The beginning of 2022 marked the start of the six-month French presidency of the Council of the European Union. On this occasion, French president Emmanuel Macron delivered a rather bland speech, with the exception of one striking part that deserves a quote:
“Twenty years after the proclamation of our Charter of Fundamental Rights, which established the abolition of the death penalty throughout the European Union, I would like us to update the Charter, especially so as to be more explicit about environmental protection and recognition of the right to abortion.”
In this full somersault of logic, the right to life of every human regardless of their deeds was somehow used as an inspiration for the derogation of the right to life of unborn humans.
Approximately 48 hours later, pro-life Europe received another blow. Roberta Metsola, a Maltese MEP (Member of the European Parliament) known for her pro-life views, who was elected President of the European Parliament just one day before the start of the French EU presidency, agreed to sign the pro-abortion Simone Veil pact. This was announced at a joint press conference with Emmanuel Macron.
What does it all mean?
Simone Veil was a Holocaust survivor and health minister of France who wrote the 1975 law that legalized abortion in France. She was elected the first female President of the European Parliament in 1979. The primary aim of the pact named after Veil, promoted by Renew Europe – Macron’s group in the EU Parliament – is to guarantee “women’s access to contraception and abortion, as well as to information and education.” The pact is designed for the members of the EU parliament, and the MEPs who sign it oblige themselves to preserve, promote and strengthen these aims in the EU institutions and at national and local levels. It’s a personal pledge to a certain political agenda.
The European Charter of Fundamental Rights, into which Macron wants to enshrine the right to abortion, is a legally binding document that applies when countries transpose EU directives into their laws. In this aspect, the Charter is different from the European Convention on Human Rights, which impacts the entire legislation of any EU country member. The Charter, whose foundation is the European Convention of Human Rights, was envisaged as a way to provide an overarching practical framework for human rights in the EU and address present-day issues, for instance, the death penalty, data protection and human cloning.
Updating the Charter requires a complex procedure which implies a unanimous decision by the intergovernmental conference that includes representatives from different EU countries, some of which have pro-life legislation. Poland and Malta have pro-life abortion laws, while Hungary has a pro-life constitution simultaneously coexisting with a law that permits elective abortion. Additionally, some countries, like Poland, have previously set up complex opt-out protocols in regards to the Charter.
All of this means that enshrining the right to abortion into the Charter will not go smoothly, and — aside from it serving as yet another form of crude political pressure — its actual effect on Poland, as the largest EU country with a pro-life law, will probably be null.
As the president of the EU Parliament, Roberta Metsola is, however, obliged to respect the decisions of the Parliament. The current composition of the EU Parliament is predominantly pro-choice. In 2021, it adopted The Matić Resolution, aka Matić Report, which explicitly implements abortion as part of sexual and reproduction health rights (SRHR) and goes so far as to bring the right to conscientious objection among medical practitioners into question when it comes to abortion. In September 2021, the Parliament also adopted the Resolution on the Texan SB8, which, according to EU Parliament’s reading (blatantly erroneous in more ways than one): “de facto amounts to a total ban on abortion with no exception for rape, incest or for foetal health conditions incompatible with sustained life after birth, as a strong attack on women’s freedom and SRHR which are fundamental human rights”.
Metsola’s agreement to sign the Simone Veil Pact does not fall into her official obligation as the President of the EU Parliament, and it serves as a pure manifestation of her freshly adopted pro-abortion approach.
While the upcoming decision of the US Supreme Court on Dobbs v. Jackson revolves around the states’ freedom to decide on one of the most important ethical issues of our time, the European superstate is moving in an opposite direction, effectively trying to put pressure on pro-life countries and the entire pro-life movement by politically installing abortion as a non-negotiable right within the broader concept of sexual and reproductive rights, thus forcing identity politics upon the entire debate. And while there is a growing alliance between conservative, moderate and progressive pro-life groups in the US, these current European affairs all rest upon tricking the opposition into a knee-jerk conservative reaction. This has had a tremendous negative impact, presenting the pro-choice stance as a civilised default and the pro-life stance as an “ultraconservative” and “religious extremist” mindset. This strategy is best exemplified by the biased reports from a European Parliament members’ network called European Parliamentary Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Rights, most notably in the Tip of the Iceberg, their fearmongering and defamatory report which was practically used as a lobbying tool for the adoption of the Matić Report.
But this strategy might well backfire, as the arrogant pressure from the EU bodies and the encouraging insights of the increasingly inclusive US pro-life movement might result in the solidification of the pro-life arguments, grounding them firmly in science, relevant philosophy and insightful legal theory. Hopefully, it will also inspire more cooperation between pro-life groups across the EU states and beyond, forming broad international pro-life alliances with a coordinated, well-informed and focused approach.