During hearings that one participant described as “surreal,” United Nations representatives today suggested that the Catholic Church's opposition to abortion in the case of rape and incest constitute a violation of the UN Charter Against Torture.
The Vatican was called before a two-day hearing in Geneva so a UN committee could question whether its handling of the child sex abuse scandal violated the charter.
However, one of the two committee's two chosen spokespeople turned the questioning to the topic of abortion-on-demand.
Felice Gaer, the director of the American Jewish Committee's Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, said the Catholic Church's 2,000-year-old doctrinal teaching on abortion may be responsible for nine-year-old rape victims giving birth.
“This committee has found repeatedly that laws that criminalize the termination of pregnancy in all circumstances can violate the terms of the convention" on torture, she said.
This marked the Vatican's first hearing before the CAT committee since it signed the Convention.
Papal Nuncio Silvano Tomasi, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, anticipated the question and said it was the Christian church's pro-life position that protected human rights.
“The Holy See’s goal is to prevent children from being tortured or killed before birth, as is stipulated in the Convention,” he said in an outline drawn up before the hearings. “For example, in Canada, 622 living babies were delivered after failed abortion attempts, between 2000 and 2001. 66 such cases were registered in the UK in 2005. Some methods of late-term abortions constitute forms of torture, particularly in the case of dilation a..., where 'the fetus, still alive, is dismembered to be pulled out of the womb in pieces.'”