Humanists discuss the right to life at United Nations

Humanists discuss the right to life at United Nations

Posted on the 17/07/15

In a UN meeting very well attended by anti-choice organisations, the EHF and IHEU urged the UN Human Rights Committee to reaffirm that the right to life – as defined by article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ‘(ICCPR) –  begins at birth and not at conception.

Humanists called upon the Committee to recognize that safe and legal abortion and legal assisted suicide/euthanasia are compatible with the protection of the right to life.

In the perspective of drafting its general comment on article 6 on “the right to life”, the UN Human Rights Committee invited various NGOs to share their views on the interpretation of this right. Together with our colleagues from the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), we contributed to the discussion and urged the Committee to:

Reaffirm that the right to life starts at birth (and not at conception)in order to protect other rights recognised by the ICCPR – mainly the right to health and non-discrimination. 

We clearly affirmed that international human rights instrument do not and should not extend the protection of the right to life to human embryos or foetuses in order to protect fundamental rights of women to sexual and reproductive health. Promoting these rights is crucial when one knows that 13% of maternal death worldwide is due to unsafe abortion.

The UN Human Rights Committee is the Committee in charge of monitoring compliance and implementation of the ICCPR by its State parties. The general comments issued by the Committee provide guidelines for the practical implementation of human rights by the states. How these rights are interpreted and understood by the ICCPR is therefore of primary importance.

Make explicit that legalising assisted suicide and/or euthanasia doesn’t contradict Article 6 on the right to life.

According to some, the right to die in dignity contradicts the protection of the right to life. In EHF view, this position reveals a narrow interpretation of the right to life which should respect the human dignity of people suffering and their freedom to end their life as they wish to.

The conference was very well attended by Christian anti-choice groups who also contributed to the discussion with many written statements. These groups included the European Centre for Law and Justice, Alliance Defending Freedom International, Family & Life, Pro Life Campaign, Priests for Life and The Ordo Iuris Institute for Legal Culture.

They all requested the Committee to apply the protection of the right to life from conception to natural death, on the grounds of fake scientific evidence (“abortion leads to cancer and mental ill-ness”), manipulation of legal instruments and biased story telling.

Other groups took the floor in support of women’s right to abortion like the Center for Reproductive Rights, Safe Abortion Women’s Right, and Reproductive Health Matters.With other 50 NGOs, the EHF and IHEU supported the statement delivered by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The Committee will now write the first draft of its General Comment. We hope it will do so with a strong progressive stand.

Reade more:

EHF written contribution

IHEU written contribution and oral statement

NGOs’ joint statement in support of abortion right – signed by EHF and IHEU


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