Two initiatives from the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) landed before the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights this week. The first was a “thematic hearing” on whether abortion providers – and by extension, non-governmental organizations that advocate abortion – should be called “human rights defenders.” The second challenged the right of Costa Rica to determine the content of its laws after the country’s Supreme Court determined that In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) violated right-to-life guarantees under the American Convention on Human Rights.Both efforts appear to be part of a CRR-orchestrated strategy to co-opt the generally well-regarded Inter-American Commission as a platform for promoting CRR’s agenda to overturn abortion laws in Latin America and to rewrite the American Convention on Human Rights.
Under the American Convention abortion providers are akin to human rights violators, not defenders as abortion advocates asked for. The Convention states that “Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right [of every person] shall be protected by law, and in general, from the moment of conception.”
The Inter-American Commission is an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS) and its principal mission is “to promote respect for and defense of human rights” among OAS member states. The Commission, though it may consult with the Inter-American Court on Human Rights – a separate, juridical body – itself lacks the power to interpret the American Convention, and the Commission does not have judicial power. When the Commission has accepted a petition concerning an alleged human rights abuse, it may conduct investigations, issue recommendations and refer matters to the Inter-American Court.
Critics have expressed concern that the Inter-American Commission could become yet another venue for the promotion of abortion. CRR asked the Commission in 2002 to hear an abortion case related to a Mexican woman. The Mexican government settled with the woman, so the Commission never issued a formal recommendation. The new cases worry critics once more.
The Inter-American Commission is generally viewed as less politicized than comparable United Nations committees, and OAS member states retain the ability to elect Commissioners.
Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America (CWA), attended this week’s thematic hearing on human rights defenders. She told the Friday Fax that the Commission’s President conducted an “objective and procedurally-fair” proceeding. CWA along with the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM, the publisher of Friday Fax) and five other pro-life groups filed a “shadow report” to the Commission reiterating that abortionists are not human rights defenders.
The shadow report pointed out that abortion is not considered a human right under international law, and therefore abortion practitioners and those who advocate for abortion cannot be considered “human rights defenders.” CRR has tried to argue that abortion is a human right in as many venues as possible, and this was seen as a backdoor ploy to advance CRR’s position. At both the thematic hearing and with the Costa Rica IVF petition, CRR was countered with strong pro-life submissions.
The International Organizations Law Group, the public interest law arm of C-FAM, co-authored the “human rights defenders” shadow report.