Europe must hear us!

Katarzyna Woynarowska

In Strasburg, rightly called the second capital of Europe besides Brussels, the activists of the pro-life organisations from almost all European countries met in St Thomas’ Conference Centre in the middle of December 2009. Both the venue and the date were not accidental. There has been discussion on abortion, its partial or complete prohibition or its complete legalisation, in Europe for several dozen years. In December, there were a lot of discussions about abortion in the Court of Human Rights. Since the abortion activists demanded that the right to abortion was included in the European Convention on Human Rights. This initiative was launched by the pro-abortion environment of Ireland, which undermined the present legal regulations, demanding legalisation of abortion on the Green Ireland and the whole continent. The suit to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, called ‘ABC Case’, moves the EU machine, mobilising both advocates and opponents of abortion.

Irish motif...

In Ireland the legal regulations are similar to those in Poland – abortion is legally permissible in two cases: when the pregnancy is a threat to the woman’s life or when it is a result of rape. Several years ago the case of the pregnant teenager was famous. He parents demanded that the Irish court gave its consent for the girl to leave for England to have the abortion there. They kept demanding that even after their daughter publicly stated that she wanted to have that baby (after she had spoken to some priest). Being an under-age she had no right to decide about her fate. Her parents did what they wanted – the abortion was conducted in one of the English clinics. The Irish conduct fervent discussions about similar cases from time to time. According to the pro-life organisations the behaviour of the Irish courts, that have interpreted the law in the way that is comfortable to them, has been especially perverting. The courts allow pregnant women to go abroad because they cannot forbid their citizens to travel… even if they know that citizens go abroad and infringe the Irish law there. These legal-financial struggles, usually fought with the strong pro-abortion lobbing supported by the media, have made the feminist organisations filed a complaint ‘ABC Case’ to the European Court of Human Rights. The complaint will be examined by the Grand Chamber of the Court, i.e. in the instance that is higher than the one that discussed the case of Alicja Tysiac, which was publicised a lot in Poland.

We will not back out

Knowing what could happen the defenders of life began collecting signatures of abortion opponents all over Europe. All pro-life organisations popularised the idea on the continent. The idea was supported by the media. In Poland they included the Catholic Weekly ‘Niedziela’ that appealed to its readers to support the initiative. When it was obvious that the Court would deal with the Irish complaint the Italian members of the European Parliament and the strong opponents of abortion Carlo Casini and Antonio Gaspari invited the representatives of the pro-life organisations to come to Strasbourg so that those who were responsible for the shape of the European politics would realise that numerous citizens of the Old Continent were for life from natural conception till natural death and spoke decisively ‘no’ to abortion. In the opinion of the Italian politicians it is extremely important to give a clear signal to the EU politicians: not all Europeans consider abortion to be one of the civilisational achievements! One cannot call any crime a human right!
The December meeting in Strasburg gathered representatives of the pro-life organisations from Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Great Britain, Lithuania, Portugal and Croatia. The biggest group came from Poland. They brought lists signed by opponents of abortion but they were afraid whether their opinions could be heard in Strasbourg at all. Mr Gaspari organised a meeting with the President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek and the petition, supported by one million signatures, was handed in to him, accompanied by numerous reporters and TV presenters. Mr Jerzy Buzek did not hide his astonishment. He praised the mobilisation of the pro-life environments and admitted that their initiative was the second one after the Treaty of Lisbon as far as its scale was concerned. He congratulated them on their enthusiasm and passion, and answering the question of one of the pro-life activist concerning his attitude towards this petition he said, ‘We will win as we have done many a time…’ The petition was sent to the most appropriate hands, to the Vice- President who deals with citizens’ petitions. The initiative of our weekly, encouraging our readers to give their opinions on abortion, was widely supported. As a result we brought almost 22,000 signatures to France. One of the French members of the European Parliament stated that from now on nobody in the European Parliament could undermine the opinions of abortion opponents and it was high time that we shouted out with all your might what you thought. It means that one million signatures will not be lost in the EU archives but will yield the fruit expected by the defenders of life – Europe cannot ignore the opposition of its citizens any longer. Another MEP Mr Konrad Szymanski thinks that a battle is constantly waged in the EU forum and every verdict of the Court – even the one that would not force anyone to concrete actions – painfully decomposes the system in which abortion is an impermissible dealing. In the opinion of several people interested in this issue the Court will announce the so-called technical verdict in the case of ‘ABC Case’, criticising only the way of implementing the regulations in the country in question. However, it will not risk giving a firm decision ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The issue of abortion is regarded as an extremely difficult and complicated problem in the EU structures. In fact, according to Konrad Szymanski, the abortion rights advocates in the European Parliament are very few but they are noisy, influential politicians who are constantly lobbing for their convictions. Therefore, the environments gathering the defenders of life should exert constant pressure on the MEPs we have elected so that they would fulfil their electoral promises. Actually, politicians fear only two things: the media and dissatisfaction of voters. It is worth regularly checking how the MEPs elected by Catholics implement their electoral programme. It is worth demanding their effective actions, new initiatives promoting life and consistence in supporting their initiatives, e.g. during the EU voting. Only few people know that through the Internet they can check the voting of our representatives and they can hold them accountable during the next elections. In December people said in Strasbourg that Gaspari’s petition made the Catholic MEPs think. With time we will learn how effective that is.

What is the stake?

If the right to abortion is placed in the catalogue of human rights some day what will happen then? In this situation the only consolation is the fact that this regulation will not be automatic, i.e. such a regulation will not make abortion legal in those countries that have forbidden it. The national parliaments will have to give their consents, which can be an effective blockage, but it can also become an area of struggles of those politicians that treat abortion only as a card in political bidding, for example in elections.

"Niedziela" 1/2010

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: