Mauritius: Island nation of gives way to UN pressure to legalise abortion

Date: October 4, 2011
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The African island nation of Mauritius is on the verge of legalising abortion in an apparent response to pressure from the United Nations, according to a local media source.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has urged the Republic of Mauritius to not penalise the killing of the unborn because it signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1984. Mauritius lies off the coast of Africa about 600 miles east of Madagascar, and has a population of 1.3 million.

Although the treaty does not mention abortion, in recent years the CEDAW Committee has interpreted its mandate for “access to health care services, including those related to family planning,” as requiring the deadly procedure to be legalized.

Le Mauricen reported this month that the legislation being prepared by the country’s attorney general would legalize abortions before 24 weeks of pregnancy when women are deemed incapable of caring for their children, as well as in cases of fetal deformity, rape, and danger to the physical or “moral” health of the mother.

All abortions are currently illegal in Mauritius under a law dating back to 1838, except in cases in which the life of the mother is in danger.

An expert associated with the Committee, Pramila Patten, told the local Le Mauricien newspaper that “Mauritius will be very much harmed” if the UN committee finds nothing has been done since it urged the tiny nation to loosen its abortion laws five years ago.

In 2006, the Committee had “recommended” that Mauritius decrease penalties “relating to abortion for unwanted pregnancies” and also “urge[d] the State party to step up the provision of family planning information and services to women and girls, in particular regarding reproductive health and affordable contraceptive methods, and to widely promote sex education targeted at girls and boys.”

A 2009 World Health Organization report showed that Mauritius boasts the lowest maternal mortality in Africa, while also being one of the most protective of the unborn. The same WHO report showed that countries such as Ethiopia, which have been pressured to legalize abortion, have not been successful in reducing maternal death. In fact, Ethiopia’s rate is 48 times greater than that of Mauritius.

According to a Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) report published in 2010, the United Nation’s CEDAW Committee is using the agreement to push the decriminalization of abortion in many countries worldwide, including Australia, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Mexico, Nepal, Northern Ireland (UK), Paraguay, Portugal, Togo, and Zimbabwe.

C-FAM cites the example of Colombia, in which the country’s highest court used the CEDAW Committee’s opinion as the basis for its decision to strike down pro-life laws in 2006.

During a pilgrimage mass Sept 8, Bishop Maurice Piat of the capital city of Port-Louis decried abortion as “an illusory solution-it doesn’t solve your problem, to the contrary, it adds an additional weight that you have to carry your whole life.”


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