The Defence of Life in the Context of International Policies and Norms

Author: Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran


Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran

On Friday, 11 February, during the Sixth General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Secretary for Relations with States, spoke on "The Defence of Life in the Context of International Policies and Norms". Here is the English text of his address.

A review of the progress of the debate in international circles over the last five years makes clear how timely was the Encyclical Evangelium vitae.1 The Encyclical authoritatively presented the Church's position on an array of threats to human life, especially at its beginning and at its end, which are now taking on a new form inasmuch as they seek to be recognized as rights.2 In effect, in the years following the publication of the Encyclical, the fundamental moments of human life, as well as the transmission of life, have been present in an unprecedented way, not only in scientific research but also in the formulation of policies and the creation of international juridical instruments.

In order to have an adequate picture, a fundamental distinction must first be made. On the one hand, there are trends emerging from the global conferences organized by the UN which are more "political" in nature but which nonetheless affect the activity of the international bodies of the UN system. On the other hand, there is the level of norms stated by conventions which are binding on States; these are often limited to individual questions.

The defence of life at the international conferences (Cairo and Beijing)

After the collapse of ideological opposition between the blocs, it seemed possible, at the beginning of the '90s, to develop a world consensus on the principal problems of humanity. A series of global conferences organized by the UN were held; these—it is right to note—helped to focus attention on the needs and the prospects of humanity and to establish a more balanced definition of development -which is not only economic but sustainable, human and social ("Place people at the centre of development and direct our economies to meet human needs more effectively"3). As far as the defence of human life is concerned, the cultural climate at the time was affected by two factors: first, by apocalyptic forecasts of a population boom exceeding the resources of the planet and, second, by a radical feminist ideology calling for women to have complete control over their own bodies, including any unborn children.

In this context, the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo,5-13 September 1994) emphasized population control rather than development and was under powerful pressure to concentrate on "women's reproductive health". Consequently, abortion was considered an aspect of demographic policy and a health service ("reproductive health service"). On the other hand, despite strong pressure, and thanks also to the firm commitment of the Holy See Delegation, there was a reaffirmation of the principle agreed, upon in Mexico City in 1984, namely that abortion is never to be considered a means of family planning 4 and there was no endorsement of a so-called "right to abortion". These points were also upheld a year later, at the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 4-15 September 1995), where the pressures earlier in Cairo reappeared even more forcefully, leading to the insertion throughout the final documents of language about which the Holy See had expressed serious reserves in 1994. A balanced evaluation of these great international meetings must nevertheless recognize that other conclusions—like those of the 1995 World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen or the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome—proved decidedly closer to the positions of the Holy See, especially with regard to social issues. The tendencies present -in Cairo and Beijing re-emerged when the UN sought to evaluate, five years after the conference, the implementation of the Action Programme adopted at Cairo. There a move was made to introduce the novel and equivocal expression "emergency contraception" as a pretext for medically induced (by pills) early abortion. The Holy See, with the support of Argentina, Nicaragua and some other countries managed not to have this expression approved.5 The Holy See also denounced the tendency to accept sexual relations outside of marriage, even for adolescents, and to consider abortion as an aspect of demographic policies and as a method of choice.6

In view of the efforts being made in society to defend human life, we may ask: what weight do the conclusions of these world meetings have? We may point out that these are not texts which are binding on States; rather, they establish, by consent, general principles which merely serve as guidelines ("soft law"). These principles are meant to create or confirm tendencies which will then influence the policy decisions of the individual countries. Furthermore, these principles can become conditions for multilateral or bilateral assistance to poor countries.

It must be made clear however that we are dealing with tendencies which are not resolved on the basis of a single term or an individual paragraph: although the expression emergency contraception was not finally approved at "Cairo + 5", at the very same time the abortifacient pill RU486 was being liberalized, under the name Mifegyne, in some European States.7 And this grave fact can be seen as related to the other statement of the Action Programme of the Cairo Conference, namely, that "in circumstances where abortion is not prohibited by law, it should be carried out safely" (n. 8.25).8

It should be noted that the reasons adduced in support of these tendencies have gradually changed. In the beginning—e.g., before and during the Cairo Conference—an appeal was made to the spectre of uncontrolled population increase, but this fear has been proved unfounded: as demographic projections are being revised downwards, the international documents are now linking the issues of population growth and the "population aging". Lately a so-called "human rights approach" has become more common: all these issues are seen in terms of human rights. Often an appeal is made to the freedom of individuals over their own body, that of adolescents in particular.

