An Ominous Sampling of International Efforts to Force Abortion on Reluctant Nations

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In a blind and ideologically-driven quest to impose abortion-on-demand on a reluctant nation, the Supreme Court of Mexico blatantly ignored the country’s Constitution when it recently upheld a law permitting abortion-on-demand during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The Mexican Constitution clearly states that human life must be defended “from conception until its natural end”, but the Supreme Court succumbed to pressures from international pro-abortion groups including the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood who have been aggressively pushing for abortion-on-demand in Mexico and other Latin American countries.
As a result, since April 2007, abortion is now permitted without restriction during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in the Federal District (Mexico City) and the pressure for other Mexican states to follow suit is increasing. Two other Mexican states, Morelos and Yucatan, currently restrict abortions to cases of life endangerment, rape, or birth defects in the unborn child.

These pro-abortion laws are widely opposed by the predominantly and devoutly Catholic Mexican people. Over the past year, the Mexican media has been full of stories criticizing the Legislative Assembly of Mexico City for ignoring the fierce opposition to the abortion law from pro-life politicians, Catholic bishops, and the National Action Party.

However, the context of the ongoing debate over Mexico’s abortion laws was not restricted to the preferences and concerns of the Mexican people who fully bear the responsibility for and consequences of their domestic laws.  Increasingly, in Mexico and elsewhere, anti- life groups have used international organizations, such as United Nations to force their pro-abortion agenda onto reluctant nations irrespective of local opposition and the subject nation’s religious and cultural norms.

One of the more “creative” and destructive means that these anti-life groups have commonly chosen “to liberalize abortion laws” is the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, more commonly known as CEDAW.

What exactly is CEDAW?

CEDAW is an international convention that was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1979 and has been ratified by 185 nations. Among the countries that have not signed CEDAW are the United States, Sudan, and Iran. Although CEDAW does not explicitly mention the word “abortion,” Article 12 does require signatory nations to “eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality between men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning.”

Since 1995, Article 12 and other international conventions have been creatively interpreted by official bodies, ranging from the European Parliament to the U.N. CEDAW Compliance Committee, to condemn limitations on abortion on grounds that any restrictions on abortion constitute de facto discrimination against women. To that end, the CEDAW Committee has consistently exceeded its mandate by using CEDAW as the basis for criticizing at least 36 different U.N. member nations and pressuring them to weaken or repeal laws protecting women and their unborn children from the negative and lasting consequences of abortion.

Countries pressured through CEDAW into liberalizing abortion

Among the recent targets of such criticisms by the CEDAW Committee have been Mexico, Colombia, and Ireland.   Much can be learned about the strategy of international pro-abortion groups by examining the tactics used in these countries.  Unfortunately, international bureaucrats committed to making abortion-on-demand the “law of the world” are finding some success in their efforts to override the will of the people.

In Mexico, pro-abortion forces were not content with the Mexico City law allowing abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.  They are seeking the legalization of abortion throughout the country.  To achieve their aim and advance their agenda, they are using scrutiny and criticisms from the CEDAW Committee about how Mexicans have chosen to govern themselves and order their society.  In public documents, the Committee has urged Mexico to comply with CEDAW and end the “the lack of access for women in all States to easy and swift abortion.”  Further, the Committee recommended that “the Government consider the advisability of revising the legislation criminalizing abortion and suggest[ed] that it weigh the possibility of authorizing the use of the RU486 contraceptive, which is cheap and easy to use, as soon as it becomes available.”

But, Mexico isn’t the only Latin American victim of the CEDAW Committee’s pressure tactics.  According to Global Justice Center, CEDAW was used in Colombia in 2006 as a definitive legal basis to challenge a domestic abortion law. The CEDAW Committee’s prior sanctioning of Columbia for not abiding with the provisions of CEDAW read: “The Committee notes with great concern that abortion …in Columbia is punishable as an illegal act ….The Committee believes that legal provisions on abortion constitute a violation of the rights of women to health and life and of article 12 of the Convention.”  Later, influenced by CEDAW, the Constitutional Court of Columbia overturned the nation’s ban on abortion that permitted abortions only in the most extreme cases: “when the life of a mother was in danger or the fetus was expected to die or in cases of rape or incest.”

Ireland is yet another example of pro-abortion groups seeking to impose abortion-on-demand on countries whose population rejects it. In this case, the European Union joined in the effort.  Currently, in England, Scotland and Wales, the law permits abortion up until 24 weeks of pregnancy to save a woman’s life, or for health, economic, or social reasons.  However, in Northern Ireland, the fourth nation of the United Kingdom, the laws protect unborn children and prohibit abortion unless the life of the mother is in danger or the continuation of the pregnancy would cause the woman genuine health concerns.

In spite of the Irish people’s general disapproval of abortion and the failure of previous attempts to eliminate restrictions on abortion throughout Ireland (including Northern Ireland), the European Union tried to force Ireland to decriminalize abortion this past June by using the Lisbon Reform Treaty.  However, that effort failed.

Joining forces with the European Union, the CEDAW Committee has also pushed for Ireland to eliminate restrictions on abortion.  The Committee has “reiterate[d] its concern about the consequences of the very restrictive abortion laws under which abortion is prohibited except where it is established as a matter of probability that there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother that can be averted only by the termination of her pregnancy …The Committee urge[d] the State party to continue to facilitate a national dialogue on women’s right to reproductive health, including on the very restrictive abortion laws.”

These are not, unfortunately, isolated incidents.  A detailed compilation and analysis of countries pressured by CEDAW Committee to legalize abortion from 1995 to 2006 showed numerous and increasing efforts to expand the availability of abortion on demand and override the political and electoral will of many nations.


Radical pro-abortion groups think nothing of using international organizations and treaties to force reluctant nations to liberalize or eliminate restrictions on abortion.  Time and time again, they use the same immoral and heavy-handed strategies to further their agenda.  Clearly, it time that we learn the lessons of the recent past and increase our support of pro-life forces abroad in fighting this circumvention of the will of the people.