During hearings that one participant described as “surreal,” United Nations representatives this week suggested that the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion in the case of rape and incest constitute a violation of the UN Charter Against Torture.
The Vatican was called before a two-day hearing in Geneva so a UN committee could question whether its handling of the child sex abuse scandal violated the charter.
However, one of the two committee’s two chosen spokespeople turned the questioning to the topic of abortion-on-demand.
Felice Gaer, the director of the American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, said the Catholic Church’s 2,000-year-old doctrinal teaching on abortion may be responsible for nine-year-old rape victims giving birth.
“This committee has found repeatedly that laws that criminalize the termination of pregnancy in all circumstances can violate the terms of the convention” on torture, she said.
This marked the Vatican’s first hearing before the CAT committee since it signed the Convention.
Papal Nuncio Silvano Tomasi, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, anticipated the question and said it was the Christian church’s pro-life position that protected human rights.
“The Holy See’s goal is to prevent children from being tortured or killed before birth, as is stipulated in the Convention,” he said in an outline drawn up before the hearings. “For example, in Canada, 622 living babies were delivered after failed abortion attempts, between 2000 and 2001. 66 such cases were registered in the UK in 2005. Some methods of late-term abortions constitute forms of torture, particularly in the case of dilation and evacuation, where ‘the fetus, still alive, is dismembered to be pulled out of the womb in pieces.’”
U.S. pro-life observers criticized Gaer’s interpretation of the global document.
“From what I am reading, this is no more than UN propaganda trying to make the Catholic Church seem ‘extreme’ for not advocating for abortion in the case of rape or sexual assault,” abstinence speaker Pam Stenzel, who was conceived in rape, told LifeSiteNews. “It is not news that some members of the UN want abortion access for all women, including minors, and when access is denied they consider that a violation of ‘women’s rights.’”
One of the participants in the hearings told the UN committee the questioning was little more than anti-Catholicism and abortion advocacy masquerading as concern for the vulnerable.
“The Catholic Church is no stranger to persecution and intolerance,” Ashley McGuire of Catholic Voices USA, said in Geneva. “But it is a shame to see [non-governmental organizations] attacking the Church at the UN, some trying to use this committee to advance an ideological agenda, so often because the Church will not change her moral positions.”
McGuire added that the very notion of human rights that guide the committee “would not exist without the contribution of Christianity, without the unique Christian worldview that every human being has an inherent dignity and is worthy of love and respect.”
“I urge the committee to resist the swelling tide of anti-Christian intolerance that demands that the Catholic Church change her canon law and conform to modernity’s callous devaluation of the lives of vulnerable people, or as Pope Francis has put it, ‘our throwaway culture,” McGuire said. “Intolerance has no place within the world body.”
Far from helping victims of rape or sexual assault, abortion deepens their trauma, Stenzel told LifeSiteNews.
“Answering violence with more violence never produces a positive outcome,” she said. “Victims of rape/sexual assault need real help and care.”
Rebecca Kiessling of Save the 1, which advocates for children conceived in rape, agreed. “Putting a nine-year-old through an abortion is the real torture after having already been traumatized,” she told LifeSiteNews from London. “The last thing she needs is more violence within her body.”
Pro-life speaker Monica Kelsey told LifeSiteNews, “If we truly believe that we’re made in God’s image, changing he circumstances of conception shouldn’t change the way people feel about the child.”
“We can’t forget that there’s an innocent child whose life hangs in the balance” or “lose sight that the child is a child, and she still deserves her right to life,” Kelsey told LifeSiteNews.
Preserving life is important for mother and child, she said. “These women who are raped often find healing” after giving birth.” She cited her own birth mother, who was raped, telling her, “It’s amazing how something so beautiful came out of something so horrible.”
“I have spoken to so many girls who have been raped who have had their child, and not one of them has said, ‘I wish I had had an abortion,’” Kelsey told LifeSiteNews. “But I have had a lot of women who have been raped who had an abortion say, ‘I wish I would have had my child.’”
This was the second time in recent months that the world body had openly criticized the Holy See’s ancient doctrinal position opposing abortion in all instances. In February, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child similarly chided the Catholic Church, claiming its teachings on abortion and contraception harmed young women and minor girls around the world.
When it became a party to the international document in 2002, the Vatican described the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as “a valid and suitable instrument for fighting against acts that constitute a serious offence against the dignity of the human person.”