Holy See refuses to sign treaty over right to life concerns

The Holy See has announced that it will not sign the landmark UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities because of fears that a clause relating to sexual health and population programs may threaten the right to life of the unborn.

Catholic Online reports that Archbishop Migliore made the announcement in 13 December remarks to the United Nations General Assembly in which he stressed that the protection of "the rights, dignity and worth of persons with disabilities remains a major concern for the Holy See".

"The Holy See has consistently called for disabled individuals to be completely and compassionately integrated into society, convinced that they possess full and inalienable human rights," the apostolic nuncio said.

"Therefore, from the very beginning, my delegation has been a constructive and active partner in these negotiations."

Yet, the Archbishop noted that the inclusion of a clause that requires access be provided to "sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programs" may be used against the offering of protection of "the full enjoyment of all human rights by people with disabilities".

"For this reason, and despite the many helpful articles this convention contains, the Holy See is unable to sign it," Archbishop Migliore said.

The convention requires ratifying nations to adopt laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of any form of disability and eliminating existing laws that discriminate against the disabled.

It requires governments to fight prejudice and promote awareness of the capabilities of people with disabilities and their contributions to society.

Archbishop Migliore highlighted Article 10 entitled "Right to Life", which says that "states/parties reaffirm that every human being has the inherent right to life and shall take all necessary measures to ensure its effective enjoyment by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others."

"Surely the living heart of this document lies in its reaffirmation of the right to life," he said.

While noting that the Vatican understanding of "access to reproductive health" services as "a holistic concept that does not consider abortion or access to abortion as a dimension of those terms," Archbishop Migliore said the Holy See opposed inclusion of such a provision in the convention "because in some countries reproductive health services include abortion, thus denying the inherent right to life of every human being, affirmed by article 10."

"For far too long, and by far too many, the lives of people with disabilities have been undervalued or thought to be of a diminished dignity and worth," he said.

The convention will come into force 30 days after its ratification by 20 nations. It will formally be opened to the 192 member states to sign on 30 March 2007, after which governments can start their ratification procedures.

Vatican refuses to sign U.N. landmark convention over right of disabled unborn to life (Catholic Online, 14/12/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Holy See Mission to the United Nations

15 Dec 2006