EU bishops: Abortion is not a “human right”

On the eve of a controversial vote, the Commission of Bishops of the European Union release a statement on the “Matić Report” describing it as “one-sided” on abortion.

By Lisa Zengarini, Vatican News

The European Parliament is expected to vote a controversial report referring to abortion an “essential health service” and a “human right” on Wednesday this week. Presented by the Croatian MEP [Member of the European Parliament] Predrag Fred Matić and titled: “The situation of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the EU, in the framework of women’s health”, the report has spurred critical reactions from the European bishops.

On June 17 the Secretariat of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) released a Position Paper, in which, while welcoming the “fundamental concern” to “protect the health and rights of women”, it expresses objections to the representations and arguments made in the draft resolution – also known as the ‘Matić Report’. 

A one-sided perspective on abortion 

The document calls attention on three critical points. The first point is the “one-sided perspective” of the Report “particularly on the issue of abortion”, which “does not take full account of the life situations of the persons concerned and of their corresponding human rights”. According to COMECE, the qualification of abortion as an “essential health service that should be available to all is ”ethically untenable”. 

“A medical intervention of such magnitude cannot and must not become a normal practice” the statement reads. Reminding that, in the Church’s view, human life, “including unborn life”, possesses “its own dignity and independent right to protection”, COMECE highlights that abortion cannot become “a means of family planning” or be part of “ordinary health care”. The unborn child has “an independent life created in the image of God” and therefore “has the human right to life”, the Position Paper reiterates.

There is no ‘human right to abortion’ in international treaties

The draft resolution, however, “presents the ‘health service’ of abortion as a human right, so that Member States comply with their obligations under international human rights treaties when they ensure its provision”.  But “this is not the case”: “There is no international human rights, or other international treaty, that provides for such a general ‘human right to abortion’ or a corresponding obligation of States”, the European bishops point out.

Conscientious objection denied 

Secondly, COMECE notes “with concern and regret” that the ‘Matić Report’  denies “the fundamental right to conscientious objection”, which is “an emanation of freedom of conscience” enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Violation of the EU principle of subsidiarity

Finally, the statement remarks that the draft resolution violates the EU principle of subsidiarity as it “disregards the responsibility of the Member States to define their health policy and the organisation and delivery of health services and medical care”. “This is also and especially true in highly sensitive areas such as the regulations adopted by the Member States on the conditions for abortion”,  COMECE  adds.

The need for lawful and ethical balancing of all rights

The Commission therefore calls on all MEPs to duly consider “the sensitivity and complexity of medical accompaniment”, which “requires a lawful and ethical balancing of all rights involved”.

Support of European bishops to the statement 

A number of European bishops’ have expressed their support to the statement, including Austrian bishops who reiterated the arguments forwarded by COMECE during their plenary assembly last week.