The Secretary-General of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) stresses the importance of protecting the right of the unborn as the European Parliament adopts a resolution to uphold the right to abortion in the US Constitution.
By Benedict Mayaki SJ
European Union Bishops on Wednesday said that no EU state should be obliged to legalize, facilitate or be instrumental in performing abortions, as there is no recognized right to abortion in European or international law from a legal perspective.
The Bishops’ insistence came as the European Parliament discussed the impact of a leaked draft opinion of the US Supreme Court concerning abortion which COMECE says is “an unacceptable interference in the democratic jurisdictional decisions of a sovereign state,” which is not a Member State of the EU.
The EU Bishops warned that “the adoption of a resolution by the European Parliament that endorses this interference will only discredit the institution” and the attempt to introduce a supposed right to abortion in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU would be a law “devoid of an ethical foundation and destined to be a cause of perpetual conflict among the citizens of the EU.”
The statement by the Secretary-General of COMECE, Fr. Manuel Barrios Prieto, reiterated calls for respect for the legislative competences of the Member States of the EU, and for the principle of conferral, whereby the Union shall only act within the limits of the competences conferred on it by the Member States.
Following the plenary debate on Wednesday, the Members of the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Thursday that reaffirmed US constitutional protections of abortion rights.
Speaking after the event in an interview with Vatican News, Fr. Prieto expressed concern that the resolution demonstrates “a certain tendency in the European Parliament and European institutions that is not favorable to life.”
Though it is not binding, he adds that the resolution which makes reference to the US Supreme Court and a possible judgement that has not yet been made public, is worrying, as it portrays the idea that in order to defend the health of a woman, one has to guarantee the right to abortion.
This, he says, “is totally contrary to the position of the Church,” as well as to anyone who “sees in the embryo a new life different from the life of the mother, which has to be protected.”
Protecting the right of the unborn and their mothers
Fr. Prieto stresses the importance of a debate which “avoids stereotypes” and is open to the defense of the life and health of women and their unborn children. “We do not put the woman in contrast to the baby – to the child.”
He further calls for the protection of women from social, family, professional and economic crises, noting that a woman who has other possibilities would be less likely to consider an abortion.
In the Wednesday statement, COMECE acknowledged the “tragedy and complexity of the situations in which mothers considering an abortion find themselves” noting that caring for women who are in difficult or conflict situations because of their pregnancy “is a central part of the diaconal ministry of the Church and must also be a duty exercised by our societies.”
“Women in distress should not be left alone, nor can the right to life of the unborn child be ignored. They both must receive all necessary help and assistance,” the Bishops said.
However, the Bishops noted with concern the “negation of the fundamental right to conscientious objection, which is an emanation of freedom of conscience” as the rights of health institutions to refuse to provide certain services, including abortion, was weakened, or even denied.