How the European Union is threatening Ireland's Pro-life Ethos
Ireland is a sovereign nation, and our pro-life laws should be decided by the people. However, the European Union continues to attempt to interfere in Ireland’s pro-life laws, and many recent EU rulings and resolutions have caused serious concern to pro-life people, especially in relation to abortion, euthanasia and embryo research.
In 2009, under extraordinary duress, the Irish people voted to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. That means the European Court of Justice can now use the Charter of Rights attached to the treaty to decide on issues such as abortion. Whether the Court will respect protocols and assurances given on this matter remains to be seen
The EU’s record on life issues is very poor, and powerful figures in the the abortion industry seek to use the Union as a battering ram to smash Ireland’s pro-life laws. The following is a short history of the key events causing concern:
EU Parliament calls for taxpayer-funded abortions
The European Parliament passed a motion calling for European Union member states to legalise abortion and ensure that it is made available at the expense of taxpayers.
The motion, drafted by Marc Tarabella, a Belgian Socialist MEP, on behalf of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, says women must have “easy access to contraception and abortion,” that they “must have access free of charge to consultation on abortion” and member states must “improve women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services”.
Three Irish MEPs - Proinsias De Rossa and Nessa Childers of Labour and Socialist party Joe Higgins voted in favour of the motion. While de Rossa and Higgins are long-time abortion advocates, Childers had denied during the recent EU election that she would support any EU interference in Irish abortion law.
Fianna Fáil's Brian Crowley and Labour's Alan Kelly were not present for the vote. All the other Irish MEPs voted against the motion.
European Parliament rejects bid to stop funding for forced abortions
The EU Parliament has voted against amendments to the EU Budget which would have explicitly prevented projects funded by the EU going towards coercive abortion and sex-selective abortion.
All three Labour MEPs, Nessa Childers, Prionsias De Rossa, Alan Kelly, and Socialist MEP Joe Higgins, voted down the amendments in the EU Parliament last week.
A majority of MEPs voted against Amendment 733, which would have explicitly prevented funding of coercive abortion. Another amendment 732, which would have prevented EU funding being used for projects which fund sex selective abortions, also failed to get enough support from MEPs.
The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) opposed the amendments on the grounds that they were part of what they described as a ‘wider agenda’.
The EU budget is now open to funding programmes such as those supported by groups like International Planned Parenthood Federation who assist the government of China in their coercive population control programme, involving forced abortions.
The EWL also opposed the amendment outlawing gender-based abortion on the basis that “it seeks to lay a basis for considering that a foetus has rights from the ‘moment of conception’ and therefore undermine national provisions which regulate access to termination of pregnancy as well to emergency contraception.”
The EWL also argues that the phrase “at any point after conception” used in the amendment “is a phrase used by some extremist, religiously-inspired groups and individuals who oppose access to legal abortion.”
MEP describes Ireland’s pro-life laws as “medieval and terrifying”
Birgitta Ohlsson of the Swedish Liberal party, has launched a campaign to use the provisions of the Lisbon treaty to have abortion recognised as a human right throughout the EU. Ms Ohlsson described Ireland’s abortion laws as “medieval and terrifying”, and has launched a group called Make Noise for Free Choice which plans to obtain the 1m signatures required for its demands to be considered by the European commission under the terms of the citizens initiative proposed under the new EU treaty.
Pro-sovereignty organization Cóir described the attempt by Swedish politicians to use the Lisbon Treaty to call for the legalization of abortion in Ireland as “profoundly undemocratic but very revealing”.
The campaign led by Ohlsson was highly critical of Ireland’s pro-life stance and wants to use the EU to put pressure on the Irish government, and the governments of Malta and Poland, adding that the EU ‘should work to make the right to an abortion a human right.’
Cóir said that the campaign displayed a “contempt for democracy which is the hallmark of abortion campaigners who wish to change the law against the wishes of the majority of the people.”
Ms Ohlsson’s colleague in the campaign, Sophie in't Veld is a member of the ALDE group in the EU Parliament, a grouping with which Fianna Fáil became allied in 2009.
Catania resolution passed by EU Parliament calls for guaranteed access to abortion
Pro-life advocates expressed concern when members of the European Parliament approved a resolution that could be used to promote abortion throughout the EU.