Lines of Action of the Convention Committees and the Agencies of the United Nations System

The conclusions of the international conferences also have a second effect. They constitute guidelines for the Convention Committees and directives for the political activities of international agencies and bodies, those of the United Nations system in particular, but others as well.9

Thus CEDAW, the Committee for the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which affirms women's rights in matters of family planning,10 issued in February 1999 a General Recommendation11 calling for laws condemning abortion as a crime to be amended by removing penalties against women;12 the Recommendation also states that a State is bound to furnish reproductive health services even in cases where health officials are conscientiously opposed to this. 13

We can thus say that all the development efforts of the United Nations now bear the stamp of Cairo and Beijing, and that the operative principles of the action plans of those conferences are being proposed in counseling, in contracts of cooperation and in various forms of assistance offered both to Governments and to non-state institutions. We should not be surprised if they are proposed, for example, to Catholic universities, health centres or Dioceses: in such cases, a careful evaluation is needed of the responsibilities assumed and the impact of any such agreement with an international agency within the local context.

At the level of general declarations, the World Health Organization sought, at least until 1998, to accommodate opinions opposed to the concepts of "reproductive health" and "reproductive rights". This enabled the Holy See to make its voice heard, with the result that, for example, the document with which the WHO14 accepted the conclusions of the Cairo Conference avoided some of the more controversial points of that Report. Furthermore, the Ethics Committee on human cloning and medical research reached relatively acceptable conclusions. Regarding concrete policies in the field of health care, it should be noted that the World Health Organization assists States in developing health programmes within the context of a worldwide consensus. Many programmes are also financed by certain States and by private foundations. Hence, alongside many perfectly acceptable programmes, there has also been the Human Reproduction Programme, aimed at developing the technology of contraception and medically induced abortion.

It must however be pointed out that the present leadership of the World Health Organization, which took over in 1998, has adopted a much more decisive stance in favour of birth control and reproductive health. Official declarations now reflect practical tendencies, unfortunately in a sense unacceptable to the Holy See. At the same time, a needed restructuring has led to the elimination of sectors most at odds with the views of the new leadership (and most sympathetic to those of Evangelium vitae). Among other things, plans to establish an ethics committee have been postponed and perhaps even eliminated. Significant resources have also been set aside for research in the field of so-called "reproductive health".15

Among other organizations, we may also mention UNICEF and UNHCR as particularly significant. The former has for some time launched contraceptive and sex education programmes; as is known, the Holy See has suspended its symbolic contribution to UNICEF in the light of the latter's refusal to guarantee that this contribution would not be used for programmes contrary to Catholic principles.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees provides for the support of 22.3 million refugees, displaced persons and returnees throughout the world. In November 1996, the UNHCR announced that it was joining UNFPA in making available "emergency reproductive health services" which include "post-coital" or "emergency" contraception and assistance for "incomplete abortions" in refugee camps during the civil war in Rwanda. The International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies also agreed to follow this project. The UNHCR also published the notorious Interagency Field Manual, whichemphasizes the sex education and "reproductive services" to be provided to adolescents. A recent illustration of these policies with regard to refugees was the sending of "emergency reproductive health kits" for 350,000 people announced by UNFPA during the recent Kosovo crisis.

As for relations between the international agencies themselves, there is a growing movement away from forms of partnership for cooperation on specific programmes to types of strategic alliances where the technical leadership of some organizations tends to lose ground to powerful agencies which are politically and economically present in the territory. UNAIDS, the United Nations programme to combat AIDS, is a case study of how this kind of cooperation between the organizations and agencies of the United Nations ends up depreciating the technical function of some agencies and favouring various kinds of lobbies

International directives regarding the themes of the Encyclical

We now pass to the normative juridical texts on the international level which regulate the sensitive areas of the beginning, end and transmission of life. While to this point we have been considering trends, it is now time to examine specific areas, without neglecting new issues as they arise.

The right to life and abortion16

It is important to begin by noting that international juridical instruments solemnly proclaim a fundamental right to life.17 It must be pointed out however that, beginning with the first discussions on the international level after the Second World War, the numerous and pressing requests to define this right in terms of a ban on abortion met resistance also from traditionally Protestant countries.18

On the level of the juridical instruments of the United Nations, the strongest affirmation of the right to life even of unborn children is contained in the Declaration and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.19Principle 4 of the Declaration, repeated in the Preamble of the Convention, states that every child needs "appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth". But this statement could only be made because it was left to national legislation the determination of when a human being begins to exist.

On the regional level, we can mention international juridical instruments and policies concerning the unborn in Europe and America. With regard to the Council of Europe and the European Union, it is sadly taken for granted that access to abortion is an acquired right, although legislation in certain countries (Malta and Ireland) does not permit it. When international juridical instruments which might touch on this theme are drawn up—like the Council of Europe's recent Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine—terminology is used which will not interfere with the legislation of individual nations, in order to enable a consensus. It should be noted that in particular situations, as in the Kosovo conflict, both the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe20 and the European Parliament21 adopted resolutions affirming the right to abortion on the part of women who were raped.

The American Convention on Human Rights,22which went into effect in 1978 and was ratified by 25 countries of North and South America and the Caribbean (out of a total of 34 countries in the region), is the only international convention on human rights which grants juridical recognition to life from the moment of conception, 23 and this commitment is clear to the member states.24 The Holy See has made frequent reference to this Convention in its interventions before the Organization of American States and other organizations of the so-called "inter-American system". These interventions have consistently been well-received.

A specific question within the context of abortion is raised by the problem of so-called "forced pregnancy". This involves the particularly painful case in which a woman who was raped for ethnic reasons is forced to bear the child against her will. The term "forced pregnancy", which is per se ambiguous,25 appeared in the final documents of the Vienna Conference with direct reference to situations of conflict; it was then taken up again at the Cairo and Beijing Conferences. During the attempts to establish the International Criminal Court at the Rome Diplomatic Conference in the summer of 1998, some countries considering the continuance of ethnic rape in Bosnia Hercegovina—wanted to include an explicit reference to "forced pregnancy" in the list of crimes against humanity. Since the term could be interpreted as a justification of abortion, either in situations of armed conflict or as a precedent for other situations, the Holy See, after unsuccessfully attempting to have the term deleted or replaced, asked that it be clearly defined. The crime was thus given a foothold in international law, but with no reference to a right to abortion. Despite some resistance, in the end the delegates defined "forced pregnancy" as "the unlawful confinement of a woman forcibly made pregnant, with the intent of affecting the ethnic composition of any population or carrying out other grave violations of international law. This definition shall in no way be interpreted as affecting national laws relating to pregnancy".

Experimentation on embryos26

Experimentation on human embryos is an issue which has encountered such difficulties in international debate that no consensus has yet been reached. On the world level, the UNESCO Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, while dealing with matters of genetic experimentation, is silent on the issue of experimentation on the human genome, despite the observations put forth by the Holy See together with other delegations. One difficulty arises from the tendency begun by the "Warnock Report" and followed, among others, by British legislation, which accepts experimentation on embryos up to the l4th day. This means that the embryo is not recognized as being fully human until the period of implantation is completed. To obtain the agreement of the British, while on the other hand sensing a need to protect the embryo, the negotiators of the text of the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, which the Council of Europe presented for signing at Oviedo in 1997, deferred treatment of the issue to a future additional Protocol, specifying in Article 18 of the Convention two points which, while insufficient, have a certain value in principle: (1) whenever the law permits research on embryos, such research must ensure that the embryo is adequately protected; and (2) the creation of embryos for research purposes is prohibited. It would be desirable for the additional Protocol to call for full respect for the human embryo: even if such a position would not receive widespread support, it would represent a clear statement of principle in international law.

The human genome and cloning

In connection with experimentation on embryos, it seems appropriate to mention two issues which have taken on greater importance in recent years: the use of the human genetic patrimony and human cloning.

