December 29, 2000
Volume 4, Number 2


Political progressives make much of the fact that only two countries have
not yet ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United
States and Somalia. The US Congress tends not to ratify these types of
conventions believing US law more than adequately protects US citizens. US
political leaders also fear loss of US sovereignty that comes with signing
UN conventions. Beginning with a preparatory committee meeting in January,
the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is hosting a ten-year review of the
Children's Convention.

Pro-family advocates believe the Convention is a decidedly mixed bag.
William J. Saunders, a human rights lawyer working for the Washington
DC-based Family Research Council, suggests the Convention has a “number of
provisions that offer strong support for pro-life, pro-family advocates.
The Convention's preamble, for instance, recognizes "the family [is] the
fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and
well-being of…children." The preamble also says "the child, for the full
development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family
environment." Perhaps most encouraging for pro-family advocates is the
preambular line that asserts the child "needs special safeguards and care,
including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth."

The body of the Convention offers even more protection for children.
Saunders suggests that Article Six, which recognizes "every child has the
inherent right to life," when read in conjunction with the preamble,
protects a child from before birth. The Convention also protects the rights
of parents to direct the lives of their children in a broad array of
concerns. Article 14 insists "States Parties shall respect the rights and
duties of the parents to provide direction to the child in the exercise of
his or her right" [to freedom of thought, conscience and religion]. Article
18 says, "Parents have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and
development of the child."

Even with these positive aspects, Saunders believes the Convention has
many problems. Article 13 guarantees the child's "freedom to seek, receive
and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of
frontiers through any media of child's choice." This is made without any
provision for parental supervision. Saunders points out similar problems in
Article 15, which guarantees nearly unhindered "freedom of association",
and Article 16, which guarantees, "No child shall be subjected to
arbitrary interference with his privacy." Article 19 calls for the
protection of the child from "all forms of physical or mental violence,
injury, or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment of
exploitation, while in the care of parents." On its face this paragraph
appears quite sensible, yet rulings by UN committees show a marked tendency
to consider traditional religious belief and practice kinds of abuse.

Saunders see the greatest threat coming in paragraph 24, which
urges States Parties to "ensure that no child is deprived of his or her
right to access to health care services." In UN parlance, this would
include access to "reproductive health care" which includes abortion. These
and other propositions will be up for debate when the new meetings begin.

Copyright – C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute).
Permission granted for unlimited use. Credit required.

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