Proposed by Giusto Catania, an Italian Communist MEP, the measure called on each of the 27 member states to legally guarantee access to "sexual and reproductive rights" - terms universally accepted as including abortion.
Catania based his motion on the Charter of Fundamental Rights, part of the Lisbon treaty, before the charter or the treaty became law.
The resolution also called on nations to use taxpayer funds to pay for such reproductive health services for "ethnic minority women" -- which could pressure countries to fund abortions against the will of their citizens.
Pro-life activists said that the resolution violated national laws on conscientious objection to abortion and on public funding for abortion
The vote is the first since many pro-life members of the European Parliament formed a new Human Dignity working group to promote the pro-life perspective on abortion and bioethics issues.
With the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the MEPs believed more cohesive efforts are needed to protect people from abortion and other anti-life practices.
EU pushes for abortion ‘rights’ at UN
The governments of Ireland, Poland and Malta broke ranks with the European Union on the question of abortion after the EU tried to shift the agenda of a UN meeting to include the right to abortion.
The dissention occurred at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) which convened it's annual two-week meeting at UN headquarters in New York.
CFam said that the split in the European Union was significant because the EU hardly ever splits on questions of social policy at the UN. “Even countries that are generally anti-abortion go along with the more radical approach taken by the United Kingdom, France and Germany,” they said. “They do this as an agreement that the EU will always work out their differences behind closed doors and present a united front at UN negotiations. This works to the advantage of the pro-abortion states since they outnumber the anti-abortion states.”
In fact, the last time the EU split in any significant way was in the UN cloning debate which resulted in the UN calling for the ban of all forms of human cloning, an effort opposed by the UK, France, Germany and other left-wing European governments.
EU Threatens to Withdraw Aid to Nicaragua if Pro-Life Law Remains
Representatives from the European Union threatened the government of Nicaragua to reverse its recent law which unilaterally forbids abortion under any circumstances. According to a report from the Catholic News Agency, the EU representation said that economic assistance to the country would be withdrawn if the abortion law is not reversed.
Nicaragua’s new abortion law was unanimously voted in by the Nicaraguan Legislature in October, 2006 and signed into law by then President Enrique Bolanos the following month. Nicaragua’s new president, Daniel Ortega voiced his support of the pro-life law in his election campaign.
Marc Litvine, the EU representative to Nicaragua, said that the EU regards legalized abortion as “linked to aid programs against poverty and to the rights of women”. He expressed hope that “the new government will be capable of opening the debate and discussing it outside the passion of the electoral season.”
According to an interview published in Managua’s El Nuevo Diario newspaper, Litvine said that the EU is “concerned” about the recent law. Litvine also accused the supporters of the law of pushing it through in a “hurried” fashion in the days leading up to the election.
Litvine commented on the new government and its support of the pro-life legislation saying, “That’s where I see one of the contradictions of the new government; it claims to be progressive, very modern, and it is going backwards because for us [the pro-life law] is a step back.”
EU Group promote euthanasia
In July 2007 the ALDE (parliamentary) group held a conference in Brussels promoting euthanasia, entitled, Medically assisted dying and euthanasia - a matter of human rights. The aim of the conference was to place euthanasia and medically assisted dying at the centre of the current political, ethical, legal and public debate in Europe and elsewhere.
It focused on very emotional cases such as Diane Pretty and others in order to argue a "right to die in dignity", claiming that public sympathy was swinging in favour of euthanasia.
The liberal group spokesperson, Swedish MP Tina Acketoft also told the Council of Europe in April in 2008 that she was fully in favour of the legalisation of abortion throughout European Union.
Fianna Fáil joined the ALDE group in 2009.
European Parliament approves embryonic stem cell research funding
The European Parliament voted on June 15th to give approval to funding embryonic stem cell research as part of its plan on financing scientific research.
The issue was highly divisive in the parliament. The motions on embryonic stem cell research had majorities ranging from just 15 to 51 votes in the 732-seat parliament.
The funding resolution then went to the Council of Ministers for approval (see below). Independent MEP Kathy Sinnott criticised the move, arguing that it would put counties who haven't already legislated under pressure to allow embryonic stem cell research.
EU Ministers vote for research using human embryos – with Fianna Fáil support
The EU’s Council of Ministers – including Irish Minister Micheál Martin - voted to extend taxpayer funding from the 7th Framework Programme for experimentation on embryonic humans. The measure allocated a further €50.5 million to embryo research over a six-year period. Austria, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland and Slovakia rejected the proposal.