With the growth and scientific progress made in the Genome Project, prospects opened up for the possible appropriation and economic exploitation of human genes as such. The then Director-General of UNESCO, Federico Mayor Zaragoza, proposed a juridical instrument which would establish principles in this sensitive and as yet unexplored area. In January 1993 a process began which led to the drafting, by the International Consultative Committee for Bioethics, of the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights. This was adopted by UNESCO on 12 November 1997 and then by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9 December 1998.27 The entire process of the drafting of this document was carefully followed by the Holy See28 which, in addition to various other points, insisted above all on the need for emphasis on the protection of each individual human being (rather than the entire complex of humanity's genes), the prohibition of all cloning of human beings, the inadequacy of the concept of "heritage of humanity" with regard to genetic patrimony, the need to defend the embryo, and control over the political, economic and military interests which could influence genetic research.

The Declaration as adopted, in addition to various principles about the respect due to patients, proclaims in an infelicitous formula that the human genome "is the heritage of humanity" (even if "in a symbolic sense"), prohibits using the human genome in its natural state for financial gains29 and states that the cloning of human beings—unfortunately for reproductive purposes only—is contrary to human dignity and should not be permitted.30 This rejection of cloning, not originally planned, was added towards the end of the drafting of the text, following the well-known experiment of Dolly the sheep.

Whereas the UNESCO, Declaration is, by nature, a statement of principles (provisions have been made, however, for a process to oversee its implementation in each country), the first binding juridical instrument dealing with this latter , issue was drafted by the Council of Europe. On 12 January 1998, 19 countries31 signed in Paris an Additional Protocol to the European Convention of Biomedicine on the Prohibition of Cloning Human Beings. This protocol, which also calls for serious criminal penalties, forbids "any procedure aimed at creating a human being genetically identical to another human being, living or dead", regardless of the technique used, with no exceptions even for reasons of public security, the prevention of criminal offences, the protection of public health or the protection of the rights and liberties of third persons.

Both in the case of the UNESCO Declaration and in that of the Council of Europe Protocol, it must be pointed out that, although the discussion took place at a time when the public opinion was very much aware of the issue and in favour of the establishment of precise norms, the only consensus that could be reached on the international level (after considerable effort) was a ban on human cloning for reproductive purposes, but not for other purposes, such as research or therapy.

Questions about the patenting of human life

In April 1994, with the implementation of the Marrakesh Accord, the World Trade Organization was established. From the point of view of the defence of human life, its agreement on the protection of intellectual property could prove important.32 In compliance with the agreement, States must grant patents to pharmaceutical products and biotechnological inventions. A State can nevertheless exclude from its patenting provisions those inventions which it considers inadmissable on moral grounds or for reasons of public order.33 As is known, a patent grants its holder a monopoly on the commercial benefits of an invention for a period of 20 years. If a given product or invention is not granted a patent, one may profit from it but only in the context of free competition, in which anyone is free to "copy" it. At the present time, biotech no logical research calls for an enormous financial outlay, which means that a monopoly on commercial gain is a condition sine qua non for the release of a product (since otherwise it would prove unprofitable). Therefore, should a State deny a patent for some line of products, the companies producing those products would not market them. This norm seems important, especially given the products and procedures related to the use of aborted foetuses and embryos, or from human cloning.

Nevertheless, producers who are pressing to expand their market will probably insist on obtaining patents, and so a change of the norms is likely. Should this occur, the European Directive 98/44/CE of 6 July 1998 on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions is important.34 Strictly speaking, this Directive binds only the Member States of the European Union; nevertheless it provides a series of substantial definitions in the area of patenting, with which the Member States of the World Trade Organization OMC/WTO (162 countries) will have to bring their present practice into compliance. The Directive will thus represent a theoretical and legislative guide for other States and also for future legal coordination within the various economic and commercial blocs now being organized (MERCOSUR, APEC, etc.).35 The European Directive lays down the principle that it is forbidden to patent the human body and its parts, and embryonic human cells; it also forbids the patenting of the human embryo, of methods of human cloning and of procedures for modifying the foundational genetic identity of human beings.36 The patenting of the use of human embryos for industrial and commercial purposes is also banned. This text of the European Union is important because it fills a legislative gap; even so, respect for these principles will also depend upon their legal interpretation and the political will of the European nations in future negotiations on the worldwide level.

