Reproductive health wording keeps Vatican from signing U.N. document

By Catholic News Service

UNITED NATIONS (CNS) — The Vatican said it could not sign the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities because of language it contains on reproductive health.

The Vatican “understands access to reproductive health as being a holistic concept that does not consider abortion or access to abortion as a dimension of those terms,” said Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican’s nuncio to the United Nations. But, he added, “in some countries reproductive health services include abortion, thus denying the inherent right to life of every human being,” which the document affirms.

Archbishop Migliore outlined his concerns in a Dec. 13 statement.

“It is surely tragic that, wherever fetal defect is a precondition for offering or employing abortion, the same convention created to protect persons with disabilities from all discrimination in the exercise of their rights may be used to deny the very basic right to life of disabled unborn persons,” the archbishop said.

“For this reason, and despite the many helpful articles this convention contains, the Holy See is unable to sign it,” he said.

The convention was adopted by U.N. members Dec. 13 by consensus. It aims to, among other things, guarantee rights for the world’s 650 million physically and mentally handicapped people and end discrimination against them in education, jobs and daily life.

Despite the Vatican’s problems with the document, “protecting the rights, dignity and worth of persons with disabilities remains a major concern for the Holy See,” Archbishop Migliore said. “The Holy See has consistently called for disabled individuals to be completely and compassionately integrated into society, convinced that they possess full and inalienable human rights,” he added.

“While there are many helpful articles in the convention, including those that address education and the very important role of the home and the family, surely the living heart of this document lies in its reaffirmation of the right to life,” Archbishop Migliore said.

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