Bishops Decry European Parliament Resolution on Polish Abortion Law

Bishops Decry European Parliament Resolution on Polish Abortion Law

The European bishops have written a stern letter rebuking the European Parliament for its chastisement of Poland over a law preventing eugenic abortions.

In October 2020, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal outlawed abortions on the basis of fetal anomalies, insisting that there can be “no protection of the dignity of an individual without the protection of life.”

While previously, babies with Down syndrome and other anomalies could be legally aborted in Poland, the court declared that aborting a child because of probable birth defects constituted eugenics, an effort to purify the race by purging society of the weak and undesirable.

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The following month, the European Parliament (EP) intervened, issuing a formal resolution in which it “strongly condemns the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling and the setback to women’s SRHR in Poland.”

The ruling “puts women’s health and lives at risk,” the resolution stated, by limiting “access to safe and legal abortion in Poland,” adding that “universal access to healthcare and SRHR [which include abortion] are fundamental human rights.”

The resolution went on to insist “that the performance of an abortion should not be included in the criminal code, as this has a chilling effect on doctors who refrain from providing SRHR services out of fear of criminal sanctions.”

In their letter this week, the leaders of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) took issue with the EP resolution, insisting “that neither European Union legislation nor the European Convention on Human Rights provide for a right to abortion.”

The bishops also accuse the EP of overstepping its mandate and usurping authority that resides in European Union member states.

“A fundamental principle of the European Union is the principle of conferral, under which the Union shall act only within the limits of the competences conferred upon it by the Member States in the Treaties to attain the objectives set out therein,” they recall.

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The rule of law “requires respect for the competences of the Member States and the choices made by them in the exercise of their exclusive competences,” the bishops assert.

“COMECE is also alarmed about the fact that the Resolution seems to question the fundamental right to conscientious objection, which is an emanation of freedom of conscience,” the letter states. “This is particularly worrying considering that in the healthcare sector conscientious objectors are in many cases subject to discrimination.”

“In our view, such unjust stigmatization should not be promoted,” they add.

The bishops also underscore the importance of fundamental rights that risk being swept away in favor of partisan preferences.

“It is necessary to consider fundamental rights — like freedom of thought, conscience and religion — in the light of their universality, inviolability, inalienability, indivisibility and interdependence,” they note. “In regard to the right to conscientious objection, the European Union Charter entails the need to respect national constitutional traditions and the development of national legislation on the issue.”

They also express concern “that the principle of non-discrimination could be used to stretch or blur the limits of the competences of the European Union.”

The bishops voiced their regret that while condemning Poland’s legitimate exercise of its sovereignty, the EP did not bother to denounce “the unacceptable attacks on Churches and places of worship in the context of protests related to this law in Poland.”

We consider this matter crucial, they conclude, “aware as we are that the Resolution will have a very negative impact on the way the Union is perceived by Member States.”

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Thomas D. Williams Ph.D.