The death penalty

As is known, positions concerning the death penalty have traditionally been divided: while some States rightly consider the abolition of the death penalty to be an established principle of modern legal thought, others consider it an effective deterrent measure. When the Encyclical mentions "among the signs of hope" the "growing public opposition to the death penalty", 37 and affirms that "the problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever more in line with human dignity", it can appeal to specific juridic facts. In the Council of Europe, Protocol n. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights, Concerning the Death Penalty, of 28 April 1984, declared in its first article that "The death penalty is abolished. No one can be condemned to this penalty nor executed", while exceptions are admitted only in time of war or in imminent danger of conflict.38 Within Europe, this tendency has gained momentum: in October 1994 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a Recommendation calling for the complete abolition of the death penalty in all Member States, rejecting by a large majority an amendment intended to preserve the right of States in cases of high treason and espionage. A similar tendency also emerged within the European Union: in March 1992, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the abolition of the death penalty in every country of the world. The countries of the European Union are committed to deny the extradition of accused persons subject to the death penalty. Furthermore, the commitment to the abolition of the death penalty throughout the world has set this as a condition for negotiations with other countries.

The position adopted by Evangelium vitae39 has also drawn attention on the international level. As is known, the Encyclical states that it should never come to "the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society". It likewise points out that "today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent".40

In June following the Encyclical's publication, the European Parliament asked the United States to abandon the application of the death penalty. In May 1999, the Strasbourg Parliament again requested that the issue of a universal moratorium on executions be included in the next General Assembly of the United Nations.

The reaction at the level of the United Nations appears significant. In May 1996—little more than a year after the Encyclical's publication—the Fifth Session of the UN Commission for Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice 41 discussed the issue, and the Report of the Secretary General devoted an entire section42 to the position taken by Pope John Paul II in Evangelium vitae. In the Working Group on the issue (the Third), Austria, together with Germany and Italy, presented a draft resolution43 which met with opposition from Islamic countries, which considered it a matter of divine law, and from other countries such as Tunisia and Japan. As a final compromise, the resolution, as adopted, "takes note with appreciation of the continuing process towards worldwide abolition of the death penalty". On the other hand, the proposal of a moratorium on capital punishment, presented to the General Assembly in November 1999, was postponed in the face of strong opposition from many countries.

It is important to point out that the International Courts for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia have not made provisions for the death penalty. This is especially significant in the case of Rwanda: in that African country the accused are subject to the death penalty, but not if they are found guilty by the International Tribunal. The Diplomatic Conference of Rome, which established the International Criminal Court, did not provide for capital punishment in its list of penalties.


The debate concerning "easy death", carried on at times with definitions poorly adapted to the scientific facts and the ethical issues involved, had begun before the publication of Evangelium vitae. It can be pointed out that on the international level—hitherto the debate has been limited to European institutions—whenever it has been a question of voting for juridical instruments, the defence of life has thus far prevailed.

In the European Parliament, as early as 1991 a Resolution on assistance to the dying which actually permitted euthanasia and had received the approval of the Commission for Environment, Health and Consumer Protection, was not presented to the plenary assembly, due in part to the intervention of the European Bishops and Parliament members sensitive to the Catholic position. In 1996,44 the Parliament adopted a Resolution concerning attacks on the right to life of the handicapped. The Resolution forcefully rejects the claim that minors, patients in a state of unarousable awareness ("coma vigile") and the newborn do not have an unrestricted right to life; it affirms that the right to life is granted to every human being regardless of health, gender, race and age; and it rejects active euthanasia with regard to patients in a state of unarousable awareness ("coma vigile") and newborn children with handicaps.45

In June 1999, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe approved a Recommendation favouring the continuation of an unconditional ban on the deliberate ending of the life of the terminally ill or the dying. All the Member States are asked to adopt whatever legislative measures are necessary to ensure the legal and social protection of the terminally ill; everyone must be guaranteed palliative care even at home and the availability of analgesics, even when these, as a secondary effect, might aggravate the patient's condition. The adoption of this stance therefore rejected the argument of a "right to die" put forward by many organizations; it may reopen debate in the Netherlands and Switzerland, where euthanasia is practised under strict controls, and it may influence other countries like Belgium and Luxembourg, where legislative proposals in this regard have recently been presented.


