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Pro-Abortion Law Firm Abuses United Nations Treaties to Harass Pro-Life Brazil

Susan Yoshihara, C-FAM

(NEW YORK – C-FAM) The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), a New York-based abortion advocacy group, is claiming Brazil violates an international right to maternal health when a pregnant woman dies in that country. According to CRR and its advocates at the United Nations, such a right to maternal health includes universal legalized abortion. This is the latest move in a strategy to create a new international human right to abortion.

At the end of last year, CRR prepared a “communication” on behalf of the family of Alyne da Silva Pimentel, a 28-year old Afro-Brazilian woman who died while pregnant after da Silva was misdiagnosed and not given timely emergency care. The communication was sent to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Under the Optional Protocol of the Convention, which 90 states have ratified, individuals may communicate directly with the committee if they feel their country has violated their rights under a treaty. The committee is allowed to investigate the story and offer its “views” on the matter.

Use of the UN committees is part of a broader attempt to get national high courts and legal authorities to find a new right to maternal health that includes abortion. For this reason, CRR refers to the da Silva letter as a legal case, and asserts that the CEDAW committee is authorized to find Brazil in violation of international law. In fact, the committee has no legal standing, and can only offer comments and recommendations, which governments are free to ignore.

The communication is one of various means CRR is putting pressure on the Brazilian government to slacken its strict abortion laws. In 2007, CRR prepared a “shadow report” for the CEDAW committee’s review of Brazil, saying “there is a critical need for the revision of abortion laws in Brazil,” due to the fact that women who want terminate a pregnancy must seek clandestine abortions which are “unsafe,” thus violating their right to nondiscrimination in health care.

At the 2007 Women Deliver conference in London, CRR’s Luisa Cabral announced that CRR was focusing on Brazil because it has both high maternal mortality rates and left-leaning jurists. The plan, according to Cabral, is to get the high court to cite CEDAW interpretations of international law in a decision involving the death of a pregnant woman.

The overall strategy was launched at the same 2007 conference as the “International Initiative on Maternal Mortality and Human Rights.” The initiative’s sponsors include the UN Population Fund and the UN Special Rapporteur for Health. It is chaired by CRR.

Even though the United States is not a state party to CEDAW or the Optional Protocol, certain lawmakers are pushing the new agenda. Both houses of the U.S. Congress passed resolutions last year to promote US funding of “global initiatives” toward reducing maternal mortality, sponsored by Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), and Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA). Original language in both resolutions which attempted to promote abortion under the guise of a “right to maternal health” was defeated by pro-life members of Congress.