On December 10, 1948, in the immediate aftermath of the horror and carnage of World War II, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a document affirming the dignity and rights of all human beings. What has been described by some as a “Magna Carta for all humanity” has been translated into more than 200 languages and remains one of the best known and most often cited human rights documents in the world. The UDHR was drafted by the Commission on Human Rights of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations, chaired by social activist and former American First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. Its 30 enumerated articles detail the civil, social, cultural, economic, and political rights of all human beings.
While the UDHR is not without its critics, the document has been praised for setting a standard for all governments to aspire. For example, in 1989, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed, “For people of good will around the world, [this] document is more than just words: It’s a global testament of humanity, a standard by which any humble person on Earth can stand in judgment of any government on Earth." Pope John Paul II noted that the UDHR was
"one of the highest expressions of the human conscience of our time."
Article 2 of the UDHR provides that “[e]veryone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
Importantly, Article 3 then immediately states, “[e]veryone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Just as in the American Declaration of Independence, the right to life is preeminent. Thus, every person—regardless of birth—is entitled to the right to life.
However, in the last 60 years the noble purpose of the UDHR has been greatly ignored, discarded, and even trampled upon, both domestically and internationally. The UDHR was drafted to protect human beings—born and unborn—from the atrocities we witnessed in World War II—but its purposes have not been universally achieved, and in many cases nations are moving in the opposite direction.
One need not look far in the United States to see the noble purpose of the UDHR being denigrated. Since 1973, nearly 50 million children in the U.S. alone have lost their lives to abortion, contrary to the declarations of the UDHR. And contrary to common “health” claims, 93 percent of these abortions were motivated not by health, rape, or incest reasons, but by “social reasons.” That’s nearly 50 million violations of the UDHR in just 35 years, committed for mere matters of convenience.
Those advocating abortion-on-demand claim to have the “health” of the woman at heart. But nothing could be further from the truth. For example, if pro-abortion activists are so concerned about the life of the mother, why do they fight vehemently against legislation aimed at providing women with all the information they need to make an abortion decision? Why do they oppose parental interaction with children seeking abortion? Why do they support gruesome abortion practices that have no basis in medical practice? Why do they oppose regulations ensuring that only licensed physicians—and not dentists or social workers—may perform abortions?
Over and over, the answer is the same: pro-abortion militants are pushing for abortion-on-demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason.
The story is similar internationally. Pro-abortion activists are not happy with trampling on the UDHR in the United States alone. No, they are pushing for abortion-on-demand in every nation. Earlier this year, they were granted a victory in Mexico, where they lobbied heavily for abortion-on-demand in Mexico City during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. With that win, they are now pushing other cities, states, and nations to adopt policies providing for abortion-on-demand. Clearly their sight is set on making abortion-on-demand a “human right” throughout the world.
In fact, on December 10, pro-abortion groups are scheduled to present petitions asking the United Nation’s General Assembly to make abortion a universally recognized “human right.” This quite obviously flies in the face of the UDHR’s declaration that everyone, regardless of birth, is entitled to the right to life.
Other international documents also clash with the noble purpose of the UDHR. For example, Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion is currently embroiled in litigation before the European Court of Human Rights, which will decide whether the prohibition respects or violates the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. Thus, the sovereignty of nations—nations seeking to protect human life and abide by the UDHR—is even under attack.
Sadly, the effects of this denigration of the UDHR will not be felt only by the unborn. Once UDHR has been scorned by the nations in one aspect, its other protections will fail as well. By gutting the purpose of its articles, the UDRH is left incapable of protecting anyone, and the atrocities of World War II may not be left only in the past.
So are we truly seeking to protect all humanity? The lives of those already lost are screaming a resounding “NO.”
And we would be remiss in limiting the violations of the UDHR to the abortion issue. Through stem cell research and cloning, human life is created just to be destroyed. Human embryos become mere disposable commodities or research tools arguably holding medical promise for the “rest of us”—much like the disabled persons and Jews tortured and victimized by the Nazis. Sadly, we are blindly ignoring our past.
And the disabled, elderly, and terminally-ill are at risk now, just as they were then. Just last week, a trial court in Montana ruled that persons in that state have a “right” to assisted suicide. Horrifyingly, as the plaintiffs in that case argued, that “right” is not limited solely to the terminally-ill. Instead, anyone who has an incurable or irreversible condition that, without the administration of life-sustaining treatment, will result in death within a relatively short time, is entitled to assisted suicide. This would include patients with controlled diabetes or asthma who, without taking “life-sustaining” medications, would die within a relatively short period of time. The impression obviously given to persons with disabilities or illnesses is that their lives are not worth living. That their lives do not measure up to the “quality of life” the “rest of us” have. That they are better off dead.7
Thus, we are degrading humans at every stage—from conception to death. The nations are ignoring the value of human life—and the clear dictates of the UDHR—every step of the way. The irony is that we are taking and degrading human life for the so-called purpose of ensuring “human rights” and peaceful living. But as Mother Theresa so aptly stated, “The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion because if a mother can kill her own child, what is left for me to kill you and you to kill me? There is nothing between.”
We must continue the fight to educate the public, to protect and ensure dignity to the unborn and born alike. Human life hangs in the balance.