Human Rights Committee
2 November 2017
The Human Rights Committee this morning continued the second reading of the draft General Comment No. 36 on article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the right to life. The Committee continued its previous discussion about introductory paragraph 9 on voluntary termination of pregnancy.
In the discussion about paragraph 9, Experts emphasised the need for the decriminalization of abortion because its criminalisation led to unsafe abortions which undermined the right to life of women and girls. The Committee’s centre of gravity might have changed with six new members who had not taken part in the first reading of the General Comment, as well as in the Committee’s case law. The Committee should, therefore, state how far it had gone on the matter of abortion, keeping in mind the consistency with its own case law. Paragraph 9 dealt with a huge health and social policy problem and the Committee should provide a clear guideline for the future, rather than impose rules on States. It would take years and probably decades to achieve decriminalisation of abortion everywhere. Experts favoured a legal approach to the paragraph rather than philosophical or ideological ones.
Yuval Shany, Committee Rapporteur for the draft General Comment, presented amendments to paragraph 9, namely the reference to both women and girls, their rights under the Covenant, safe, legal and effective access to abortion, non-viable foetus as opposed to non-viable pregnancy, and criminalization of abortion and pregnancies by unmarried women. Experts debated how to find adequate formulations both in French and English, and agreed to insert a footnote citing cases of non-viable foetuses.
The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 10 November, at 3 p.m. to discuss methods of work and to publicly close its one hundred and twenty-first session.
For use of the information media; not an official record
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