Religious threats to Human Rights
“Savita Halappanavar’s death shows how a system which ostensibly permitted abortion to save the mother’s life failed to protect her from the conscientious objection of her caregivers.” — Elizabeth Prochaska, barrister and founder of Birthrights
Ireland, where Savita died needlessly, is not the only European country where a doctor's right to conscientious objection can trump a woman't right to life. According to a complaint accepted by the Council of Europe in 2014, the government of Italy has also failed to ensure that women can get the abortions that they are entitled to by law. It has not guaranteed the adequate presence of non-objecting medical personnel in all public hospitals. And in the developing world it's worse, far worse. There "faith-based organisations" (FBO) use government money to provide much of the health care and many of them offer only the services they approve of to only the people they approve of — in clear violation of human rights. Watch the video on how this works, Development Aid: What You Need to Know and read the report from Catholics for Choice.
(2014-02-18) In Russia the Vatican-Orthodox alliance to boost population faces a problem in clamping down on contraceptives and abortions. The Russian health system still ensures access, and women regard this as their right. With few private clinics, the US activists’ strategy of legal harassment and intimidation won’t work. So a bottleneck had to be introduced into the state hospitals. “Abortion counselling” has been designed to make women feel like murderers.
The real target of the Vatican's anti-abortion campaign is family planning. The Vatican defines any reliable method of contraception as either "abortion" (as with the pill) or as "anti-life", (as in the case of condoms). It's a fancy theology of unrestricted breeding. Yet it didn't have to be this way, and in the 1960s it even looked as if Catholic theology would be interpreted to allow the pill.
After convincing the Evangelicals to join its pro-life campaign, the Vatican has managed to get the Orthodox Church on board, too. The Orthodox Church is the world’s second largest Christian communion after the Catholics. And the one-time communist KGB agent, Prime Minister Putin, has also signed on to the Vatican population policy. This page gives background for How anti-contraception groups hijacked the Russian health service.
The Vatican does a tapdance around human rights. It doesn't dare reject them outright, so must try to change them to suit itself. It denies any right of women to reproductive choice and of gays to marry, dismissing these as “gender ideology”. At the same time it inflates the right to conscientious objection in order to threaten access to contraception and abortion.
Sharia isn't the only kind of religious law that permits child brides. Until 1929 Church of England ministers could marry 12-year-olds in Britain. And until 1983 a quiet loophole in Catholic canon law permitted priests to marry off brides of 12, as well. Now the minimum age allowed by the Vatican for young girls to marry is 14.
In the US and UK human rights remain on the law books, while religious groups take over state functions and are exempted from having to observe any human rights that they object to. This applies to religiously run schools, hospitals, social welfare agencies and prisons. Even state institutions like the military, not run by religious groups, have to fund increasing numbers of chaplains.
The Vatican doesn't acknowledge human rights unless they are in accordance with Church doctrine. Its courts have been found by the EU to violate the right to a fair trial. And the Vatican has even maintained that its signature to one of the few human rights treaties it has signed (and even then with “reservations”) only applies to its own territory and not to the Catholic Church.
The Vatican forbids birth control and abortion services in Catholic hospitals and tries to prevent them being offered elsewhere. It even stands to profit from its moves to get the United Nations and national governments to cut off funding for birth control and abortion to competing clinics, since that removes their competitive advantage. For an example of this worldwide strategy, follow the health dollars in the US.
In a pincher movement, clerics use their right of prior “consultation”, to influence the laws of the EU, while organised grassroots campaigns to put voting pressure on EU lawmakers. However, “far too often, these religious lobbies do not accurately represent the interests or beliefs of a majority of adherents to their faith, nor do they promote the common good.”
The new baby caused a classic collision between a secular state and a theocracy: No, Your Holiness, she is not a baptised Jewish baby who belongs to the Church. She is a tiny citizen of France and has the rights of any other Frenchman....
Human rights must trump Church doctrines, says report of European Union lawyers. Medical professionals should not have an unlimited right to impose their beliefs on others by refusing to provide contraceptives, perform abortions, etc. — in cases where this effectively denies a patient treatment which is allowed by law. When the EU experts said that this treaty between Slovakia and the Vatican could violate international human rights, the concordat was put on ice — but not shelved.
How can people come to see as a problem those parts of their own traditions which trample on human rights? An appeal to something more important than cultural or religious tradition is a revolutionary idea. This account captures people's excitement on first hearing about human rights. The women of the Côte d'Ivoire today show what it must have felt like to people in Europe two centuries ago, as they made the thrilling discovery: "We have rights!"