European Bishops Insist that Abortion Is Not ‘Health Care’

In this photo taken Monday, Dec. 13, 2010, a nurse points out the image of a three-month-old fetus during a sonogram scan for "Nancy" Yin at a clinic run by Marie Stopes International in Xi'an in central China's Shaanxi province. While comprehensive data are hard to come by, official figures …
AP/Ng Han Guan

ROME, Italy — The European bishops have reacted strongly to an attempt to have abortion recognized as a “human right,” insisting that the “unborn child has a human right to life.”

In a June 17 position paper, the European Bishops’ Commission (COMECE) responds to a draft resolution from the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, slated to be voted on by the European Parliament next week.

Sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services “are essential healthcare services that should be available to all,” states the resolution, and include “safe and legal abortion care and services.”

The resolution goes on to assert that “denial of abortion care is a form of gender-based violence,” taking special issue with Poland, which has outlawed eugenic abortions targeting babies with disabilities or genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome.

“All too easily,” the bishops note in their response, “the independent right to life of the child is left out of the consideration and it is overlooked that the unborn child is not the property of the parents, but precisely in its defencelessness is only entrusted to them.”

The bishops declare that it is “ethically untenable” to classify abortion as an “essential health service,” an attempt that “degrades the unborn child.”

In their paper, the bishops also note errors of fact in the draft resolution, especially regarding the attempt to reclassify abortion as a human right.

“The draft resolution 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. This is not the case,” they state.

“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,” they note.

The bishops also express their regret that the resolution “negates the fundamental right to conscientious objection” and the corresponding right not to participate in a morally evil action such as abortion.

A resolution passed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe itself guarantees this right, the bishops observe.

The 2010 resolution declares:

No person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia, or any act which could cause the death of a human foetus or embryo, for any reason.

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