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  • Saint Paul VI
  • Puerto Rico


Pope Paul VI is a Saint!

“Pope Paul VI is a saint,” Holy Mother Church declared to the faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday October 14, 2018.

Indeed he is. And Saint Paul VI is beloved above all for his two historic contributions to the Church: First, upon the death of Saint John XXIII in 1963, he inherited the Second Vatican Council and presided over it until it adjourned on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1965.

And second, he promulgated Humanae Vitae, the encyclical that announced to the world that, while the “spirit of the times” might change, the truth does not.

Today Saint Paul VI is remembered above all for Humanae Vitae, and that is appropriate: the Second Vatican Council had many fathers; Humanae Vitae has only one.

On July 25, 1968, Saint Paul VI stood alone when he confronted the decadent age that had plunged headlong into the sexual revolution. Deserted by many among the faithful, both cleric and lay, he held up a mirror up to the secular world and warned of the dangerous consequences that would follow on its flight from truth and beauty. Alas, the world responded with resentment and spite, and went its own way.

Francis Cardinal Stafford describes that year as “Gethsemane.” And, like Jesus in the Garden, Saint Paul VI wept when he saw the depths to which the world would fall when it defied the laws of nature and of nature’s God.

Saint Paul VI offered to the world an alternative – the Church’s promise of truth and beauty. And how could it not be true and beautiful? The gentle, clear, but firm unfolding of the mystery of Sacramental marriage and its role in God’s plan for the family, the world, and salvation is central to the most beautiful story ever told. The good, the true, and the beautiful are simple, limpid, and loveable. The evil, the false, and the ugly debauch reality in a thousand ways. There is only one good, but there are countless ways to deny, defy, and defile it – all designed as preambles to its destruction.

The family was designed by God to reflect the mystery, unity, diversity, and perfection of the Trinity. Those who hate the designer will hate the design – including the design written on their own hearts.

In the past fifty years we have learned that the Dictators of Relativism are anything but relativists: they are devoted and hardened apostles of ugliness, sin, and lies. Even before Humanae Vitaewas published, they plotted to destroy both the teaching and the Church that taught it.

For many years Paul’s encyclical gathered dust on countless shelves. But today, a growing number of bishops have picked up the fallen standard and are preaching it to a world hungry for the truth. More will follow, as they see how vital is its message to every generation.

We at the Population Research Institute  want to help them in every possible way. That’s why PRI has created a new website, It serves as a clearing house for information on life, love, and the family. There we offer countless resources to families, students, scholars, and clerics throughout the world – in four languages!

This is a labor of love. While Saint Paul VI did not pretend to be a prophet, Humanae Vitaehas proven to be prophetic indeed. And while he called upon bishops and priests to teach this beautiful doctrine, Paul called on parents and teachers to do so as well. In this generation, that task has fallen to the laity in a special way, because it is in the home that children first learn about love and the gift of life. In our secular culture, it falls to families to raise good children and teach them, prayerfully working with our bishops and priests to champion the truths that Blessed Paul VI bequeathed to the Church and to the world.

This is the challenge that Father Paul Marx, O.S.B., accepted when he founded the Population Research Institute. It is the challenge that inspires us today. It is a privilege and a grace for all of us at PRI to share Humanae Vitaewith the world on the occasion of the Church’s joyous announcement of the canonization of Saint Paul VI.

Second Segment


Puerto Rico Senate Introduces Sweeping Bill to Ban Abortion after 20 Weeks

Pro-Lifers to Show Support for PS 950 at March for Life in San Juan this Friday

The Puerto Rico Senate has introduced a bill that would go a long way towards protecting Life in the Commonwealth. The bill (PS 950) would introduce a wide array of pro-life laws to Puerto Rico including a ban on abortion after 20 weeks, a ban on sex-selective and eugenic abortion, and would require informed consent for women seeking abortion and parental consent for abortions performed on minors.

Called the “Law for the Protection of Women and Preservation of Life”, PS 950 would contain a number of provisions similar to those adopted by many states in the U.S. to protect the life and safety of both women and their unborn children.

“In Puerto Rico, it is legal to abort a baby up to the ninth month, minors can get abortions without parental notification,” says Ginna Pennance, Director of Communications for Fieles a la Verdad, a pro-life organization in Puerto Rico supporting the passage of PS 950.

