Our coming appointment with the Human Rights Council

Our coming appointment with the Human Rights Council The Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland where the UN Human Rights Council meets.
Left-wing pressure groups are lining up to push Ireland in an even more liberal direction, writes David Quinn

For many years, various United Nations (UN) bodies exerted pressure on Ireland to abolish the Eighth Amendment. Moves are now on to cajole us into making our present already very liberal abortion law even more permissive.

Ireland is a signatory to many UN treaties and conventions which commit us to living up to certain human rights standards. We are not legally obliged to abide by any of the various treaties etc., but sometimes we feel morally obliged.

By signing up to those documents, we agree to a process whereby every few years we appear before this or that UN committee charged with ensuring countries stick to their commitments.

On November 10, we are appearing before the UN Human Rights Council which will have an overall look at our human rights record.

Ahead of these appearances, local non-governmental organsations (‘NGOs’) write to the relevant UN committee setting out where they think their particular country has allegedly failed to live up to its commitments.

Many of these NGOs are extremely socially liberal and secular and so are the members of the UN committees. They are usually of the same mind, ideologically speaking.

This means that when the official representatives of a country like Ireland appear before a given UN committee, the members of that committee will have received their information from campaigning organisations which think like they do, and the questions they ask will push the country under examination in one direction, and one only.

Sometimes, that might not be a bad thing. For example, a number of religious bodies have sent submissions to the Human Rights Council ahead of Ireland’s appearance and are seeking more rights for asylum-seekers, among other things.

But quite a number of the secular NGOs believe that Ireland’s abortion law doesn’t go far enough. They (wrongly) believe we are still violating some of the provisions of the human rights documents we have signed, and they want us to make amends. There is little doubt that the members of the UN Human Rights Council will agree.

One of the organisations complaining our law isn’t permissive enough is the Abortion Rights Campaign, which has made a submission along with ‘Termination for Medical Reasons’ and the ‘Abortion Support Network’.


Among other things, the submissions want to see the three-day waiting period before a woman has an abortion, eliminated. This would mean no cooling-off period in which she might change her mind about such a decisive, life-ending act.

It agrees with the World Health Organisation (WHO) that “mandatory waiting periods can have the effect of delaying care, which can jeopardise women’s ability to access safe, legal abortion services and demeans women as competent decision-makers”.

Note that there is no mention whatsoever of the rights of the unborn child, which seem to count as nothing in the eyes of the WHO.

The submission also complains that our abortion law only mentions ‘women’, and that this is offensive to pregnant people who might not identify as women (for example, a biological female might now identify as male).

In addition, the document targets conscientious objection. As it stands, Ireland’s abortion law allows doctors and nurses to refuse to take part in abortions, although doctors who are pro-life are required to refer women seeking abortions to doctors who are pro-choice (an already unacceptable infringement on conscience rights).

The Abortion Rights Campaign doesn’t go quite as far as calling for the outright abolition of conscientious objection, but it seems to be moving in that direction.

It also objects to the fact that women (or ‘people’ as it might put it) must still travel to England if they want an abortion in cases where the baby has a severe, as distinct from a fatal, disability. A severe disability would include Down Syndrome. In other words, the campaign wants Ireland to allow babies to be aborted when they have Down Syndrome. This is eugenics, which is the deliberate elimination of those considered defective in some way.

Amnesty International in Ireland shares this same position.

Meanwhile, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties want to ban pro-life vigils near facilities such as hospitals that conduct abortions. That is, it wants so-called ‘safe-access zones’ set up around hospitals and clinics.

Civil liberties

To put it another way, an organisation established to defend civil liberties, wants to curb a civil liberty. There is no evidence that pro-life groups are intimidating people entering hospitals and we already have laws against this sort of thing anyway. In practice, exclusion zones would stop pro-life activists even silently praying near hospitals.

The Iona Institute (which I head) has made a submission of its own to the Human Rights Council, or rather, it has signed up to one, along with the Pro-Life Campaign, made by Alliance Defending Freedom, an international organisation devoted to defending religious freedom.

The submission says that conscientious objection to abortion should be strengthened, not weakened. It defends the right of parents to be informed when an underage daughter is having an abortion, and also opposes moves to allow assisted suicide.

If the Human Rights Council is true to form, it is quite likely to misinterpret human rights documents which do not create a right to abortion, much less eugenics, or allow conscience rights to be quashed, or authorise assisted suicide.


The Irish delegation that appears before the council ought to point all this out, but if past practice is followed, is likely to kow-tow instead.

A three-year review of our abortion law is due to begin soon, along with a campaign to make it more permissive still. The pro-life movement must do its best to resist, including internationally at the UN next week.