By Marie Smith
The new Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) criticized pro-life laws and policies in Latin America and the Caribbean during remarks at UN Women’s Global Leaders Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: A Commitment to Action.
Luis Almagro, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay and now OAS Secretary General, spoke in the context of the post 2015 development agenda and called for the overturning of laws restricting and prohibiting abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Secretary General claimed that he supports “more rights for more people” but then called for the removal of rights from an entire group of individuals– unborn children– stating:
“Four months ago, when I assumed the position of Secretary General of the Organization of American States, I was adamant at the outset that my mandate would contribute to broadening the access to rights of all the peoples of the Americas. My recurrent theme has been and will continue to be ‘More rights for more people.’
“From the perspective of women’s rights, we are still facing two major challenges. First, the limitations of the scope and reach of women’s rights: the Americas continue to have some of the most restrictive laws regarding sexual and reproductive rights and freedoms, and that reality has to change.”
Secretary General Almagro ignores the fact that laws restricting abortion are in compliance with the American Convention on Human Rights, a guiding treaty for the Inter-American System which recognizes that “Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception.”
The Secretary General’s extreme pro-abortion perspective is in sharp contrast with a large number of countries in the region which restrict access to abortion and protect the right to life beginning at the moment of conception. This reality reflects the region’s deeply held cultural and religious beliefs that value unborn children as cherished members of the family deserving of legal protection, a protection equally shared with their mothers whose lives and well-being are legally protected from the physical, emotional and spiritual harm of abortion.
In addition, Secretary General Almagro stated that the OAS will continue to work with OAS member countries to create a legal framework in the context of “human rights” –that includes access to abortion–which will be implemented at the national and local levels.
He lauded the work of the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) at the OAS which advises the OAS on issues related to women and works closely with UN Women.
Included under the CIM’s guidance is the Follow-up Mechanism to the Belém do Pará Convention (MESECVI) that oversees country progress in implementing the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women.
The MESECVI in its Second Hemispheric Report (English, Spanish) called for legislation to: “Legalize interruption of pregnancy on therapeutic grounds, that is to say, to save the life of the mother or avoid serious or permanent injury to her physical and mental health”; and “Legalize the interruption of pregnancy caused by rape.”
It appears that the push to expand access to abortion in the region will be greatly assisted by the new Secretary General of the OAS. Pro-abortion NGOs think it will.
Pro-abortion Ipas claims that
“Almagro joins a growing field of regional leaders calling for the repeal of criminal abortion laws. Advocates for women’s rights in the Americas hope this trend will build an environment that supports policy and law change to increase women’s access to safe abortion.”
Ipas also claims that
“…nations across Latin America and the Caribbean must address unsafe abortion in order to achieve the new Sustainable Development Goals related to maternal health and gender equality.
In light of this increased challenge, pro-life advocates in the region will no doubt increase their efforts to prevent the violence of abortion. PNCI notes that the United States is one of the top donors to the OAS.
Editor’s note. This appeared at the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues.