by Chris Smith
February 12, 2010
A briefing titled, "The Inherent Right to Life: the First and Most Fundamental Human Right" was presented by US Congressman Chris Smith, to a lunch briefing Focus on the Family hosted at the United Nations. Representatives of more than 30 nations attended and Smith was the keynote speaker for the event.
Mr Smith is a New Jersey Republican who is the co-chairman of the US Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. The following are exerpts from the full speech
You and I know that among the most powerful lessons learned from that dark period of history [the second world war] is this: in each generation, every government official must take seriously his or her sacred duty to robustly protect every human life, especially the weakest and most vulnerable. No one should ever again be allowed to say in defense of the indefensible—I was just following orders. And just because something is “legal” in any of our countries doesn't make it morally right.
As each of you know, on December 10, 1948, without a dissenting vote, the UN General Assembly recognized the existence of the right to life, liberty, the right to freedom of religion and expression, the right to self-government through free elections, the right to be free from slavery and torture, and other basic rights inherent in our nature as human beings.
It is important to keep in mind that the Universal Declaration was just that—a declaration, not a law nor an international covenant. Appropriately, the UN and its member states did not claim to be creating the rights enumerated in it; they were merely recognizing and proclaiming them. The Declaration itself made clear that member states must recognize the “inherent dignity” and the “equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”. Such fundamental rights do not come from the United Nations or from sovereign governments. If they did, then governments would have the moral authority to abridge or rescind such rights.
If our fundamental rights are truly rights—and not mere privileges conveyed by civil authority—then they must be derived from a source that precedes and transcends any earthly or political power; indeed they must come from God.
Our job is to recognize these God-given rights and then act decisively. Our duty is to protect all those at risk, even when it is profoundly inconvenient. Each generation, it seems, confronts new and sometimes unique threats to the sanctity of human life although some types of hate and abuse seem never to abate.
Today, the most persecuted minority in much of the world are unborn children. Ironic, isn't it. At a time when ultra sound imaging has given us a window to the womb, when microsurgery and fetal health interventions are commonplace, some have chosen this time in history to dehumanize and exclude unborn babies.
The Preamble of both the Declaration and Convention on the Rights of the Child states that “[T]he child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as a after birth.”
The Preamble wisely notes that children both before and after birth need special protection from harm. After all, birth itself is merely an event in the life of a child, a transition from one place to another—the child stays the same.
Our challenge, our duty, is to ensure a safe passage.
I have been in the pro-life movement for 38 years. It is the greatest human rights struggle on earth. I say that as a US Congressman for thirty years who has authored numerous landmark laws to combat human trafficking, assist torture victims, promote religious freedom, enhance refugee protections worldwide, fund and expand the child survival revolution, and help prisoners of conscience. I have also played a leading role in global HIV/AIDS programs, malaria mitigation, efforts to cure autism and other health causes.
That said, the Right to Life especially for unborn children and others at risk remains the greatest human rights struggle in the world.
I truly believe that someday, future generations of Americans will look back on my government and wonder how and why a government that prided itself on respecting human rights could have facilitated the violent death of 52 million baby girls and boys by abortion since 1973—a death toll likely to rise significantly before the right to life is again protected in America.
They will wonder—as many of us do now--why seemingly smart, highly educated, rich and powerful people failed to see that abortion is violence against children, a pernicious form of child abuse, falsely marketed as choice, women’s empowerment, a human right or health care?
Many UN documents carelessly toss around the phrase “safe abortion”—an Orwellian contrivance created by pro-abortion NGOs—as if by repeating it enough times will make it true. All abortion—legal or illegal—is unsafe for children and hurts women physically and psychologically, and the medical data strongly suggests that abortion significantly raises the risk of premature and low birth weight children born to women who have earlier undergone abortion.
“Safe abortion” is the ultimate oxymoron. Child dismemberment, forced premature expulsion from the safety of the womb, chemical poisoning or deliberate starvation—one of the chemicals in RU 486 actually denies nourishment to an unborn child-- can never, ever be construed to be benign, compassionate or safe.
Goal #4 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) calls on each country to reduce child mortality while at the same time pro-abortion activists lobby for an increase in access to abortion. It is bewildering to me how anyone can fail to understand that abortion is, by definition, infant mortality. Abortion destroys children!
Last fall … a woman named Abby Johnson, a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic director in Texas, with 8 years at the facility, watched an ultrasound image of an abortion in progress on a 3 month old baby. Self described as “extremely pro-choice” but now “pro-life” she said she watched an unborn child “crumple” before her very eyes as the infant was vacuumed to death by a suction device 20-30 times more powerful than a household vacuum cleaner. She said: I could see the baby try to move away, I just thought, what am I doing? She quit her job that day and said never again.
Is legal abortion safe for women?
At least 102 studies show significant psychological harm, major depression and elevated suicide risk in women who abort.
Last year the Times of London reported that “senior psychiatrists say new evidence has uncovered a clear link between abortion and mental illness in women with no previous history of psychological problems.” They found “that women who have had abortions have twice the level of psychological problems and three times the level of depression as women who have given birth or who have never been pregnant.”
How can that be considered safe?
In 2006, a comprehensive New Zealand study found that 78.6% of the 15-18 year olds who had abortions displayed symptoms of major depression as compared to 31% of their peers. The study also found that 27% of the 21-25 year old women who had abortions had suicidal idealizations compared to 8% of those who did not have an abortion.
Is legal abortion safe for women? At least 28 studies—including three in 2009—show that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer by some 30-40% or more yet the abortion industry has largely succeeded in suppressing these facts.
So-called safe abortion inflicts other deleterious consequences on women as well including hemorrhage, infection, perforation of the uterus, sterility and death. Just last month, a woman from my home state of New Jersey died from a legal abortion, leaving behind four children.
Today, some governments including my own, UN treaty implementation bodies including and especially CEDAW, some UN organizations including and especially UNFPA, and many non-government organizations (NGOs) are pushing—pressuring-- your country to legalize, facilitate, and expand access to abortion.
Distinguished ambassadors, I am deeply concerned that some very powerful people here at the UN are attempting to hijack the important and noble goal of reducing maternal mortality—MDG #5—by integrating legalization of abortion and expanding access to it. Often cloaked in the language of reproductive health, I respectfully ask that you do all in your power to continue to expose and clarify in clear, unambiguous terms that killing children and harming mothers by abortion is not reproductive health—it is a human rights abuse.
Today, as never before, the largely preventable tragedy of maternal mortality is being exploited to promote unfettered access to abortion on demand.
I would respectfully submit that if we are truly serious about reducing maternal mortality, women, especially in the developing world, need access to proper maternal health care, skilled birth attendants, safe blood and clinics where obstructed deliveries can be turned into safe passages. Abortion, on the other hand solves nothing, kills children, harms women and should in no way be integrated into any global action plan or country specific strategy otherwise designed to mitigate maternal mortality.