(PRESS RELEASE) Though the Holy See has a long history of interfering in women’s access to reproductive health services, including life-saving medical care, the United Nations (UN) Committee Against Torture failed to acknowledge the Vatican’s harsh policies on reproductive rights, which have led to the ill-treatment and human rights violations of countless women worldwide.
This Committee has consistently questioned states about reproductive rights as part of its mandate to monitor its commitment to prevent ill-treatment. However in the findings the UN Committee released today, it made no mention of women’s reproductive rights.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“The rights of conscience and religious freedom are fundamental human rights. However, those rights cannot justify the Vatican’s harmful interference with women’s efforts to obtain essential reproductive health care. “Forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term against her will—including when she is a survivor of sexual violence or her life and health is at risk—is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Eliminating options for women to control their lives and protect themselves from physical and mental pain is an egregious violation of their fundamental human rights. “The Vatican, like all parties to the Convention Against Torture, must be held accountable for abuses of women’s reproductive rights. The United Nations Committee against Torture missed an opportunity today to do just that and take a stand for women’s health and lives.” In ratifying the UN Convention on Torture, the Holy See committed to ensure that all people are free from torture or other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment—like 154 other UN states. The Center for Reproductive Rights submitted a shadow letter asking the Committee to hold the Holy See accountable for its human rights violations, detailing several instances where the Vatican’s interference severely harmed women and girls across the globe—from a Polish Catholic priest’s attempts to dissuade and shame a 14-year-old rape survivor from seeking a legal abortion to the Vatican’s role in delaying life-saving abortion care to a Salvadoran woman suffering from a lethal, nonviable pregnancy.