The Vatican's blanket opposition to abortion could amount to torture as it prevents at-risk women from ending their pregnancies, a United Nations committee has heard.
Now the committee is considering urging the Holy See to change centuries of teaching.
But the move has caused outrage and claims that the U.N. is involved in a systematic campaign to undermine Roman Catholic dogma.
The attack came from the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights, which told the U.N.'s Committee Against Torture that "freedom of speech and of religion" does not give the church the right to campaign against all abortions, CNS News reports
American Felice Gaer, vice chairwoman of the U.N. commission, said laws that outlaw all abortion could violate the convention against torture.
"The committee has found that laws … that criminalize termination of pregnancy in all circumstances can violate the convention," Gaer, former chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said.
She asked Vatican representatives at Monday's hearing in Geneva if they had reviewed information "about therapeutic abortions to save the lives of the mother," CNS reported.
She quoted a European Court of Human Rights ruling that "the general stigma attached to abortion and to sexual violence has been shown to deter women from seeking medical care, causing much distress and suffering both physically and mentally."
The attack against the church's teachings brought angry criticism from Catholic groups.
"The United Nations has become increasingly hostile to people of faith and particularly to Christians and specifically to Catholics and the teachings on life and marriage and family," Maureen Ferguson, the Catholic Association's senior policy adviser, told CNS.
"The irony here is just unbelievable," Ferguson added. "What could be more torturous to a child than the literal dismemberment of a living human being that is abortion?"
And Ashley McGuire of Catholic Voices USA told LifeNews.com: "They are almost blaming the Catholic Church for unsafe abortions
. The church doesn't believe there is anything as a safe abortion.
"Abortion is among the most egregious forms of torture than can be perpetuated against a child, and attacking the church's moral and religious beliefs violates the religious liberty of the church, a human right which the United Nations affirms," said McGuire. "Yet the U.N. Committee Against Torture seems to be setting the stage that if you are pro-life you are pro-torture."
Steve Mosher of the anti-abortion Population Research Institute told LifeNews, "The Committee on Torture has abandoned its mandate and fallen into the hands of those who are so blinded by their anti-people ideology and anti-Catholic bigotry that they no longer understand that all human rights are based on the first freedom: freedom of conscience.
"By attacking the Catholic Church, the progenitor of freedom of conscience not just in the West, but globally, they are undercutting the very ground that they should be standing on," Mosher added.
"If this is the best that the Committee on Torture can do, it ought to be disbanded."
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