April 18, 2024

European Parliament deputies call for abortion to be made a ‘fundamental right’

France’s decision to include a right to abortion in its constitution has revived moves to include it in European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. “Deciding about one’s own body is a fundamental right: there is no equality if women cannot do so; it is impossible without the right to abortion,” said Karen Melchior, a Danish Member of the European Parliament. 

There is a snag. Amending the Charter requires a unanimous vote from all members of the EU. It is unlikely that Poland, Malta, or Hungary, at least, would agree. So despite speeches by activists, it is unlikely that the EU will be following in France’s footsteps.

Not everyone in France has welcomed the abortion amendment. Nicolas Bauer, a lawyer for the European Centre for Law & Justice, was interviewed by L’Homme Nouveau, a French newspaper, about the change. He believes that it will weaken doctors’ right to conscientious objection. 

Currently, the exercise of the conscience clause does not prevent the freedom to resort to abortion in France. There is therefore no competition between these two “freedoms.” But, if one day the majority of healthcare professionals become “conscientious objectors,” as in Italy, the conscience clause will hinder access to abortion. In the event of a dispute initiated by a woman wishing to have an abortion, the Constitutional Council could then declare this clause unconstitutional.

This type of dispute can be deliberately provoked by associations. It is common. We call these cases “strategic litigation.” They are created from scratch and aim not at protecting a “victim” but to demonstrate that the law prevents access to a certain “right.” Now that abortion is a “guaranteed freedom” at a constitutional level, it is likely that associations will seek to target objecting healthcare providers in order to repeal the conscience clause…

After this constitutionalization, will opposing abortion be considered contrary to the laws of the Republic”? Some associations, like Civitas have been dissolved on the grounds that they opposed the republican regime. If the pro-life discourse becomes “anti-republican,” it could be strongly repressed.