EU Constitution's Halt Gives Pro-lifers an Opening

Steven Mosher
By Joseph A. D'Agostino
PRI Weekly Briefing
24 June 2005
Vol. 7 / No. 24
Reproduced with Permission

Though endorsed by the Catholic, Brussels-based Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community, the proposed European Union constitution garnered denunciations from European pro-life activists, who feared that it would be used to overturn the laws of EU member states. Some EU nations such as Poland and Malta have strong restrictions on abortion. Now that the EU constitution has been put on hold -- perhaps killed -- by French and Dutch voters, its language could be renegotiated, or it could be replaced by a less ambitious agreement. Is this an opportunity for European pro-life and pro-family forces to lessen the potential damage that this very dangerous document could do to their cause? Perhaps, especially if Pope Benedict XVI and other pro-life European leaders work and speak out boldly in defense of life, family, and Europe's Christian heritage, now that weakness in the public's support for the continued bleeding of power to Brussels has been dramatically demonstrated.

"While there is no specific reference to so-called 'abortion rights' in the now-dead European constitution, the right to life of the unborn was seriously threatened because the constitution had an ambiguous definition regarding 'human dignity' and 'physical and mental integrity' that could be interpreted by the courts as to the right to abort those considered 'non-persons,'" says Silvio Dalla Valle, president of the Italian pro-life group I Want to Live. "The European Parliament adopted on July 3, 2002, the anti-life Van Lancker report on so-called reproductive rights, which recommends the legalization of abortion and the morning-after pill in all member states. This despite the fact that abortion should not be within the competence of the European Union."

Though Dalla Valle optimistically thinks that the EU constitution is dead for at least another decade -- and though he'd rather have no constitution at all -- he wants a pro-life provision included in any future redraft. "While considering that Europe has no need of political unity, let alone of a constitution," he says, "the only way to protect human life in all member states is a specific article that guarantees that life should be protected from conception to natural death."

It's almost impossible to imagine that the pro-death Euro-elites would ever allow a pro-life provision into their precious document. But perhaps they could be induced to add a written guarantee of the right of member states to restrict abortion, euthanasia, embryo research, and other anti-life acts. In fact, it may be that the only way that the constitution could win referenda in countries with strong pro-life constituencies such as Poland, Malta, Ireland, and Italy is by the inclusion of such an article.

The EU Constitution must be ratified by all 25 EU nations in order to take effect. Even in a largely secularized nation such as France, a guarantee that the EU Constitution would not impose abortion-on-demand and same-sex marriage on the entire continent might help the Europhile forces shave off a few percentage points. The French rejected the current draft by 55% to 45%. Such a provision would do nothing to restrict abortion or other deadly practices, so it should not alienate pro-death voters. Vigorous efforts -- both public and behind-the-scenes -- by Pope Benedict and other pro-life leaders could tip the balance in favor of such an amendment.

Though the current EU Constitution does not provide for a right to abortion or euthanasia, its vague statement on human rights and its strengthening of notoriously anti-life European courts could easily lead to the imposition of such a "right" by judicial fiat. Any American familiar with the absurd misinterpretation of the American constitution by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade will understand this danger easily enough. "By making the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights legally binding in EU law, the Constitution overrides national constitutions and gives the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg the power to determine the fundamental rights of EU citizens," writes the pro-life Euro-Fam in an analysis of the Constitution. "Also, the text does not mention the Christian heritage in Europe and can be interpreted outside of the scope of a culture of life. With the controversy surrounding Prof. Buttiglione recently, it seems that a Christian or pro-life interpretation of human rights has no future in the EU Charter."

Rocco Buttiglione, nominated by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to be Italy's EU commissioner, was recently rejected by Brussels because of his adherence to Catholic teaching on homosexuality. Berlusconi's fate illustrates how radical EU politicians and bureaucrats have become: No one with an alternative viewpoint need apply.

The EU Charter could also be used to impose same-sex marriage on the EU, and even to try to force the Catholic Church to ordain women as priestesses. Slawomir Olejniczak, Chairman of Poland's Fr. Peter Skarga Association for Christian Culture, sent me an English version of a speech he gave in Krakow on Oct. 3, 2004. He was particularly concerned about two provisions in the EU Constitution's Charter of Fundamental Rights. "The first of these refers to discrimination on grounds of so-called sexual orientation. . .which not only prohibits such discrimination but also obliges EU institutions to fight it actively. The other one refers to ensuring and promoting equality between women and men in all areas and to eliminate all inequalities between them. . . . Therefore in accordance with anti-discrimination provisions contained in the Constitution, family law should be extended to include homosexuals. Similarly, ensuring the equality of sexes in all areas shall lead to the obliteration of traditional and natural social roles of men and women. One might say that this is going to be a centrally-managed cultural and moral revolution."

In his last days as Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict said in April, "The fact that the Church is convinced of not having the right to confer priestly ordination on women, is now considered by some as irreconcilable with the European Constitution." This is an indication that this Pope will not hop on the EU bandwagon as readily as his predecessor did.

Some people are already fighting the EU on abortion in other areas. Last year, the European Parliament voted to transfer some foreign aid away from such projects as clean water to population control, defined as including abortion. Jonathan Evans MEP, leader of British Conservative Party members in the European Parliament, told a group of Conservative Party Christians that not only does his party oppose the EU Constitution, "I am strongly opposed to the EU extending its competence into the area of promoting abortion in the developing world. It is my view that the European Parliament should be vigilant about attempts to redefine terms such as 'reproductive rights' to incorporate the promotion of abortion."

The EU Constitution's troubles are an opportunity for pro-life and pro-family Europeans to get the EU out of the pro-death business.

Joseph A. D'Agostino is Vice President for Communications at PRI.