“Since 1973 abortion has been legally practiced in Puerto Rico with up an estimated 15 to 20,000 abortions performed every year,” says Daisy Quiles from Mujeres 950, a pro-life organization in Puerto Rico advocating for the bill, “Puerto Rico is the only territory of the USA without regulation on abortion.”

What would PS 950 do? The bill would ban all abortion after 20 weeks, except in the case of a medical emergency, the point at which many scientists believe the unborn child is capable of experiencing pain.[1][2][3][4][5] The bill would also prohibit sex-selective abortion and would prevent eugenic abortion of unborn children diagnosed with genetic disabilities. Any doctor who violates these provisions would be punished with 15 years in prison.

The bill would also prohibit physicians from performing abortions on minors without the knowledge or consent of their parents. Ever since the Puerto Rico Supreme Court’s decision in Pueblo v. Duarte Mendoza (1980), it has been fully legal in Puerto Rico for minors to have an abortion without parental consent or notification.

“A minor needs the consent of her parents before being evaluated by a dentist or ophthalmologist … it is worrisome that, in Puerto Rico today, a minor 12 years of age can go to an abortion clinic to end her pregnancy, without the consent of her parents,” Senator Nayda Venegas Brown, the bill’s sponsor, had commented, according to an informational fact sheet published by Fieles a la Verdad.

PS 950 addresses this shortcoming in the law by requiring that at least one parent or legal guardian must provide written consent at the abortion clinic and must provide a copy of their government-issued ID. However, in cases where parents are opposed to their daughter’s abortion, she may obtain a consent waiver from a judge.

In additional to parental consent and gestational limits on abortion, PS 950 would require abortions after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to be performed in an authorized hospital. This provision would help prevent standalone private facilities like Kermit Gosnell’s late-term clinic from performing second and third trimester abortions. PS 950 further makes it very clear that infants that survive an abortion attempt are protected under Puerto Rico law, and that any doctor who causes the death of an abortion survivor, including by negligence or refusal to provide emergency care, is guilty of a felony.

The bill would also introduce a number of measures to ensure that women undergoing abortion are permitted to provide their full informed consent. PS 950 would require physicians to provide women with information on the medical risks of having an abortion, including by informing them that the abortion will “end the life of a whole, separate and unique life.”[6] They would also be required to provide women with their name and contact information as well as contact information for the local hospital in case of an emergency.

Under PS 950, physicians would be required to offer women the opportunity to view an ultrasound of their baby. The bill would further establish a de facto 48-hour waiting period to ensure that women seeking abortion are given sufficient time to consider the risks of abortion and are allowed time to come to a decision of whether to go through with the abortion free from coercion. The bill would also require abortion facilities to post signage informing women that they have the right not to be forced by family members or medical staff into having an abortion.

While Puerto Rico’s Penal Code prohibits abortion except to save the life or health of the mother, a series of decisions handed-down by Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court in the early 1980’s eviscerated the Commonwealth’s pro-life laws and emptied them of any meaningful enforcement.

In 1980, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court in Pueblo v. Duarte Mendoza ruled that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton applied not only to the U.S. but also to Puerto Rico. In this case, the court reinterpreted the term “health” in Puerto Rico’s abortion law, stipulating that “the term “health” contained in our statute, implies physical health as well as mental health.” The ruling effectively legalized abortion on-demand in Puerto Rico up to the point of viability and even after viability in cases of life and health of the mother.

Pro-life laws are sorely needed in Puerto Rico. As the majority in the Duarte Mendozadecision opined, “Our legislation turns out to be more lax than the criteria adopted in Roe v. Wade,” an observation that became all but true once the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico gutted the Commonwealth’s pro-life laws and legalized abortion on the island.

“In PR there are no laws regulating abortion,” Pennance told the Population Research Institute (PRI). “[Puerto Rico] is among the U.S. jurisdictions with the most permissive conditions regarding abortion,” Pennance says.

Aside from some requirements that abortion be performed by a physician and that abortion facilities and physicians be licensed and registered with the government, there are few restrictions on abortion in Puerto Rico. According to the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights, the Puerto Rico Department of Health even waives, upon request, its own requirement that physicians must complete an OB-GYN residency program in order to perform abortions.[7]

“In 2008, the Department of Health issued some abortion center rules; they, however, allow the Secretary of Health to grant exemptions to all of its dispositions,” Pennance told PRI, “There is no evidence regarding the level of compliance.”