At the present time, international policies and norms on human life present a checkered and uneven picture, combining decisions made at different times and reflecting different concerns, and one still in a state of flux. Yet if we wish to grasp their "logic", so to speak, we may observe that:

a) the life of persons already born is well protected, even vis-a-vis the interests of scientific research and, at least hitherto, of the individual's own will: the idea of euthanasia is not accepted. In this regard, one can point to a non-acceptance, at least on the worldwide level, of the death penalty;

b) whenever there is a conflict between the interest of a person already born and the life of an unborn human being (a foetus or embryo), the latter I sacrificed (e.g., by abortion, assisted procreation the use of surplus embryos and even cloning fo therapeutic purposes);

c) the interests of scientific research tend to prevail over respect for unborn life;

d) some fixed limits have been set: the rejection of cloning for reproductive purposes and, in Europe the rejection of the production of embryos for research purposes.

In this overall picture, which emerges from a framework of legal positivism, it is not difficult to see inconsistencies and substantial contradictions With a view to activity in favour of life, I would consider It helpful to keep in mind that these international policies are in effect the reflection and the result of ways of thinking—which might be called hedonistic or neo-Malthusian—which are widespread in the developed countries and associated with real or alleged economic and political Interests. The political consensus forged at a world conference or the application of a convention can have a significant influence on the national level, yet they themselves are conditioned by public opinion, which can be influenced by what is being done from below. On the other hand, the International juridical instruments, for all their limitations, do contain principles to which citizens can appeal in demanding from States a greater protection of human life. In addition, there seems to be ample room for activity "from below", inspired by charity. Much can be done to defend life and to create a sense of hope within the broader public before the issue reaches the level of international debate. Activity can take place on many levels, from the national down to the local: by careful attention to the granting of patents, by practical acts of solidarity with mothers struggling to accept an unborn child, by insistence upon the right to conscientious objection without discrimination for health-care workers, and by commitment to scientific research which will respect life.


1 Hereafter cited as EV

2 EV, n. 11.

3 Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development (12.03.1995), n. 26a.

4 Inno case should abortion be promoted as a means of family planning" (ICDP Platform 8.25).

5 This would have in effect overridden the prohibition of abortion as a method of family planning sanctioned at Cairo.

6 See the Statement of interpretation by Archbishop Renato R. Martino at the Special Session of the UN General Assembly (30 June-2 July 1999), in L'Osservatore Romano, 5-6 July 1999,

7 The pill, marketed in France, Great Britain and Sweden, was authorized on 6 July 1999 in Germany and the following day received the "go-ahead" of the Belgian medical authorities; the manufacturer expects that approval will soon be given in Austria, Denmark, Spain, Finland and the Netherlands.

8 In the French text: "Dans le cas ou il n'est pas interdit par la loi, I'avortement devrait etre pratique dans de bonnes conditions de securite".

9 The international bodies most affected are, in the UN system, UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO, UNDID and the UN Economic Commissions ECA, ECLAC and ESCAP. In particular, UNFPA, together with the IPPF (international Planned Parenthood Federation), has programmes in 157 countries lobbying to .change laws and to implement programmes of birth control, with reserves of 335 million US dollars. Among those bodies not belonging to the UN system, the World Bank, Regional Banks for development and the ECD can be mentioned.

10 Convention cited above, Art. 12 and 14.

11 Relative to Art. 12 of the Convention.

12 "When possible, legislation criminalizing abortion could be amended to remove punitive provisions imposed on women who undergo abortion": Implementation of Art. 21 of the Convention ... General Recommendation onArticle 12. Women and Health (1 February 1999), n. 31c, p. 14.

13 "it is discriminatory for a State party to refuse to legally provide for the performance of certain reproductive health services for women. For instance, if health service providers refuse to perform such services based on conscientious objection, measures should be introduced to ensure that women are referred to alternative health providers" (ibid., n. 11, p. 5).

14 Cf . Resolution of the WHO Assembly WHA 48.10, dated 12 May 1995.

15 In the Programme Budget 2000-2001, the "Health Systems and Community, Health Programme" saw a 20.37% increase of its budget. It will be in a position to draw on US $145,022,000, the largest amount after that set aside for communicable diseases. Of this amount, $21,622,000 comes from the ordinary budget, while $123,400,000 comes from other funds. one notes that $64,561,000 (about 50%) will be set aside for reproductive health and research. The other areas of the programme which will receive financing are health systems, the health and development of children and adolescents, women's health. The indication is clear: to increase and spread ideas, initiatives, programmes on reproductive health from a secular viewpoint with all the moral consequences relating to sexuality and the family.

