In a letter sent 2 March 2023 to various agencies and so-called experts at the United Nations, nearly 200 signatories—including such organizations as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Global Justice Center—sent an “urgent appeal” claiming that because of (among other related matters) the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, “the US is in violation of its obligations under international human rights law.” The signatories call for the UN to intervene, including “communicating with the US regarding the human rights violations, requesting a visit to the US, convening a virtual stakeholder meeting with US civil society,” and “call[ing] for the US to comply with its obligations under international law.”
At first blush, the sheer length and detail of this 50-page letter—harangue might be a better description—projects an aura of authority. It is only when you begin to read carefully and dive into its 293 footnotes that you discover that the crux of its argument rests on citations to non-binding documents, committee comments, and interpretations of language in ways never agreed to by a consensus of Member States. In fact, notwithstanding the letter’s pretensions to the contrary, it utterly fails to find any international right to abortion, nor any legal obligation whatsoever violated by the US in its sovereign exercise of judicial power that finally corrected the egregiously unconstitutional decision in Roe.
More than merely wrong, the letter is almost ludicrously hypocritical. Even as it cries foul in the name of rights, it somehow fails to mention the foundational right articulated in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person,” and then fails to mention that this right to life was further described, and adopted by treaty, in the Preamble of the Convention of the Rights of the Child: “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” (emphasis added). In the name of rights, the signatories ardently seek to trample the most basic human right of all.
Adding to the irony is the fact that although the US is one of only three countries never to have signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the US has recently taken the lead in defending the unborn—not only by overturning Roe but also previously in what the Trump Administration accomplished. In President Trump’s State of the Union Address on 5 February 2019, he called for life-saving legislation “to defend the dignity of every person,” and spoke of innocent infants whose lives had been snuffed out:
These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world…. Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: all children—born and unborn—are made in the holy image of God.
Speaking to the United Nations on 24 September 2019, President Trump articulated what many Americans believe about abortion and what most Americans believe about national sovereignty. “The core rights and values America defends today were inscribed in America’s founding documents,” and “every child—born and unborn—is a sacred gift from God.” Therefore,
Americans will also never tire of defending innocent life. We are aware that many United Nations projects have attempted to assert a global right to taxpayer-funded abortion on demand, right up until the moment of delivery. Global bureaucrats have absolutely no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life. Like many nations here today, we in America believe that every child—born and unborn—is a sacred gift from God.
About a year later on 25 September 2020, President Trump issued his Executive Order on Protecting Vulnerable Newborn and Infant Children, which declared,
Every infant born alive, no matter the circumstances of his or her birth, has the same dignity and the same rights as every other individual and is entitled to the same protections under Federal law…. It is the policy of the United States to recognize the human dignity and inherent worth of every newborn or other infant child, regardless of prematurity or disability, and to ensure for each child due protection under the law.
But it was the Trump Administration’s leadership in producing the historic Geneva Consensus Declaration on Promoting Women’s Health and Strengthening the Family that demonstrated the scope of worldwide support for protection of the unborn. Issued on 22 October 2021 by a US-led coalition of 32 nations covering every region of the world and representing a fifth of humanity, the Declaration reaffirmed UN consensus language in recognizing the “dignity and worth of the human person” and affirming that “every human being has the inherent right to life,” and “the child… needs special safeguards and care… before as well as after birth.”
The Declaration also stated what isn’t there in international law: “there is no international right to abortion, nor any international obligation on the part of States to finance or facilitate abortion, consistent with the long-standing international consensus that each nation has the sovereign right to implement programs and activities consistent with their laws and policies.”
Later withdrawals from the Declaration by new administrations in the US and Brazil notwithstanding, it continues to assure the world that no amount of sound and fury to the contrary can change the fact that there is indeed no international right to abortion. We will never give up holding the line as we continue to defend the right to life of every beautiful baby created in the image of God.