An International Right to Life

Un derecho internacional a vivir

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life
February 28, 2011

Advocates of legal abortion want more than to keep Roe vs. Wade intact. They want to establish an international right to abortion, enforced on an international level, and overriding the decisions of individual nations to protect their own preborn children.

But, as usual, these people have it not only wrong, but completely upside-down. The international right that has to be proclaimed and protected is the right to life.

And there are actually some steps that have been taken in that direction. We need to know about, clarify and strengthen, and build upon those steps.

After the horrors of the Second World War, people around the world realized that while individual nations have the duty to protect their citizens, such national protection isn’t always enough. What happens if a nation’s leaders turn against some of their own people? Who is responsible to intervene? To whom do those leaders and that nation answer?

The sense that there was a need for an international body to acknowledge and protect basic human rights – which individual nations can neither give nor take away – led to the development of the United Nations. The UN Charter (1945) states that its purpose is

“to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person”

Within three years, this institution published the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, stating that

“recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

Moreover, Article 3 of the Declaration states,

“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

and Article 6 states,

“Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.”

These words are true, but in order to have binding force, it was clear that more than a proclamation was needed. The substance of the Universal Declaration was therefore placed in hard legal form as an international treaty, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, 1966), onto which over 160 nations have signed. This treaty states in Article 26,

“All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law.”

Moreover, a Declaration on the Rights of the Child was issued in 1959, stating

“…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,”

This, too, was incorporated into a treaty, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), which states in Article 6,

“States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.”

To us in the pro-life movement, the next steps are obvious. The language of these declarations and treaties needs to be brought to its consistent and logical conclusion. The violence of abortion, which denies the child’s right to life and kills the child, is in fact prohibited by the language of these documents.


Priests for Life
PO Box 236695 • Cocoa, FL 32923
Tel. 321-500-1000, Toll Free 888-735-3448 • Email: