On May 11th 2012, the European Commission registered the European Citizen Initiative “One of Us”. This initiative aims to obtain from the European Union that it will stop financing abortion and practices which destroy human embryos. This initiative began in the spring of 2012 following a proposal from Mr Carlo Casini, Member of the European Parliament and President of the Italian pro-life movement. Representatives from various European associations support and have participated in this initiative, with the aim of obtaining one million signatures before the 1st November, 2013. Dr Grégor Puppinck, Director of the European Centre for Law and Justice is the official representative of the Initiative.
Formally, the legislative proposal of the initiative “One of Us” asks European institutions to assure the “legal protection of dignity, the right to life and to physical integrity of all human beings from their conception in the areas of competence of the European Union in which this protection is of a particular importance”. With this aim, the initiative proposes to
– modify the report by the Parliament and the Council regarding the Regulation on the establishment of the programme for research and innovation “Horizon 2020” (COM(2011)809 final) with the aim of introducing in its ethical principles (Article 16), a new provision forbidding to finance activities which imply the destruction of human embryos;
– modify the European Parliament and Council Regulation (CE) 2006/1905 from December 18th 2006 establishing a financing instrument for development cooperation in order to introduce a new section in Article 2 providing that the European Union will not directly or indirectly finance abortion.
If the European Union does not conform to the initiative’s demands it will be in a paradoxal situation whereby it will use public money to finance research that which is not only illegal in many European countries, but which is also considered detrimental to human dignity by the European Court of Justice, as expressed in the recent case of Brustle v Greenpeace.
A “European citizen initiative” is a mechanism of participatory democracy which allows a million European citizens to present to the Commission a proposal for a new European regulation in an area of competence of the European Union. If the initiative is supported by at least a million Europeans, the legislative proposal will be presented to the Commission and then to the European Parliament, during a public hearing. The Commission may then adopt, under the form of a communication, an official response in which it will present the action which proposed in response to the initiative. It must also outline the reasons behind the adoption or non-adoption of an action. Following the initiative, the Commission may chose to present a legislative proposal. If it decides to do so, the formal legislative procedure is launched: its proposal is presented to the European legislator and it enters into force after being negotiated and adopted.
In order to be submitted to the Commission, the citizen initiative must obtain at least one million signatures, originating from at least one quarter of the total of Member States before November 1st 2013. Any citizen of a Member State of the EU which is of voting age can support the initiative online on the website www.oneofus.eu/ or using a written form.
Below is a more detailed explanation of the objectives being pursued by the initiative and their context.
1. The first objective is to prohibit and put an end to the financing of activities that involve the destruction of human embryos, in particular in the area of research
The European Union is currently negotiating its scientific research policy for the period 2014-2020, (a framework programme for research and innovation called “Horizon 2020”), which is provided for by a budget of 90 billion euro and which is destined to support growth and innovation of the European Union. However, the proposals presented by the European Commission in the framework of the “Horizon 2020” programme no longer mention the commitment undertaken in 2006, within the framework of the programme on research currently in operation (2007-2013), to not submit to the council of the Regulation“any project proposal composed of research activities involving the destruction of human embryos, including the provision of stem cells”. On the contrary, the proposal in “Horizon 2020” foresees in a general way that the “research activities on human stem cells, adult or embryonic, (could) be financed in accordance with, both the contents and the scientific proposals and the legal framework of the Member States concerned” (Article 16, paragraph 4) and does not exclude explicitly those activities which are likely to lead to the destruction of embryos.
The initiative may avail of reasoning adopted by the European Court of Justice in the case of Brüstle v. Greenpeace (C-34/10) on the 18th of October, 2011. In this case, the judges of Luxembourg defined the human embryo as an organism “capable of the commencing the process of development of a human”, whatever the mode of procurement of this organism (IVF, cloning, etc). The Court of Justice also aligned law with science, in recognising that human life begins at conception, and that it deserves legal protection from the moment of conception, in particular with regard to the principles of respect for bodily integrity and human dignity. It is in light of this protection that patenting must be excluded from all processes that bring about the destruction of a human embryo through the use of a sample of stem cells obtained from the embryo.
The initiative “One of Us” proposes a change to the regulation of “Horizon 2020” so as to add to Article 16, relating to “ethics principles”, a new standard precluding the European financing of research which involves the destruction of human embryos. Likewise, it is asked to include in the regulation of the Council (CE, Euratom) 2002/1605 of the 25th of June, concerning the financial regulation applicable to the general budget of the European Union, a “consistency principle” according to which no European Union funds could be linked to activities which destroyed human embryos or presuppose their destruction.
2. The second objective of the initiative is to forbid all public European financing of abortion, in particular via the aid policy for the development of public health.
In principle, abortion falls within the exclusive competence of Member States and not the European Union, and as a result, the European Union is not supposed to promote abortion. However, between 2007 and 2013 the European Union granted 86 million euro to programmes intended to improve “
the genetic and sexual health of the population”, in developing countries.
While, “genetic and sexual health of the population” is not meant to include abortion, the European Commission greatly assists organisations such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and the Marie Stopes International organisation (MSI). These organisations promote and practice abortions on a large scale, within self-managed establishments.
Between 2005 and 2009, the MSI organisation admitted receiving 15.8 million pounds sterling in public European Commission grants, in its financial reports (over 18 million euro). Between 2007 and 2011, the International Planned Parenthood Federation admitted receiving nearly 6 million euro in grants directly from the European Commission.
Only since 2011, the general budget of the Union formally prohibits financing organisations which support or which are involved in forced abortion or forced sterilisation (practiced particularly in China and India). In its resolution on July 5th 2012, the European Parliament recognised that the EU financed organisations in China actively working in the area of family planning.
The initiative “One of Us” aims to extend this formal prohibition on the financing of all types of abortion, forced or not, in obtaining from the EU a guarantee that it will create a control mechanism for the funds that it gives to NGO’s with the aim of preventing the financing of any organisation involved in abortions.