CHURCH leaders have condemned a European Parliament resolution that defines “free and legal abortion” as a human right and accuses countries that restrict it of undermining democracy and personal freedom.
“Abortion is about the life of the woman but also of the unborn child — both lives matter,” the European Evangelical Alliance said. “There are quite a few topics here we can fully support, like access to affordable high-quality gender-specific health-care services for all. . . But we disagree with the promotion of abortion as a standard medical procedure.”
The Alliance, which represents 23 million Evangelical Christians, was reacting to the Parliament’s approval of the resolution by 378 votes to 255, with 42 abstentions last Friday, after a fierce two-day debate. It said that the resolution had only “symbolic importance”, since national healthcare officially fell outside the European Union’s competence, but would nevertheless influence EU-wide debates.
The resolution was also condemned by the Brussels-based Roman Catholic Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the EU (COMECE), which also deplored its rejection of a conscience opt-out for medical professionals.
“There is no international treaty providing a human right to abortion, while the right to conscientious objection derives from the fundamental right to religious freedom,” COMECE’s Spanish secretary-general, Fr Manuel Barrios Prieto, told Vatican News last weekend.
“Even though this is a non-binding document, this European Parliament vote is worrying because it points to an underlying change of mentality.”
The 77-point resolution defines sexual and reproductive health as a “fundamental pillar” of women’s rights and gender equality, and calls on the EU’s 27 member-states to “remove all barriers” to “high-quality, comprehensive and accessible” abortion and contraception.
It says that denial of abortions “on grounds of religion or conscience” endangers lives, and it demands full sex education for primary and secondary school pupils as a key to “reducing sexual violence”.
The resolution also criticises Malta and Poland by name for restrictive abortion regimes, accusing them of forcing women “to risk their lives and health” with unsafe abortions — a claim vigorously contested by pro-life groups.
Speaking after the vote, the resolution’s Croatian architect, Predrag Matic, said that it marked “a new era for the EU” as “the first real resistance to a regressive agenda that had trampled on women’s rights in Europe for years”.
The president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, told a Sunday congregation, however, that the resolution used terminology resembling “the language of cattle-herding rather of human development”, saying that none of the many international documents referred to in the text recognised a “right to abortion”.
The head of Austria’s RC Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Franz Lackner, told the Kathpress agency that the resolution’s supporters had ignored “the difficult situation of pregnant women in need. . . Human health is a core concern of the Church, but classifying abortion as a health measure and human right degrades the unborn child and is ethically untenable.
“It is extremely worrying that such a political signal is being sent from the European Parliament on a sensitive issue which is the competence and responsibility of member-states.”
More than 150 amendments were tabled against the resolution, mostly by centre-right groups, while a “minority-position” statement, added to the text by Spanish and Polish MEPs, said that defining abortion as a human right breached the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights, as well as binding treaties and case-law from the European Courts of Human Rights and Justice.
“Human rights, which are universal and immutable, are being subjected to ideological manipulation, with international influence undermining the sovereignty of nations and affecting their laws,” the statement noted.
A spokesman for the diocese in Europe said on Tuesday that Anglicans were still studying the European Parliament resolution, and were aware that access to abortion was currently “regulated legally in each national context”.
“The Church of England’s stated position combines principled opposition with a recognition that there can be strictly limited conditions under which abortion may be morally preferable to any available alternative,” the spokesman said. “This is based on our view that the foetus is a human life with the potential to develop relationships, think, pray, choose, and love”.