The EU’s distortion of human rights

by Maria Madise

The European Parliament’s strident and impassioned resolution to condemn the “US Supreme Court decision to overturn abortion rights”, adopted on 7 July, has no legal standing. Nevertheless, it seeks to exert a culturally binding force directed at superseding national sovereignty, international law and religious conviction.

Recalling a host of international human rights treaties —  none of which include any reference to abortion as a right — the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) cited previous resolutions on sexual and reproductive health and rights, 24 June 2021,1 and on “Global threats to abortion rights: the possible overturning of abortion rights in the US by the Supreme Court”, 9 June 2022.2 They also repeated the misconception that the ruling in Dobbs v Jackson3 “put an end to the federal constitutional right to abortion”.

The Supreme Court cannot change the US Constitution; it merely examines the constitutionality of the country’s laws. Yet, not only is there no right to abortion, but the right to life is protected by the Constitution, so we could rather ask whether giving states the power to regulate the killing of unborn babies is compatible with the constitutional right to life. While we celebrate this huge step in the right direction, we should also recognise that only moral absolutes protect life. To restore a genuinely pro-life culture, there can be no exceptions to the prohibition of killing innocent children. 

Although MEPs lament the decision to allow US voters “to ban abortion at any point during pregnancy”, the pro-life movement cannot rest while abortion is acceptable at any point during pregnancy. When, on 19 January, French President Emmanuel Macron called for the inclusion of abortion in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, Prof Roberto de Mattei commented on Voice of the Family

“Reason, conscience and the natural law imprinted in our hearts tell us that under no circumstances is it lawful to kill an innocent human being. The prohibition of abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and murder in general is based on this law, which is absolute; without possible compromises or exceptions. If an exception to the moral law is admitted, all morality collapses.”

The most astonishing claim of last week’s resolution is, however, that “SRHR [sexual and reproductive health and rights], including safe and legal abortion care, constitute a fundamental [human] right”. It states that “criminalising, delaying and denying access to SRHR constitutes a form of violence against women and girls; whereas these restrictions and bans do not reduce the number of abortions, but only force people to travel long distances or to resort to unsafe abortions, also making them vulnerable to criminal investigation and prosecution, and affect the people who are most lacking in resources and information”. This is completely untrue. In last week’s Digest, Liam Gibson considered the dramatic effect a change in abortion law had on the culture of Northern Ireland. In a region with minimal rates of lawful abortion, and where incidents of illegal abortion were exceptionally rare, and fewer and fewer women were travelling to Britain for abortion, in less than three years after its liberalisation, the death toll from abortion has almost equalled the number of lives lost in the three decades of violence and civil unrest during the Troubles.

The MEPs’ major concern is that the overturning of Roe v Wade could “embolden the anti-abortion movement in the European Union”. They brand Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal as “illegitimate” for its 2020 ruling that upheld the right to life for unborn children with disabilities. Their fear is that the “backsliding” seen in Poland, together with Malta, Slovakia, Hungary, and even Italy4 and Croatia5 could now gain momentum.

After urging those EU states that restrict abortion to bring their laws into line with “internationally protected women’s human rights and international human rights standards”, the resolution echoes Macron’s call for the EU Charter to be amended by inserting a new Article 7a: “Right to abortion: Everyone has the right to safe and legal abortion.” 

In the 9 June resolution, the Parliament proposed a Convention for the revision of the Treaties and that it should include the right to “safe and legal abortion”. It called on Member States to decriminalise abortion, guarantee access to free abortion, make the recognition of this right a key priority in negotiations within international institutions and to advocate for its inclusion in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

While this too has no legal standing whatsoever, it represents an intention to subvert the international human rights system. Yet, by calling for the revision of international treaties to include a right to abortion, the EU Parliament has acknowledged that no such right currently exists. Not one of the nine core UN human rights treaties even mentions abortion, let alone considers access to it as a right. On the contrary, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights6 recognises that: “… the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including legal protection, before as well as after birth.”7 The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) also acknowledges that unborn children possess human rights. A clause in the original draft of Article 1 of the CRC which would have limited rights to the period after birth was deleted specifically to allow the Convention to be applied to children in the womb.8 The right to life (Article 6) and the right to healthcare (Article 24.2d) applies to children before birth. Also, Article 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union upholds the right to life for everyone.

Although MEPs have no authority to demand that member states comply with this resolution, its adoption is a reminder of the serious violation by EU institutions of the principles of natural law and of the protection of unborn children and family life. Resolutions of this kind are used by the abortion industry to convince governments worldwide that they are legally bound to guarantee “reproductive rights”. This repeated assertion is intended to change the culture before changing the law.