Despite the fact that Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey permitted states a limited right to restrict abortion in the interest of protecting the life of the unborn child and the health of the mother, the Commonwealth has not availed itself of this right since the Duarte Mendoza decision.

Since Roe v. Wade, most states have adopted at least some basic restrictions on abortion, many states adopting safeguards similar to those proposed under PS 950.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research and policy organization, 26 U.S. states already require parental consent for minors seeking abortion and an additional 11 states require parental notification for minors.[8] 26 states also require waiting periods of at least 24 hours for women to safely consider their decision whether to undergo abortion.[9]

Currently, 19 states have laws requiring abortion to be performed at a hospital at later gestations.[10] However, if PS 950 is adopted, the bill’s requirement that abortion be performed in a hospital after the first trimester would make Puerto Rico’s hospital requirement among the strongest such laws in the U.S.

If PS 950 is adopted, Puerto Rico would also join 17 U.S. states that currently require physicians to offer women seeking an abortion at the very least the opportunity to see an ultrasound of their baby prior to termination.[11] Puerto Rico would also join 8 states in banning the practice of sex-selective abortion.[12]

If PS 950 is passed, Puerto Rico would join 16 states in banning abortion after 20 weeks post-conception. Two states, North Carolina and Mississippi, ban abortion even earlier at the equivalent of 18 weeks after conception.

However, even the 18-week gestational limit is far more permissive than the abortion laws in most countries. Even in countries widely permissive towards abortion, gestational limits for abortion are set earlier than in the U.S. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, Sweden maintains an 18-week gestational limit for elective abortion. In France, Belgium, and Germany elective abortion is limited to 14 weeks gestation. According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, only 7 countries worldwide permit elective abortion after 20 weeks.

Pro-life Puerto Ricans have been coming together in support of PS 950. This Friday, September 28th, pro-life organizations in Puerto Rico have planned a march for life in front of the Capitol in San Juan to show support for PS 950 and to urge the legislative assembly to pass the bill.

[1] “In fact there are thought to be transient cholinergic neurons with functioning synapses connecting the thalamus and cortical plate from approximately 20 weeks.  This time point could be taken as the absolute earliest time in gestation when a fetus could be aware of nociceptive stimuli, or to ‘feel pain.’” See Brusseau R, Myers L.  Developing consciousness: fetal anesthesia and analgesia. Seminars in Anesthesia, Perioperative Medicine and Pain. 2006;25(4):189-195.

[2] “Given the anatomical evidence, it is possible that the fetus can feel pain from 20 weeks and is caused distress by interventions from as early as 15 or 16 weeks.” SeeGlover V, Fisk NM. Fetal pain: implications for research and practice. BJOG. 1999 Sep 1;106(9):881-6.

[3] “It has also been shown that fetuses feel pain from week 18.” See Giuntini L, Amato G. Analgesic procedures in newborns. In: Buonocore G, & Bellieni CV editors. Neonatal pain. Springer-Verlag Mailand; 2007.

[4] “Fetal stress in response to painful stimuli is shown by increased cortisol and β-endorphin concentrations, and vigorous movements and breathing efforts … independent stress response in the fetus occurs from 18 weeks gestation.” See Gupta R, Kilby M, Cooper G. Fetal surgery and anaesthetic implications. Continuing Education in Anaesthesia, Critical Care & Pain. 2008 Apr 1;8(2):71-5.

[5] “To experience pain an intact system of pain transmission from the peripheral receptor to the cerebral cortex must be available … From 16 weeks’ gestation pain transmission from a peripheral receptor to the cortex is possible and completely developed from 26 weeks’ gestation.” See Van de Velde M, De Buck F. Fetal and maternal analgesia/anesthesia for fetal procedures. Fetal diagnosis and therapy. 2012;31(4):201-9.

[6] P. del S. 950, 18th Leg. Assembly, 3rd Sess. (P.R. 2018).

