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ECLJ calls the UN to request the universal prohibition of late abortion

Published: 14.03.2014

The European Centre for Law and Justice, in a statement to the Human Rights Council of the United-Nations, called for a prohibition of abortion throughout the world after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

It is a fact that today with all the advances in medicine, premature babies can be saved at as early as 21 weeks of gestation. Actually, many babies that are aborted after 21 weeks are able to survive outside the womb. Early in the pregnancy, the foetus will die within a few minutes, but after 21 weeks, some can breathe unaided for a long while. In 2007, a study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology concluded that about 1 in 30 abortions after 16 weeks’ gestation result in a born-alive infant. At 23 weeks’ gestation, the number reached 9.7%.

Most of the time, these babies are left to die without any care, not even a blanket, left alone in a room or a closet. Sometimes they are killed, either by lethal injection, asphyxiation or even by breaking their spine.

Once a child slated for death by abortion is born alive, no medical help is offered to him. On the contrary, “Guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends babies over 22 weeks which survive abortion should have their hearts stopped by lethal injection”. In other words, doctors are recommended to kill newborns, while they are trying to save premature babies of the same gestational age.

These practices are clear violations of human rights, since the right to life is refused to a new-born human being. “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” states article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.

In Norway, following an investigation into complaints by midwives that late-term abortions were taking place in the country in contravention of the law, the Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) revealed that statistics from the country's Public Health Institute (Folkehelseinstituttet) showed that from 2001 to 2009, five babies were aborted after the 22 weeks limit. Between 2010 and 2011, 12 such late-term abortions were carried out. Some of the aborted children’s hearts continued beating for between 45 and 90 minutes. In January 2014, the Parliament has adopted a law banning all abortions after 22 weeks, the official threshold of viability.

Furthermore, allowing abortion after 20 weeks does not only permit the violation of the right to life, it also raises the issue of sex selection abortion. Indeed, it is proven that in some countries, parents who know that they are expecting a girl are more likely to abort because they prefer to have a boy, and by 18 weeks, physicians are able to see the sex of the child. Thus, in Montenegro and in the UK, statistics show a deficit of girls because some parents use the possibility of late term abortion to get rid of a female foetus. 

And last but not least, the ECLJ stresses that scientific studies prove that foetuses are responsive to touch after 8 weeks, and after 20 weeks they have the “physical structures necessary to experience pain."

In its statement the ECLJ calls for awareness on this matter, and invites the United-Nations to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks in order to avoid these violations of Human rights.

The Human Rights Council, which has undertaken to promote and protect all human rights around the globe, is gathering for a session from March, 3rd to 28th, in Geneva. The Human Rights Council of the United Nations will focus on “the violence against children”, and the ECLJ seize the occasion to raise this problem.

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