International (and possibly even interstate) readers will not be aware that our Parliament here in the State of Victoria is looking at removing abortion from the criminal law and incorporating it instead into the Health Act. The surprise and completely voluntary resignation yesterday of both our Premier and Deputy-Premier is not likely to have much effect upon this debate.
There was a very challenging article in yesterday’s edition of The Age, by Rita Joseph entitled “The Right to Life is the Most Challenging of All”. In this article, she argues that
Such an attack on laws that protect unborn children contravenes the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognised the child before birth as having human rights to be protected by the rule of law.
Not being any expert in International Law, I still thought she might be drawing a bit of a long bow when saying that the 1948 Declaration explicity recognised the rights of the the child before birth. She is on more solid ground, I reckon, with the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which does include the following “whereas”:
Whereas the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.
Of course the weakness here is in the phrase “appropriate”, which seems to be left up to each individual state to decide.
Nevertheless it was a valiant attempt to point out that abortion must really be considered under these categories of the basic human right to life and the rights of the unborn child.
But it was no surprise to read a letter to the Editor in this morning’s edition by John Tobin, senior lecturer in the faculty of law at the University of Melbourne, entitled: “International law silent on abortion”. Here he contends (quite possibly rightly–he is rather more expert in these matters than me):
Rita Joseph (Opinion, 27/7) is entitled to raise concerns in relation to Victorian MP Candy Broad’s attempt to decriminalise abortion. But she has no basis upon which to enlist international human rights law in support of her view. International law is silent on abortion and provides no rights to the unborn child.
The disturbing bit is what comes next, when Tobin writes:
When states drafted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the question of when life began was one of the most contentious matters. Catholic states wanted life to begin at conception, while numerous Western states, including Australia, preferred birth. The result is a compromise — each country is entitled to determine when childhood and life begins. There is no foundation to argue that the right to life under international law prohibits abortion.
Well. That must just about blow the whole business of human rights in general and rights of the child in particular out of the water. What possible meaning can it have to affirm that each humanbeing/child has the inalienable right to life and “appropriate legal protection”, if it is then left up to each particular state to define for its own purposes what or who a humanbeing/child actually is.
The 1948 Declaration of Human Rights was meant to protect us against the likes of this fellow (pictured) and his ideas ever rising to the surface of the human political pond again. Lewis Carroll’s character pictured above might seem a little cuddlier, but madness is their common denominator.