UN petitioned pro, con for abortion as 'right'

UNITED NATIONS -- On the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Dec. 10, petitions for and against declaring abortion as a "universal right" were presented to U.N. members.

More than a year ago, Marie Stopes International, a London-based abortion advocacy group, initiated a petition drive calling for "women's rights to contraception and safe abortion" to be "protected and supported through reformed laws and policies at all levels."

The group presented their signatures during a U.N. General Assembly session marking the anniversary of the 1948 U.N. declaration.

The group's Web, www.globalsafeabortion.org/calltoaction.html, noted that 651 people had signed the petition: "Global Call to Action for Women's Access to Safe Abortion" by Dec. 10.

The Marie Stopes International petition argues that restrictions on abortions may put a woman's right to life at risk. The petition said it was "intolerable that millions of women continue to suffer severe injuries and trauma, and more than 66,000 die needlessly each year from abortions that are procured unsafely from unskilled providers or self-induced, almost all in developing countries."

The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute in New York launched a petition of its own in October called the "U.N. Petition for the Unborn Child and the Family."

It emphasized that the views presented in the human rights declaration are "inherent to every person and that governments should extend the right to life to all members of the human family including the unborn child."

The petition by the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute also called on governments to protect the family "as the fundamental group unit of society," give special assistance to mothers and children and promote the rights of parents.

The petition, posted online at www.c-fam.org/publications/id.95/default.asp, had gathered more than 367,000 signatures, including 165,000 from English-speaking countries, by Dec. 10.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican's apostolic nuncio to the United Nations, did not issue a statement about either petition drive. While speaking informally at the world body Dec. 10 he noted that the initiatives that deserve attention and support during the anniversary of the U.N. declaration are those that respect and promote the right to life.

Mary Ann Glendon, the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, stated earlier this year that the adoption of the U.N. declaration by almost every country in the world demonstrates that all people can recognize some basic common principles.

She added that the declaration "serves today as the principal common reference point for cross-cultural discussions of how we are to order the human future in an increasingly interdependent world."

During a November press conference at the Vatican, Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, noted that the landmark U.N. document is not fully respected around the world.

"Unfortunately nowhere in the world, even among (countries) that have embraced, promoted and highlighted this declaration," are all its articles observed, he said, citing the world's prisons as being the sites of some of the worst violations of human rights and dignity.

See related story: Catholics celebrate, protest Human Rights Day

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