[7] Center for Reproductive Rights, The Legal Right to Abortion in Puerto Rico, fact sheet (Jul. 2009),

[8] Guttmacher Institute, Parental Involvement in Minors’ Abortions, State Laws and Policies (Sep. 1, 2018),

[9] Guttmacher Institute, An Overview of Abortion Laws, State Laws and Policies 2 (Sep. 1, 2018),

[10] Guttmacher Institute, An Overview of Abortion Laws, State Laws and Policies 1 (Sep. 1, 2018),

[11] Guttmacher Institute, Requirements for Ultrasound, State Laws and Policies (Sep. 1, 2018),

[12] Guttmacher Institute, Abortion Bans in Cases of Sex or Race Selection or Genetic Anomaly, State Laws and Policies (Sep. 1, 2018),

Third Segment


UN Human Rights Experts Demand Legalized Abortion Worldwide

Attempts to redefine the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to exclude the unborn

States across the world should act now to decriminalise abortion,” says a group of U.N. human rights experts.

statement released last Friday by U.N. human rights experts to commemorate something called “International Safe Abortion Day” urged the international community to “guarante[e] access to safe and legal abortion.” The group further exhortedgovernments to take an active role in securing the availability of abortion by ensuring that women are “given more support and autonomy to undergo the procedure.”

For the past three years, U.N. human rights experts, who serve the U.N. Human Rights Council as special rapporteurs and independent experts on various human rights issues, have used “International Safe Abortion Day” as a pretext for admonishing the international community to depenalize and legalize abortion. A similar statement in 2016 had even called on all countries worldwide to legalize abortion “on request,” representing the first time a U.N. human rights body had explicitly called for the universal legalization of abortion on demand.

The statement released by U.N. human rights experts on Friday made a number of controversial claims, including an accusation that laws defending the right to life of the unborn are rooted in “discriminatory legacies supported by religious and cultural norms” and that such pro-life religious and cultural values “embody harmful stereotypes of women’s roles in the family and society.”

Similar to statements made by other U.N. human rights bodies[1], the group of experts asserted that the right of health care workers to conscientious objection to abortion cannot be permitted to interfere with the availability of abortion, stating that conscientious objection “cannot be a basis for denying women access to abortion.”

U.N. experts also took direct aim at pro-lifers, claiming that the ‘pro-life’ label is “misleading” and an inaccurate description of people who oppose the termination of the life of an unborn child.

The statement also wrongly suggests that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) should be interpreted to exclude the unborn. The group claims that Article 1 of the UDHR, which states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” implies that human rights are only conferred on persons who are already born.

However, the records of the draft proceedings of the UDHR make it clear that this was not the drafters’ understanding of the term “born” when it was included in the Declaration.[2] Rather, drafters of the UDHR choose to use the term “born” to recall French-Enlightenment era political theory on the rights of man and to indicate the normative and inherent character of human rights.[3]

The human rights experts that joined in on Friday’s statement serve under a mechanism of the U.N. Human Rights Council known as Special Procedures. Experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to Special Procedures are responsible for advising and reporting to the Council and the U.N. General Assembly on specific human rights topics or on countries of particular concern. Special Procedures consist of special rapporteurs, independent experts, or working groups that serve as human rights experts at the United Nations. Special Procedures also contribute to developing human rights standards and issue recommendations to states on human rights issues.[4]

The Human Rights Council made headlines earlier this year when the United States withdrew its membership due to systemic corruption and politicization in the Council. “For too long the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said at the time.

In recent years, the Human Rights Council refused to address serious human rights abuses in Venezuela and Iran. Last October, the Democratic Republic of the Congo—a nation with an egregious human rights record—was offered membership on the Council.

Urging States to Legalize Abortion “on Request”

The statement issued on Friday by U.N. human rights experts is just the latest in a string of statements that Special Procedures have released on “International Safe Abortion Day.” The statement issued in 2016 was perhaps the most sweeping endorsement of abortion ever to come from a U.N. human rights body. The 2016 statement was derived in large part from a groundbreaking 2016 report from the Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination Against Women in Law and in Practice, which called on all states to legalize abortion “on request” within the first trimester.[5] It is believed that this document was the first instance that an independent human rights expert appointed by a United Nations human rights body has issued an official U.N. report explicitly recommending that all nations legalize abortion “on request.”

While it is not uncommon for U.N. human rights bodies and independent experts to call upon states to loosen restrictions on abortion, to “decriminalize” abortion, to “ensure access to safe abortion,” or to legalize abortion under specifically tailored circumstances such as rape or health of the mother, prior to the Working Group’s 2016 report U.N. experts had not previously called upon all states to legalize abortion “on request.”

