Catholic Church Facing Increasing Pressure from UN over Abortion

Condemnation by the United Nations of the Catholic Church’s views on abortion appears to be becoming more and more prevalent. A recent report from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child strongly criticized the Vatican for its opposing views on several sexually based subjects, including abortion. The criticism stems from an international agreement, signed by the Vatican along with 240 others, on child rights. It led the UN panel to urge the Church to change its canon laws on “homosexuality, abortion, birth control and premarital sex” and to allow abortions in cases where the lives of pregnant girls are at risk. The UN committee said that the Church’s teachings on abortion and contraception were harmful to young women and young girls all around the world.

The UN criticized the abortion views of the Church for a second time in 2017, when it opened hearings with the Vatican in Geneva that suggested the way in which the Church handled sex abuse scandals involving children actually violated the UN charter. The director of the American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights suggested that the teachings on abortion held by the Catholic Church may result in nine-year-old abortion victims giving birth. The UN committee, she said, found the laws that “criminalize the termination of pregnancy in all circumstances can violate the terms of the convention [on torture].”

The Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations disagreed, stating that it was the pro-life position of the Church that protected human life. He commented that some late-term abortion methods are actually forms of torture. Pro-life observers have criticized the UN views as well, regarding the remarks as anti-Catholicism. Said a speaker for Catholic Voices USA, “Far from helping victims of rape or sexual assault, abortion deepens their trauma.”

Despite Pope Francis’ support for UN policies that push“universal access” to “sexual and reproductive health”, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — the Catholic Church’s official position at the UN has largely been more anti-pro-choice.

Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN in Geneva, told the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC ) in a June 23 meeting that Archbishop Jurkovič stated the Holy See’s formal “reservations” regarding the policy’s use of the concepts “sexual and reproductive health” as well as “gender.”

“The Holy See does not consider abortion, access to abortion, or access to abortifacients as a dimension of the terms ‘sexual and reproductive health’ and ‘sexual and reproductive healthcare services,’ he said.

The UN sees a  women’s right to control her reproductive health – including access to abortion – primordial to her advancement and the well-being of her entire community.

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