the horrors of the Second World War.

 

The San Jose Articles are a long overdue international re-assertion of the admirable impulses which gave birth to the 1948 Declaration and recognise that the greatest of all rights is the very right to life itself.  Jim Dobbin and Fiona Bruce have launched an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons supporting the San Jose Articles and are urging constituents to write to their MPs asking them to sign the Motion.

 

I ended my remarks at the Westminster launch with a true story.

It involves ay young unmarried college student, Joanne Schieble, who, in 1954, discovered that she was pregnant. Her father would not let her marry the child’s father and although she could have had an abortion, it was illegal and dangerous. Instead, she let her child be born and arranged to have the baby adopted.

In 1955 a Californian couple adopted the baby boy. Their names were Paul and Clara Jobs. His adoptive parents named the baby Steven.

Abortion ends lives; adoption saves them. Last year in the UK for every baby adopted, 2,702 were aborted. Put another way, around 600 babies are aborted daily while only 70 babies were available for adoption throughout the whole year.

 

Not every adopted child will have a life as remarkable as that of Steve Jobs but as the San Jose Articles remind us, every life is precious.  In proclaiming abortion as a human right we have little idea of who and what we are so casually losing. We need to see abortion less as a right and more as the human tragedy which every abortion represents.

 

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By Nicholas Windsor

7:38AM BST 10 Oct 2011

If I were to imagine the voice of a rather sensible relative, or just a concerned bystander, addressing me on the subject of abortion, the words I hear them using go something like the following: “Why on earth get yourself mixed up in/wade into a matter like this?” (Aside) “And isn’t it rather distasteful?”

Well, I don’t think my well-meaning voice has it far wrong. I can’t be altogether wise to join this debate (on the side I’ve chosen, anyhow) and, no, it’s never going to be the stuff of polite conversation. But just why is it that this question generates so much heat in politics, in the media and around the dinner table? Not just, I think, because it belongs somehow to the category of “bedroom and bathroom” subjects that nice people don’t broach too freely. Much more than that, it seems to be a highly reactionary position, one that, probably without a precedent, would seek to take back a “right”, specifically a woman’s right, that was conferred by Parliament in 1967 in the Abortion Act. What could be more illiberal in our culture than that? No wonder there is fury and resistance.

Three generations have had a legal option they didn’t have before, and here comes a jumped-up minority that has the gall to say we should “turn back the clock”. That’s how bad it looks. You’d have to have a superlative reason to do it. That, of course, is just what we insufferable pro-lifers say we have. What we suggest is this: the cost is too high because the cost is paid in innocent human life.

Abortion is perceived as a solution to a problem called unwanted pregnancy. A real problem, then. A real “solution”, too. But it’s not a just solution for all concerned. It leaves out of the picture the consequences for “the entity”, about whose nature we’ve disagreed so passionately in the last decades. Was it always like that? Didn’t we used to know in our heads and feel in our guts that if one had conceived, then that meant one was pregnant, which meant in turn that one was going to wait patiently, if uncomfortably, for nine months and then go on “to have” a baby – to really give birth to one and hold it in one’s hands. All being well, that’s what happened. It used to be that basic a consideration. It’s got a lot murkier in recent years. We’re told we can’t afford such simple knowledge any longer. Now we need interminable philosophical debates to establish the status of the embryo, or the foetus, or the unborn child, or whatever it is. To me, a lot of this is sheer sophistry. Who’s kidding whom here?

So why don’t I think much of abortion? First of all, for the above reasons and not because (as that brilliant writer Philip Pullman would put it) “the Vatican” told me to. But it became visceral for me once I started thinking hard about the subject. It hit me in the stomach that terminating a pregnancy equalled none other than the destruction of a human being. It knocked the wind out of me the first time, as it does every single time I think of it.

Look at it this way: I was born in 1970. My dear mother would have been within her rights to find it inconvenient to have me. Bad luck, she didn’t. But my generation has had a close shave. Whether we were born depended on lots of factors: not just on a mother’s decision, but also on the fathers’ influence and that of the surrounding culture – friends’ advice and the views of the philosophers I mentioned earlier. Others of my generation weren’t that fortunate, and some of those were our siblings. That’s why we take this thing seriously, if you want to know. We were the first generation that really were vulnerable in the womb. Surely, the womb should be the safest place in the world to be. Not any more.

So, how many don’t have those sisters and brothers whom the law, in my view, should have protected? And how many of those siblings didn’t go on to compose the symphonies they should, by rights, have composed? How many didn’t go on to give birth in their turn? This is eugenics, isn’t it? Hell, that’s another story.

Speaking of another story, but on the same subject, an important project is launched today in the House of Lords by parliamentarians and experts, as it was last week in the United Nations General Assembly and around the world.

The aim of this, based on a document called the San José Articles, is to stop the practice we’ve been talking about from being foisted on to countries that don’t want it. The Articles aim to show that there is no “right to abortion” to be found in international law that would oblige such countries to “conform, or else”. This is in spite of the UN and other agencies’ claims to the contrary.

Human rights lawyers of a certain stamp around the world are taking the same pro-abortion line, manipulating the current provisions of international law. Frankly, officials and politicians in developing countries are being bullied into writing such a right to abortion into their domestic law. This project aims to help them to fight back.

Lord Nicholas Windsor is Chairman of the Rome-based Dignitatis Humanae Institute