The use of the term “on request” is significant. It is the terminology the United Nations system uses when referring to the legal status of abortion in countries where abortion is available on demand. And while other statements, such as those urging states to “ensure access to safe abortion,”[6] are to open to interpretation,[7] the phrase “on-request” is not. The term “on request” directly translates to “elective abortion on demand.”[8]

The 2016 report of the Working Group also called for states to “repeal restrictive laws and policies” on abortion, including legalizing abortion after the first trimester in cases of rape, incest, physical and mental health of the mother and fetal disability.[9] The report further urged that all legal penalties on women seeking abortion be removed and that even common-sense regulations on abortion such as waiting periods should be repealed.[10]

A draft General Comment currently under consideration by the U.N. Human Rights Committee similarly recommends that states legalize abortion under the same circumstances outlined in the Working Group’s 2016 report. But even it does not specifically recommend that states should legalize abortion “on request,” making the Working Group’s 2016 report unique in that respect. In fact, in October of last year the Working Group even criticized the Human Rights Committee’s draft General Comment as “too restrictive,” urging the Committee not limit abortion to enumerated cases.

Similarly, a 2014 statement issued by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the occasion of the 20th anniversary review of the International Conference on Population and Development[11] called on states to legalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, health of the mother, and fetal disability but it never specifically recommended that states legalize abortion on demand. A similar 2015 statement issued by U.N. human rights experts also stopped short of calling for the legalization of abortion “on request.”

The Working Group’s 2016 report recommending that states legalize abortion on demand is a clear departure from the Programme of Action from the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), an international agreement agreed to by 179 nations. The ICPD Programme of Action stated that “In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning.”[12]

Promoting abortion on demand, for all practical purposes, is indistinguishable from promoting abortion “as a method of family planning.” Legalizing abortion “on request” has no other purpose other than to permit the use of abortion as a family planning method.

Long History of Abortion Advocacy from Special Procedures

Mandate-holders of Special Procedures to the Human Rights Council have long used their platform as human rights experts to promote abortion. A 2016 report from the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health declared that “States are strongly encouraged to decriminalize abortion,”[13] and urged states to guarantee that all adolescents are provided access to “confidential” abortion services.[14] A significant report from 2011 issued under the same mandate recommended that states “Decriminalize abortion”[15]and that they consider “imposing a moratorium on the application of criminal laws concerning abortion,”[16] effectively asking states to consider stop enforcing their abortion laws.

A 2016 report from the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment made the case (as many U.N. treaty monitoring bodies have done for many years) that denial of abortions in certain contexts “amount to torture or ill-treatment.”[17] Special Procedures have also for many years issued communications to countries, asking them to legalize abortion or to remove restrictions on abortion.

Unfortunately for pro-lifers, human rights experts appointed to Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council are largely unaccountable to U.N. member states once elected to their posts. Mandate-holders are not U.N. staff and once appointed to their position serve in their personal capacity for the duration of their term.

The group of U.N. human rights experts that issued the statement on the occasion of “International Safe Abortion Day” included Ivana Radačić (Chair of the Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice), Dainius Pūras (Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health), Dubravka Šimonovic (Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women), and Agnes Callamard (Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions).

[1] See General Comment No. 15 (2013) on the Right of the Child to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Health (Art. 24), ¶69, Comm. on the Rights of the Child, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/GC/15 (Apr. 17, 2013). See also Practices in Adopting a Human Rights-Based Approach to Eliminate Preventable Maternal Mortality and Human Rights, Rep. of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights Council, 18th Sess., ¶30, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/18/27 (Jul. 8, 2011).

