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The European Parliament on Thursday passed a non-binding resolution calling for the European Union’s 27 countries to ensure the right to legal and safe abortion.
The resolution, which passed by 378 to 255 votes, refers to abortion as an “essential health service” and a “human right.” It also seeks to redefine conscientious objection as a “denial of medical care” and declares that violations of “sexual and reproductive health and rights” are “a form of violence against women and girls.”
Reuters reported that the vote, which took place during a plenary session in Brussels, followed a heated debate in which lawmakers voted on more than 50 amendments to the resolution.
Presented by the Croatian member of the European Parliament Predrag Fred Matić, the document is formally known as “The situation of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the EU, in the framework of women’s health.”
According to Catholic News Agency, two Members of the European Parliament, Margarita de la Pisa Carrión and Jadwiga Wiśniewska, set out a “minority position,” arguing that the report had “no legal or formal rigor”:
“It goes beyond its remit in addressing issues such as health, sexual education, and reproduction, as well as abortion and education, which are legislative powers belonging to the member states,” they wrote.
“It treats abortion as a purported human right that does not exist in international law. This is a breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the main binding treaties, as well as of the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union.”
Bishops voiced opposition
On June 17, the Secretariat of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) released a Position Paper in which they warned that the Matić Report could lead to guaranteed legal abortion across the continent.
“Abortion is advocated in the draft resolution as an ‘essential health service’ that should be available to everyone,” the bishops’ statement said. “In our view, this classification is ethically untenable. A medical intervention of such magnitude cannot and must not become a normal practice; its qualification as an essential service degrades the unborn child. As Church, we are convinced that human life from the beginning, including unborn life, possesses its own dignity and independent right to protection.”
The bishops said: “We see the unborn child as an independent life created in God’s image and owing its existence to His will. The unborn child has a human right to life. In its Brüstle decision, the European Court of Justice was unable to rule out the possibility that the unborn human life is endowed with its own dignity and therefore recognized the embryo as the bearer of this human dignity.”
The resolution adopted Thursday also negates the fundamental right to conscientious objection, the bishops pointed out. This is contrary to a 2010 ruling of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which said, “No person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia, or any act which could cause the death of a human fetus or embryo, for any reason.”
Non-binding but dangerous
Though abortion is legal in most European Union countries, it is not in Andorra, Malta and San Marino. In Liechtenstein, it is permitted only when the mother’s life or health is at risk or the pregnancy is the result of sexual assault.
Monaco and Poland allow abortion only is a mother’s life or health is at risk, the pregnancy is the result of sexual assault or involves a severe fetal anomaly.
The European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), an NGO based in Strasbourg, France, said that a resolution adopted by the European Parliament could “serve to politically legitimize action by the member states or the institution,” Catholic News Agency said. “It is intended to produce practical effects.”
“More importantly, it can express a pre-legislative intention that can later be used to justify binding acts,” the ECLJ said. “There is, therefore, no doubt that an act of the European Parliament represents the gateway to the heart of the normative system.”