The anti-choice movement’s push to redefine human life as beginning at conception has taken a new direction with the announcement of the San Jose Articles. Anti-choice activists plan to use the articles to try and insert this definition into international treaties.
The Articles state: “[as] a matter of scientific fact a new human life begins at conception.” Embryos and foetuses are therefore covered by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to the Articles – a position which would make abortion illegal under international law. However, no “scientific fact” is offered up as proof of the raw assertion that a new human life begins at birth.
The document also states: “There is no international legal obligation to provide access to abortion based on any ground, including but not limited to health, privacy or sexual autonomy, or non-discrimination.”
This extreme anti-choice position has been endorsed by a number of notable signatories, including the former secretary-general of the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, and current and past delegates to the UN General Assembly. The overwhelming majority of signatories listed on the articles’ website are men.
The writers of the articles say that they were created to “help governments and civil society promote human rights through a proper understanding of how the rights of the unborn child are protected in international law.” This soft language conceals the massive harm to existing human life which is caused in countries where abortion is illegal; in fact, the creators of the articles want to spread the suffering which is an inevitable consequence of banning abortion across the world, including in places where abortion is currently legal.
They suggest that “legislators and government officials” use the articles to deny funding to health care programmes which “violate the right to life of the unborn child from conception” – a truly frightening prospect.
The UK is represented among the signatories by Lord Nicholas Windsor, whose qualification for inclusion on the list appears to be his relation to the British royal family. He recently wrote a comment piece in the Daily Telegraph explaining his support for the San Jose Articles, using much the same fact-free and emotive language as the articles themselves.
The emergence of the San Jose Articles is concerning for the pro-choice movement. The emphasis within the articles on pressuring governments to ban abortions is especially worrying. Abortion Rights and other pro-choice groups will keep a close eye on how the articles are used. In the meantime we would urge all those working in human rights and/or the legal arena to contact us if they come across instances of the articles being used in a professional context.