16 Cf. EV, nn. 13, 17, 58-60.

17 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3: "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person"; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 6.1: "Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life".

18 Great Britain and Denmark in particular.

19 "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" (Preamble of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, proclaimed by General Assembly Resolution 1386—XIV—of 20 November 1959); "...He shall be entitled to grow and develop in health; to this end, special care and protection shall be provided both to him and his mother, including adequate prenatal and postnatal care" (ibid., Principle 4). Twenty years later, in the Convention, Principle 4 of the Declaration was repeated in the Preamble, and in Article 6 it was recognized that "every child has the inherent right to life"; but in Article 1 the following definition was formulated: "a child means every human being below the age of 18 years", mentioning the terminus ad quem, but not indicating precisely the beginning and leaving the interpretation of the term "human being" to national legislation, for the precise purpose of making the text acceptable also for those countries opposed to an international prohibition of abortion.

20 Second part, April 1999.

21 March 1999 Session.

22 Pacto de San Jose de Costa Rica, dated 22 November 1969; it went into effect on 18 July 1978.

23 Article 4, §1: "Toda persona tiene derecho a que se respete su vida. Este derecho estarta protegido por la ley y, en general, a partir dei momento de la concepcion. Nadie puede ser privado de la vida arbitrariamente".

24 This is one of the reasons why the United States of America did not ratify the Convention. Argentina, in the constitutional reform of 22 August 1994, in Article 22, granted constitutional status to the Declarations of Rights of the American Convention, as well as to those of the two Covenants on Human Rights of the United Nations. In 1998, San Salvador also incorporated into its Constitution the provisions of the American Convention.

25 Since it is difficult to view the birth of an innocent human being as a crime; instead we have here a combination of crimes to which heavy penalties have already been attached: sexual violence, unlawful confinement, etc.

26 Cf. EV, n. 63.

27 85th Plenary Session, Resolution 53/152 of 9 December 1998.

28 In addition to the French Episcopal Conference, which published an interesting and timely position paper.

29 Cf. Article 4.

30 Cf. Article 11: "Practices which are contrary to human dignity, such as reproductive cloning of human beings, shall not be permitted".

31 Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldavia, Norway, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. The Protocol will go into effect when at least five of the signatory countries have ratified it. It has been presented for signing to the. 41 Member States of the Council of Europe and to others which took part in its drafting, such as Australia, Canada, Japan, the Holy See and the United States.

32 The reference here is to the ADPIC/TRIP Accord (Aspects des droits, de propriete intellectuelle qui touchent au commerce/Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights), which establishes a common provision for the protection of intellectual property.

33 Accord de Marrakech instituant I'Organisation Mondiale du Commerce (Marrakesh, 15 April 1994)—Annexe 1c: Accord sur les aspects des droits de propriete intellectuelle qui touchent au commerce (ADPIC), Articles 27 and 73.

34 Directive 98/44/CE of the European Parliament and of the Council, dated 6, July 1998, on the Legal Protection of Biotechnological Inventions, in the official gazette of the European Community, Series L, n. 213, 30 July 1998, p. 13. The Member States of the European Union must bring their respective national norms into line with the Directive before 30 July 2000.

35 This would be an example of how action on the regional level can have a positive influence on the universal level.

36 Directive 98/44/CE, Article 6, §2.

37 EV, n. 27.

38 Protocol n. 6, art. 2; States must report to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe about their respective legislation. Countries which have joined the Council subsequently are requested to adjust their legislation by abolishing the death penalty (in 1995 the Ukraine stated that it would respect a moratorium on executions in view of the abolition of the death penalty within three years).

39 Cf. EV, nn. 27, 55-56.

40 EV, n. 56.

41 Vienna, 21-31 May 1996.

42 Doc. E/CN. 15/1996/19, n. 42, p. 11.

43 Doc. E/CN.15/1996/L.17.

44 Session of 20-24 May 1996.

45 It should be noted, however, that no reference is made to the life of unborn children.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
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23 February 2000, page 6

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