New European Draft Resolution Seeks to Have Abortion Recognized as a Human Right

The draft resolution, scheduled for a European Parliament vote June 23, could mark a breaking point in the European conception of abortion the right to life, according to a pro-life legal expert.

People take part in the "March for Life", the Croatia's fifth annual pro-life march, in Zagreb on May 29, 2021.
People take part in the "March for Life", the Croatia's fifth annual pro-life march, in Zagreb on May 29, 2021. (photo: Denis Lovrovic / AFP/Getty)

The so-called “Matić Report” on “the situation of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the frame of women’s health in the European Union,” has attracted little media coverage since it was submitted to the European Parliament on March 25, despite its potential for reframing abortion as a human right. 

Yet this text — which will be voted on Wednesday at the European Parliament plenary session — could have a decisive and long-lasting impact on the European ethical approach to life issues. 

This warning was sounded by the pro-life advocates of the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) during a June 3 conference entitled “Defeat the Matić Resolution and Protect Unborn Children.” 

According to ECLJ General Director Grégor Puppinck, who spoke with the Register, this text has a foundational dimension especially for the promotion of abortion in Europe. If it is adopted, the Matic Resolution will serve as a reference for the European Commission’s action in the future, he said, and subsequently at national levels as well. 

Introduced by center-left Croatian MEP Perdrag Matić, the dense and exhaustive text introduces a global “right to abortion,” which would have the effect of limiting member states’ sovereignty with regards to health questions. Among the report’s other contentious provisions are its calling into question health care professionals’ rights to conscientious objection, the promotion of universal access to modern contraceptive methods, prenatal screening, as well as assisted reproductive technologies (ART) for all people, single or married, regardless of sexual orientation. 

The manner this resolution addresses these sensitive issues also has raised the concern of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), which released a position paper June 17 expressing several objections ahead of the final vote. 

After noting “with regret” that the draft resolution “does not reflect the tragedy and complexity of the situations in which mothers considering aborting their unborn child find themselves,” and that it “negates the fundamental right to conscientious objection, which is an emanation of freedom of conscience as foreseen by Article 10.1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,” the COMECE position paper denounced the Matić Report’s violation of the principle of subsidiarity. 

In fact, regulations regarding health care and the protection of human life do not fall within the competences of the European Union and are left to the responsibility of the various member states. 


A Human Right? 

A central objective of the Matić Report is the recognition of a “right to abortion” by international law. A few months after a European resolution challenged the Polish ban on eugenic abortion, this new report notably calls on the member states to “remove all legal, policy, financial and other barriers impeding full access to [sexual and reproductive health and rights] for all persons.”

The text clearly likens abortion to “sexual and reproductive health and rights,” which are advanced as “human rights” that “must be upheld by EU member states, in line with international rights standards.” 

“It is about saying that abortion is a health treatment, that all those who are against that are against human rights and that therefore, member states should fight statements opposing abortion,” Puppinck told the Register, highlighting that if the European Parliament resolution were to be adopted, medical personnel who conscientiously object will be considered as obstacles to this “human right.” Similarly, time limits on access to abortion, which currently are in effect in a number of European nations, are seen as impermissible obstacles. 

A member of the OSCE Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Puppinck has represented the Holy See on various expert committees of the Council of Europe since 2000. The Catholic lawyer is also the author of several books about bioethics from a legal point of view, including the comprehensive legal study Law and Prevention of Abortion in Europe

According to Puppinck, abortion cannot be considered a human right since a right “aims at guaranteeing the faculty of a person to act for one’s good as a human being.” 

“Everything that we recognize as fundamental rights — to think, associate, pray, speak — are faculties through which every person expresses his humanity, which means that by exercising these fundamental rights, one becomes more human,” he continued. “Can one say of a woman that she is more accomplished and more human when she has an abortion, like she does when she studies, gets married or when she expresses herself? The difference in nature is obvious between abortion and a fundamental right.”

Moreover, in a recent note published on the ECLJ’s website, lawyer Agathe Villain underscores that no treaty in international law recognizes a right to abortion nor includes it in the field of sexual and reproductive health. Citing the 1994 Cairo Declaration on Population and Development, which “called upon all national Governments to reduce the need for abortion,” Villain also notes that in 2014, the general secretary of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, asserted that this roadmap “remains undiminished.” 


A Powerful Lobby 

In spite of the various legal issues raised by the draft resolution, Puppinck believes that it stands a chance of being adopted during the final vote because of the growing political, media and psychological pressure that has surrounded the debates on abortion and contraception over recent decades. 

“There are few MEPs that dare to speak up for the protection of life because they are immediately singled out, it is an unforgivable sin in some countries,” he said. 

He is convinced that the writing of the text of the Matić Report — the most substantial European Parliament document on this topic — was undertaken a long time ago and is the result of an extended lobbying effort by the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which devotes considerable financial resources to influence European institutions. 

“Planned Parenthood’s budget is in the billions of dollars, and they have lobbies all over the world, including one at the European Parliament, with about 20 employees, funded by Planned Parenthood Global,” said Puppinck. 

Strengthened by its influential position within the European Institutions, the pro-abortion lobby can thus easily put pressure on MEPs and guide their political moves. 

“No member of the Parliament would have been able to write this resolution, it is clear that it was written by abortion professionals,” Puppinck asserted. “Abortion is an industry that generates a lot of money worldwide, and this business now presents itself as a promoter of human and women rights while doing its own promotion, asking for European subsidies and spreading their practice.” 


Reason for Hope

But what gives the Catholic lawyer a reason for hope is that for several moderate MEPs with whom he was able to speak, the text is going too far — in particular for its fundamental questioning of the right to conscientious objection for doctors and the opening to abortion without legal time limits. 

“Fortunately,” he commented, “there are still some courageous politicians who realize the drifts in progress and who might not vote for the adoption of this resolution.”

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