The United Nations Human Rights Committee has been accused of elevating individual freedom above moral considerations after recently including abortion and assisted suicide among the 'human rights' that should be protected by states.
The committee's 'General Comment' on the right to life, issued at the end of October, argued for the decriminalisation of abortion and the removal of restrictions that could subject women or girls to 'physical or mental pain' if they are unable to terminate their pregnancy.
It also put the rights of women and girls seeking an abortion before the rights of medical practitioners with conscientious objections to performing abortions.
'States parties should not introduce new barriers and should remove existing barriers that deny effective access by women and girls to safe and legal abortion, including barriers caused as a result of the exercise of conscientious objection by individual medical providers,' it said.
In addition, it said that states had an obligation to ensure access for women and men and 'especially, girls and boys' to a 'wide range of affordable contraceptive methods'.
On assisted suicide, the committee stated that where this was legal, 'robust' legal safeguards should be in place to protect patients from abuse.
Although General Comments are not legally binding, they can be used by state courts to determine rulings on cases.
Princeton law professor Robert George strongly criticised the document, telling Rome Reports that moral reasoning was being left out of the equation in the name of protecting freedom of choice.
'It mistakes our dignity for mere autonomy, for choosing. And it doesn't ask the question, what is the right thing to choose, but it simply valorizes the choice itself,' he said.
He added that the General Comment denies that there are victims in abortion and euthanasia.
'I have a right to do whatever I like, so long as it doesn't harm others. Then they suppose that acts such as abortion and euthanasia do not harm others,' he said.
'Well certainly it's clear in the case of abortion that abortion takes the life of an innocent child in the womb. There is a victim. There is a third party.
'Even with euthanasia, we know that when a regime of medicalized killing is unleashed in society, it's not simply the people who wish to be killed who end up being killed.'
He called on people of all faiths to work together in opposing further attempts to entrench abortion and assisted suicide as human rights.
'I think it's very important for people who see the truth of these matters and who understand how evil this move is toward recognizing abortion and euthanasia as human rights... it is incumbent upon all people of all traditions of faith to join together,' he said.