July 2001 - The United Nations is harassing a tiny Southern European Catholic country with less than 70,000 citizens for not allowing abortion. This week, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women called on Andorra, a country located between France and Spain and about 2.5 times the size of Washington, DC, to deliver its report on compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
In its report to the committee, the Catholic country, represented by Esteve Vidal, Counselor-Delegate for Institutional Relations of Andorra, indicated that it regarded unborn children as having the right to life and thus abortion as a crime. The Ministry of Health noted that the "Penal Code (art. 185) punishes abortion with imprisonment up to a maximum term of 30 months for the mother and six years for the person who performed the abortion," and that "women who wish to have an abortion travel abroad." One of the 23 "experts" presiding as part of the UN committee, according to a UN report, demanded to know, "What did women faced with unwanted pregnancies do if they did not find it possible to travel?" The UN report notes that the committee member "also asked for information regarding the women who had been imprisoned for abortion."
The committee also apparently took offense to the fact that most education in the country was provided by Catholic schools and made a pointed inquiry about the availability of sex education. The UN report relates that one expert asked, "Were the Catholic schools entities unto themselves, or could the Education Office mandate such a (textbook) review and in-service teacher training on the various facets of sex education? A majority of young women were attending the Catholic schools in Andorra, so she wished to know whether there was sex education or human rights teaching in those schools."
The Committee is to hear a response from the Andorran delegation this Friday.