Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Human Rights Watch aids children ... but not ALL children

Recently, I posted a reference to an article from the Human Rights Watch website. I had suspicions that this site might not be exactly consistent in championing all rights. Today, I decided to check what they said related to children's rights.

Below is their statement of purpose on the topic.

The Children's Rights Division monitors human rights abuses against children around the world and works to end them. We investigate all kinds of human rights abuses against children: the use of children as soldiers; the worst forms of child labor; torture of children by police; police violence against street children; conditions in correctional institutions and orphanages; corporal punishment in schools; mistreatment of refugee and migrant children; trafficking of children for labor and prostitution; discrimination in education because of race, gender, sexual orientation, or HIV/AIDS; and physical and sexual violence against girls and boys. Children's physical and intellectual immaturity makes them particularly vulnerable to human rights violations. Their ill-treatment calls for special attention because, for the most part, children cannot speak for themselves, their opinions are seldom taken into account and they can only rarely form their own organizations to work for change.
All of this is commendable. I would not fault them for one thing they mention as a worthy of support.

However, there is a class of children who are entirely absent from their focus. These children are not only treated as property, they are routinely the victims of the ultimate in societal violence - they are murdered, executed and disposed of like garbage. For the vast majority of them, their graves are unmarked. Attempts to recognize them and prevent the barbaric treatment inflicted on them is too often met with condescension, derision, ad hominems, and even out and out aggression.

But Human Rights Watch does make reference to these forgotten children. Apparently, they either don't have rights or have rights that are trumped by the rights of the mother. The result? Abortion.

Note just a few statements from this Q&A page:

Restrictive abortion laws have a devastating impact on women’s right to life.
This ignores the fact that any abortion has a devastating impact on the child's right to life.

Where there is a lack of legal and safe abortion services and pervasive barriers to contraceptives and other reproductive health services, there will be unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions.
While unwanted pregnancies are always unfortunate, is this claim based historic fact? Not exactly.

Restrictive abortion laws affect women’s health not only by limiting their access to safe abortion services, but also in other ways. For example, the right to health is violated when women are arbitrarily denied treatment for incomplete abortions or when such treatment is given, but available pain medication is withheld.
Note the red herring "when such treatment is given, but available pain medication is withheld." While needlessly causing a woman pain is certainly immoral, what has that got to do with the question of abortion at all? But, if it must be considered, what about inflicting pain on the child that is being aborted?

Access to legal and safe abortion services is essential to the protection of women’s rights to nondiscrimination and equality. Women are in practice more likely than men to experience personal hardship as well as social disadvantage as a result of economic, career, and other life changes when they have children. Where women are compelled to continue unwanted pregnancies, such consequences forcibly put women at further disadvantage.
The counter to this problem is more compassion in society for the pregnant mother, not the murder of the impregnated child. It is the worst form of evil to claim that the solution to one person's suffering is the extermination of another.

The right to security of person, including the right to physical integrity, is central to the issue of abortion and human rights. When a pregnancy is unwanted, a legal requirement to continue the pregnancy may constitute a government intrusion on a women’s body in violation of this right.
No one has an argument with a woman, or a man, having a right to the physical integrity of their body. The issue is that the child is not the woman's body. Genetically, biologically, psychologically, the child is a different and unique person. Therefore, an abortion is government sanction for one person to decide to kill another person.

Decisions about parenthood are deeply personal, and are precisely the type of interest that privacy rights should protect. A pregnant woman’s right to privacy entitles her to decide whether or not to undergo an abortion. No women should have to make this decision under threat of legal prosecution.
This is a dubious claim. Again, if the child is a unique person, and individual human being, which it is, then the axiom that one's privacy rights end at the property line of public safety. I cannot claim a right to privacy while experimenting with dangerous materials that might explode and injure my neighbour. Similarly, I can't murder my neighbour because he can see me when I mow my lawn. The right to privacy, if admitted into the discourse at all (it is, by all accounts, a disputed concept) cannot be used to justify the killing of another human being.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee has indicated that restrictions on access to safe and legal abortion may give rise to situations that constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. These situations include forcing a pregnant woman to carry an unwanted or health-threatening pregnancy to term.
What of the cruelty to the child?

Indeed, what about the children?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Father, bless.

I've been reading through your blog for a little while now (I'd like to compliment you on well-written, thought-provoking articles) and I've found a common thread here that inspires me to ask a question. How do we deal with the athiest claims that a zygote is not a human being? My claims that this is a living being with human DNA that (even if it is not currently) will be a human, and to destroy this life cuts short a human existance. My discussions seem to stall at this point, as there appears to be a fundamental disconnect. The people I discuss this issue with will generally cede the point that abortion should not be allowed past 22 weeks (the birth of the youngest child who survived), but apparently before this the child is not a person, but meerly a clump of cells. I've been blessed to have a group of open, intellectual individuals who are honestly open to discussion, but I'm afriad that I've stalled in my abilities. I thank you for your time and, of course, your very excellent writings.

Eugene Yeo