Resist efforts to change UN Declaration of Human Rights Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler, editor   
Thursday, Dec. 04, 2008 -- 1:00 AM

Two world wars in the first half of the 20th Century were a wake-up call to people around the world. They realized that peace in the world could not be achieved with

Editor's View
Mary C. Uhler

So on December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The assembly called upon all member countries to publicize the text of the declaration and “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.”

Mark 60th anniversary of declaration

As we mark the 60th anniversary of that declaration, it might be a good idea to study the document again and be vigilant in opposing any efforts to change it.  

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights seems to have much in common with our United States Bill of Rights and Constitution. It also seems to coincide with Catholic social teaching in most of its articles.

The declaration’s preamble recognizes the “inherent dignity” and the “equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” as the “foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” It also declares that "human rights should be protected by the rule of law."

Some of the articles specifically focus on respect for all human life, including:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1) 

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. (Article 3) 

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. (Article 5)   

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. (Article 6) 

The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State. (Article 16)

Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection. (Article 26)

Oppose efforts to change declaration

These articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would seem to protect the right to life of all human beings. Yet the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute warns that pro-abortion groups will present petitions on December 10 asking the U.N. General Assembly to make abortion a universally recognized human right.

People concerned about this can sign and circulate a petition urging the UN not to change its declaration. Go to the Web site of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute at for more information.

An article on this Web site points out that in recent weeks, the Holy See has made a series of strong interventions at the UN upholding the dignity of human life. In advance of a debate on the Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty, the Holy See reminded delegates at the General Assembly that the most fundamental right is the right to life "from the moment of conception to natural death." While it welcomed efforts to halt the use of the death penalty, it noted the need to foster a culture "in which life is respected at all stages of development."

The Holy See on a separate occasion noted the existence of ambiguous language concerning “sexual and reproductive health” and “maternal health services” that appeared in a UN resolution, clarifying that such language cannot be interpreted as endorsing abortion. 

What you can do

Concerned citizens can mail petitions against changes to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 495, New York, NY 10017.

To contact the United Nations directly, write to: UN Headquarters, First Avenue at 46th St., New York, NY 10017 or go to