Once adopted, MEPs ordered the resolution to be sent to the other EU institutions, the US President, Congress, and the Supreme Court. The person appointed to this task is the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, a Catholic. Prior to her election in January 2021, Metsola distanced herself from her previous opposition to abortion by saying, “My position is that of the European Parliament”. Those words may have been motivated by political ambition but they have now taken on an unmistakable meaning. For this Catholic politician and no doubt for others, there appears to be no possibility of reconciling their allegiance to the EU with their duty before God: adherence to the fifth commandment and what the EU calls a fundamental right to kill an unborn child are mutually exclusive.

The day after the resolution was passed, US President Joe Biden, also a practising Catholic, signed an Executive Order “to protect the reproductive rights of women in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s extreme decision to overturn Roe v Wade”. This order widens access to abortion drugs, and effectively establishes a federal abortion-by-mail scheme. This is a significant victory for the abortion lobby, which has worked for decades to make abortion seem as normal as taking everyday medications. Besides killing many more babies, expanding this initiative could hardly be further from the “safe” abortion touted by the Biden White House. Women will have no medical supervision and no follow-up and it will facilitate coercion.

The Commission of the Bishops’ Conference in the European Union (COMECE) reacted by correctly stating that EU institutions have no competence over the issue of abortion. However, while this is true, it is tragic that the Church relies on political arguments rather than setting out the moral principles. The three-paragraph statement9 expresses regret and disappointment over the fact that the resolution “paves the way for a deviation from universally recognised human rights and misrepresents the tragedy of abortion for mothers in difficulties”. It urges MEPs to “work for more unity among Europeans, not to create higher ideological barriers and polarisation”. Among the fundamental rights that it says are endangered by the promoting of radical political agendas, is freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Tragically, however, it fails to mention the right to life — the issue at the heart of the controversy. Abortion is an abominable crime, not because it falls outside the legal competence of EU structures but because killing innocent children is wrong. Despite the pronouncements of our political leaders, the ten commandments are not open to a democratic vote. Sadly, however, the Bishops appear to have forgotten this.

Abortion is already so tightly woven into our political fabric that it is now widely accepted as essential healthcare for women. Its promotion as a human right is the logical next step. In a grotesque distortion of justice, the EU wants violations of “reproductive rights” to be treated as a form of violence against women, while abortion — which by definition is an act of lethal violence directed at an unborn child — is vaunted as a human right. But because our rights arise not from our own activity but from God, inverting morality in this way has far-reaching consequences.

As St Thomas warns: 

“Human law has the nature of law [only] in so far as it partakes of right reason; and it is clear that, in this respect, it is derived from the eternal law. But in so far as it deviates from reason, it is called an unjust law and has the nature not of law but of violence.”10

It would be hard to imagine a truer example of this than the legalised killing of unborn children. Brazen acts of violence such as abortion make peace in our poor world impossible. The recent US Supreme Court decision proves that despite betrayals by Catholic politicians and the failures of our Bishops, the violence enshrined in unjust laws can be overturned. The European Parliament understands this and is frightened by it; but for those working for the restoration of Christian civilisation, we can take hope that the purification of our culture and conversion of our society have drawn significantly closer. 

  1. OJ C 81, 18.2.2022, p. 43.
  2. Texts adopted, P9_TA(2022)0243.
  3. Dobbs, State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health, et al v Jackson Women’s Health Organization et al. 597 US (2022) https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/19-1392_6j37.pdf
  4. https://search.coe.int/cm/Pages/result_details.aspx?ObjectId=0900001680687bdc; http://www.refreg.ep.parl.union.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2018/608853/IPOL_BRI(2018)608853_EN.pdf
  5. https://www.roda.hr/en/news/support-for-accessible-safe-and-legal-termination-of-pregnancy-in-croatia.html
  6. Universal Declaration of Human Rights GA 217 (III) 10 December 1948.
  7. Ex. The Preamble of the Declaration on the Rights of the Child, GA 1386 (XIV) of 10 December 1959.
  8. Bruce Abramson, Violence Against Babies: Protection of Pre- and Post-natal Children Under the Framework of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (World Family Policy Center, 2006), p 57.
  9. https://www.comece.eu/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/07/2022-07-08-COMECE-General-Secretary-Statement-EP-Resolution-Global-Threat-to-abortion-EN.pdf
  10. St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Question 93, Article 3, Reply to Objection 2.