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The Legal Significance of Labeling Pro-Life Speech ‘Torture’

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Kathryn has been covering the ongoing effort by radical pro-abortion NGOs to apply the U.N. Convention against Torture to the Catholic Church for — among other things — its international pro-life advocacy. The argument is so facially irrational that one would be tempted to dismiss it out of hand. Not even the U.N. could be so blindly malicious and ideological that it would attempt to destroy the church’s rights of free speech and religious liberty for the sake of protecting abortion-on-demand, could it?

Moreover, even if the U.N. Committee against Torture moved against the Vatican, such an action would be irrelevant to American courts and American constitutional law, wouldn’t it?

In fact, there is cause for concern. To be clear, the effort by the Center for Reproductive Rights clearly and explicitly targets the church’s rights to free speech and religious liberty. Here’s an excerpt from its recommendations to the Committee:

Note that the Holy See has negatively interfered with states’ attempts to develop legislation on abortion that would have served to better protect women from torture or ill-treatment. Note that the Holy See’s actions are a violation of Articles 1, 2, and 16 of the Convention against Torture and that the rights of freedom of speech and of religion extend only so far as they do not undermine women’s reproductive rights, including the right to be free from torture or ill-treatment. (Emphasis added.)

This is an astonishing statement, one that clearly targets the Catholic Church’s pro-life advocacy, equating it with state-sanctioned “torture or ill-treatment” of women and girls. By equating advocacy with torture, the Committee could begin an international legal process that would cause the U.N. to review statements or actions by pro-life public officials as “torture” within the meaning of the Convention. Radical pro-abortion groups would file amicus briefs citing new international legal standards equating pro-life advocacy with torture, thus claiming such advocacy is beyond the protection of the First Amendment. Indeed, the argument would be simple (and chilling): By permitting unfettered pro-life advocacy — by public officials and private citizens — the United States would be in violation of international law, specifically by torturing its own citizens.

Though the U.S. ratified the Convention against Torture only with significant reservations, international law has proven persuasive to the Supreme Court (and lower courts) on a number of occasions. Even without the aid of international law, the argument that pro-life speech is somehow inherently suspect is already present in the American constitutional debate, with viewpoint-discriminatory restrictions on speech outside abortion clinics (for now) part of the legal landscape. Abortion activists would gain a significant new legal and rhetorical weapon if the U.N. Committee were to apply the Convention against Torture to the effort to preserve innocent life.

It’s difficult to overstate the perversity of the abortion lobby’s U.N. argument. There are few acts more barbaric than abortion, and the very idea that such barbarism can be insulated even from criticism insults the very notion of free speech and obliterates religious liberty. This is a dramatic escalation of the already-overwrought “war against women” rhetoric, and one that would lead to such absurd results as domestic “women’s groups” accusing conservative candidates of literally torturing voters with pro-life arguments.

At the ACLJ, we’ll be engaging with the Committee through our own affiliated NGO to block the abortion lobby’s efforts (and indeed we started a petition effort that’s already gained more than 15,000 signatures only hours after launch). It’s a sad reality, but the legal defense of our own Constitution often starts overseas, in the halls of a potentially hostile U.N.

One final note: The bright side of this dismal effort is the reality that the abortion lobby is losing the argument. They can’t defend their barbarism in a truly free marketplace of ideas, so their solution is to close the marketplace. They must not succeed.

By David French for the ACLJ  cross posted on the National Review

It is not wrong to come to the defense of the smallest, most vulnerable victims in the modern world. Nor is it wrong to raise their voices for these who are voiceless.


  1. Bro. Nick says:

    How many that claim to be Christians have seriously thought about the
    ‘hate crime’ laws already enacted here in “Amerika” means the near certainly that real and terrible persecution of CHRISTians is going to occur at anytime?
    Please take time to listen to Bro. Paul Washer’s 3 minute & 47 second comments @

    “And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.
    Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.”
    (Luke 17:36-29 – KJV)

    Me thinks that the whole world is becoming even more and more: ‘as it was in the days of Noah and of Lot’.

    It is long past time for all that are truly converted, blood-bought, born-again believers in The LORD Jesus Christ – CHRISTians – here in “Amerika” and other ‘civilized’ countries’ to actually live out our faith in our Saviour – whether or not we ourselves are ever persecuted – AND regardless of the personal cost:

    “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;” (Eph 6:18 – KJV)

    “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16 – KJV)

    And – let us be active witnesses for our Saviour, The LORD Jesus Christ – leading lost souls unto Him – remembering that:
    “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9 – KJV)
    also read 2 Tim 2:4 – KJV

    “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”
    (James 1:22 – KJV)

    Let us really remember and truly believe that ‘we’re just a pilgrim passin’ through this weary world’:
    “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28 – KJV)

  2. Linda Rivera says:

    Beautiful and innocent. Defenseless. Utterly unable to escape from the great horror and physical agony of being TORTURED to DEATH in an ABORTION. A mother’s womb was meant to be a place of SAFETY!

    Beautiful children, your terrible suffering is over. We will hug you one future day in heaven.

  3. Bro. Nick says:

    I strongly recommend listening to the entirety of the following YouTube Video about what “THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY” has written in His Holy Word about His Righteous Judgment upon any country that condones as legal:
    – The Murder of Children –
    (Politically Correctness speech: “pro-choice” or “abortion”)

    Wake up call to the church – Jacob Prasch and Teerth Sond [1:22:56]

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