The Vatican has indicated that, at present, it will not be signing anew, widely-heralded international treaty to protect the rights anddignity of people living with disabilities.
The UN-sanctioned treaty needs to be ratified by individual memberstates, and Britain is among those who have made an early indication oftheir intention to do so. As a city-state the Vatican is in a positionto take a similar lead, but is being encouraged in its present decisionnot to do so by anti-abortion hardliners.
The Holy See says that, despite reassurances to the contrary, it isconcerned that the treaty's inclusion of a reference to "sexual andreproductive health" could be construed as promoting abortion.
Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the permanent observer of the Holy Seeat the United Nations, says that the Vatican otherwise approves of themove to offer dignity and protection to people living withdisabilities. But disabled rights organisations are likely to beoutraged if there is no formal endorsement of the treaty, or a tacitdisapproval of it.
The current position is that the Vatican will not sign the document.“The Holy See understands access to reproductive health as being aholistic concept that does not consider abortion or access to abortionas a dimension of those terms," Migliore has declared.
He continued: "However, even with this understanding, we opposed theinclusion of such a phrase in this article, because in some countriesreproductive health services include abortion, thus denying theinherent right to life of every human being."
In spite of the Vatican's refusal to sign the document, other nationswith restrictive policies on abortion have indicated that they willendorse it. They include Costa Rica, El Salvador, Egypt, Honduras,Iran, Libya, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines,Syria, Uganda and the USA.
A disability advocate told Ekklesia: "The Vatican's response is verydisappointing. The wording of the treaty specifically sought to avoidcontroversy on this issue. The failure of the Holy See to backdisability action through this measure puts it in a dishonourableminority, and will do nothing to change the minds of those nationstates and agencies who oppose criminalising abortion."
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