The United Nations Committee Against Torture is debating whether abortion constitutes torture and whether canon law should be changed.
During the committee’s meeting in Geneva on Monday, Vice Chairwoman Felice Gaer castigated the Catholic Church’s blanket stance against all abortions, telling an audience comprising Vatican representatives that in some cases, the position may even violate the Convention Against Torture, CNS News reported.
“Now the committee has found that laws – and this committee has found this repeatedly – that laws that criminalize termination of pregnancy in all circumstances can violate the convention,” Gaer said in a speech that also quoted from a letter the Center for Reproductive Rights abortion-rights advocacy group wrote to the European Court of Human Rights.
The Center for Reproductive Rights’ letter urges the Vatican to acknowledge that its unmovable stance violates “Articles 1, 2 and 16 of the Convention Against Torture and that the rights of freedom of speech and of religion extend only so far as they do not undermine women’s reproductive rights.”
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Gaer cited specific cases of child rape and sexual abuse, including that of a 9-year-old Brazilian girl, a 9-year-old Nicaraguan gal, a young El Salvadoran named Beatrice and a Polish case where a 14-year-old girl was denied an abortion.
“The committee urges the Holy See to review its position on abortion, which places obvious risks on the life and health of pregnant girls, and to amend Canon 1398 relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted,” Gaer said, quoting directly from a U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child report.
Maureen Ferguson, senior policy adviser to the Catholic Association, defended the church’s teachings.
“The United Nations has become increasingly hostile to people of faith and particularly to Christians, and specifically to Catholics, and the teachings on life and marriage and family,” she told CNS News. “In this instance, regarding the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the U.N. not only lectured the Catholic Church, but told them to actually change canon law; to essentially tell the Catholic Church you can’t be Catholic.”
Ferguson saved her knockout punch for the end, excoriating the U.N.’s hypocrisy.
“The irony here is just unbelievable, that in the name of the rights of the child … the United Nations is telling the church you have to change your position on the protection of children, on abortion,” she said. “What could be more tortuous to a child than the literal dismemberment of a living human being that is abortion?”
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