[2] Several delegations supported an amendment to strike the term “born” from the document precisely because they were afraid that it could be interpreted in such a way to exclude the unborn. As the proceedings progressed, however, the Mexican delegation, which had previously supported striking the term from the document as “a human being’s right to freedom and equality began from the moment of his conception,” urged states to drop support for the amendment as the term was a “point … of minor importance.” (See Statement of Mr. de Alba (Mexico), Draft International Declaration of Human Rights (E/800), 99th Mtg., U.N. Doc. A/C.3/SR.99).  The Chilean delegation similarly considered that whether or not the term “born” is included in the document was “not a question of any great importance” as “the purpose in both cases was to proclaim that freedom and equality were essential attributes of human personality, regardless of whether or not those rights were always recognized.” (See Statement of Mr. Santa Cruz (Chile), Draft International Declaration of Human Rights (E/800), 99th Mtg., U.N. Doc. A/C.3/SR.99). The Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice also makes an unsubstantiated that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) affirms that “human rights accorded under IHRL are accorded to those who have been born” but offers no evidence supporting its claim (See Women’s Autonomy, Equality and Reproductive Health in International Human Rights: Between Recognition, Backlash and Regressive Trends, Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice, Human Rights Council, Position Paper (Oct. 2017)). The Working Group places a footnote on this sentence, however, their “proof” is simply the record of the roll-call vote approving article 6 of the ICCPR which includes a paragraph stipulating that “Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women” (See International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, art. 6(5)). In fact, the word “born” never appears in the ICCPR nor can it be concluded from the travaux préparatoires of the ICCPR that the unborn are excluded from the rights enumerated in the treaty. Many delegations specifically expressed that the right to life applies not only to the born but also to the unborn. E.g., the delegation from India stated that it “fully endorsed paragraph 4 of the article, in the belief that the right to life extended not only to persons who were already alive, but also to those not yet born” (See U.N. GAOR, U.N. G.A., Third Comm., 12th Sess., 813th mtg. at 256, ¶36, U.N. Doc. A/C.3/SR.813).

[3] The universal declaration of human rights: a common standard of achievement, 59 (Guðmundur S. Alfreðsson & Asbjørn Eide, eds. 1999).

[4] Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council (last visited Oct. 1, 2018),

[5] “Noting that many countries where women have the right to abortion on request supported by affordable and effective family planning measures have the lowest abortion rates in the world, States should allow women to terminate a pregnancy on request during the first trimester…” See Rep. of the Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination Against Women in Law and in Practice, Human Rights Council, Rep. on its 32nd Sess., Jun. 13–Jul. 1, 2016, ¶107(c), U.N. Doc. A/HRC/32/44 (Apr. 8, 2016).

[6] E.g. General Comment No. 15 (2013) on the Right of the Child to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Health (Art. 24), ¶70, Comm. on the Rights of the Child, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/GC/15 (Apr. 17, 2013).

[7] When U.N. human rights bodies recommend that states should “ensure access to safe abortion,” it is usually interpreted by member states as a recommendation to ensure access to “safe” abortion according to their national laws on abortion or as ensuring access in cases to protect the health of women. This is a legitimate interpretation as there is no customary norm in international law that abortion be legalized on demand. The international consensus agreed to through the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action from the Fourth World Conference on Women recognized that “Any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process,” that the provision of “safe” abortion falls within “circumstances where abortion is not against the law,” and that referred to “unsafe abortion” only in the context of “women’s health.” See International Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, Egypt, September 5–13, 1994, Rep. of the International Conference on Population and Development, Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, Conference Res. 1, ¶8.25, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.171/13/Rev.1, U.N. Sales No. 95.XIII.18 (1995).

[8] Additionally, statements calling on nations to “decriminalize” abortion stipulate that penalties on abortion should be removed but do not take a position on whether abortion should be explicitly permitted, even as such laws become all but impossible to enforce. Asking states to “decriminalize” abortion is thus only an indirect way to call for the legalization of abortion and the term does not have the specificity that the term “on request” has.

[9] Rep. of the Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination Against Women in Law and in Practice, Human Rights Council, Rep. on its 32nd Sess., Jun. 13–Jul. 1, 2016, ¶107(b), U.N. Doc. A/HRC/32/44 (Apr. 8, 2016).

[10] Ibid., at ¶107(e).

[11] Statement of the Comm. on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on sexual and reproductive health and rights: Beyond 2014 ICPD Review in Rep. on the Comm. On the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Comm. On the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 57th Sess., Feb. 10–28, 2014, Annex 2, U.N. Doc. CEDAW/C/2014/I/CRP.

[12] International Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, Egypt, September 5–13, 1994, Rep. of the International Conference on Population and Development, Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, Conference Res. 1, ¶8.25, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.171/13/Rev.1, U.N. Sales No. 95.XIII.18 (1995).

[13] Rep. of the Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health, Human Rights Council, Rep. on its 32nd Sess., Jun. 13–Jul. 1, 2016, ¶92, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/32/32 (Apr. 4, 2016).

[14] Ibid, at ¶113(b).

[15] Interim Rep. of the Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health, U.N. G.A., 66th Sess., ¶65(h), U.N. Doc. A/66/254 (Aug. 3, 2011).

[16] Ibid, at ¶65(i).

[17] Rep. of the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Human Rights Council, 31st Sess., ¶44, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/31/57 (Jan. 5, 2016).


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