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Catholic bishops say abortion can ‘never be a fundamental right’ ahead of EU charter vote

A plenary session of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. / Credit: MichalPL via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

CNA Staff, Apr 9, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

Catholic bishops in the European Union on Tuesday reiterated that a right to abortion can never be a “fundamental” right ahead of a Thursday vote related to the insertion of a “right to abortion” in the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. 

A draft resolution set to be voted on April 11 would amend the EU’s charter, which first came into force in 2009, to include the assertion that “everyone has the right to bodily autonomy, to free, informed, full, and universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and to all related health care services without discrimination, including access to safe and legal abortion.”

The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), based in Brussels and made up of bishops delegated by the bishops’ conferences of the more than two dozen member states of the European Union, speaks frequently in support of Catholic values in Europe, particularly against abortion and for the protection of persecuted Christians in other countries.

“The promotion of women and their rights is not related to the promotion of abortion,” COMECE said in an April 9 statement.

“We work for a Europe where women can live their maternity freely and as a gift for them and for society and where being a mother is in no way a limitation for personal, social, and professional life. Promoting and facilitating abortion goes in the opposite direction to the real promotion of women and their rights.”

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights cannot include rights that are not recognized by all and are “divisive,” the bishops noted. 

“The right to life is the fundamental pillar of all other human rights, especially the right to life of the most vulnerable, fragile, and defenseless, like the unborn child in the womb of the mother, the migrant, the old, the person with disabilities, and the sick. The Church has always taught this,” the bishops continued. 

The European Parliament is a directly-elected body made up of over 700 legislators from EU member states and tasked with adopting EU legislation. Changing the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to include abortion would require unanimous agreement from all member states, the body says. 

The enshrining of abortion rights in the EU’s rights charter has long been debated. Abortion activists have for years pushed for the modification to union law, with initiatives such as the Simone Veil Pact calling for broad abortion rights throughout the continent. 

In contrast to the highly permissive legal framework found in many U.S. states before and after Roe v. Wade, many European countries restrict abortion after 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy; some European Union member countries also impose waiting periods and other regulations. 

In January 2022, French President Emmanual Macron called upon the European Union to enshrine abortion in law, which Macron said would “give new life to our set of rights” there. In a statement at the time, COMECE expressed “deep concern and opposition” to the idea. COMECE noted at the time that that there is no “right” to abortion enshrined in European or international law.

Earlier this year, France became the first country in Europe to enshrine a “right to abortion” in its constitution.

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