Micheál Martin, defended his vote by saying: “We have to face up to the challenges of contemporary science, and we have to respect the rights of other member states. It is a delicate but workable compromise between different viewpoints,” he said.
The proposal allowed researchers to purchase stem cell lines from embryos killed by independent contractors, meaning that Irish taxpayers were now funding research causing the death of human embryos in other EU member states.
Such research is only allowed in three EU countries, Britain, Belgium and Sweden. Eight such projects have been funded in the seven year programme prior to 2006.
MEPs ask EU Commission not to fund embryo research
In an open letter 73 MEPs asked the EU Commission President Barroso not to include funding for embryo research in the 7th Research Framework Programme (RFP).
They pointed out that on March 10th 2005 the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the Trade in Human Egg-Cells which asked the Commission to:
“apply the subsidiarity principle in connection with other forms of embryo research and embryonic stem cell research so that member States in which this kind of research is legal fund it from their national budgets;
and to “consider that EU funding should concentrate on alternatives like somatic stem cell and umbilical cord stem cell research which are accepted in all member States and have already led to successful treatment of patients."
However the EU Commission ignored both the resolution and the letter and included funding for embryo research in their 7th Framework Programme (see 2006)
Sandbaek resolution: Irish taxes pay for abortion in developing countries
The EU made several unwelcome intrusions into Ireland’s pro-life ethos in 2003, beginning in January with the Sandbaek report/resolution. This was a European parliament document intended to be the blueprint for EU international aid over the next five years. The report directs that "the [European] community shall provide financial assistance and appropriate expertise with a view to promoting the recognition of reproductive and sexual rights…and universal access to a comprehensive range of safe and reliable reproductive and sexual health services." In EU parlance, reproductive services always include abortion.
Dana Rosemary Scallon, MEP for Connacht/Ulster at the time, said that Irish taxpayers would be forced to contribute to a European Union initiative to provide abortions throughout the developing world, even though abortion was unconstitutional in Ireland.
The report supported a dramatic increase in EU funding for “reproductive services”, recommending that EU spending in this area should rise by at least 72 per cent, and perhaps as much as 300 per cent, even though total EU international aid during the same period will rise by only 1 or 2 per cent. In fact, to offset increased spending on reproductive services, the EU would be forced to eliminate funding for elementary education in the developing world.
A vote on the Sandbaek report within the European Parliament was postponed a number of times, as pro-life parliamentarians, led by Dana Rosemary Scallon attempted to add amendments to the document. One amendment sought to establish that abortion was not a reproductive service, while another sought assurance that EU money would not be used for abortions. Both amendments were vigorously contested, thereby reinforcing the opinion of European pro-life organizations that the report was intended to promote and fund abortion.
The report established a EU regulation, which was, according to Scallon, "the strongest EU law, directly applicable and binding in all EU Member States without the need for any national implementing legislation or, in this case, even national debate. “
On 13th February, the European Parliament adopted the Sandbaek Report, ensuring that Irish taxes now fund abortions in developing countries.
EU Funds Marie Stopes
In January 2003, the European Union confirmed that €50 million has been diverted from the EU's fisheries budget to Marie Stopes International (MSI), a worldwide promoter and provider of abortion.
Mrs Dana Rosemary Scallon, MEP, revealed the news in a statement from Strasbourg. She had already alerted Mr Struan Stevenson, chairman of the EU Fisheries Committee, to the information, and he expressed deep concern after receiving confirmation from an official at the EU's fisheries secretariat.
Dana described the diversion of funds to MSI as "totally unacceptable" and said: "At a time when our fishermen are facing severe economic hardship and suffering financial loss, there are serious questions to be answered."
EU votes to lift ban on embryo stem cell research – Council of Ministers then postpones decision
The European Parliament voted narrowly in November to approve an EU Commission proposal which granted funding to controversial lethal research on human embryos. The MEPs approved the European Union's 6th Framework Programme provided more than €16 billion in research funding for such areas as genomics, biotechnology, information society technologies, food safety and global change – and included funds earmarked for embryo research.
Previously the EU the Competitiveness Council had refused to agree to EU support for human reproductive cloning and the creation of human embryos solely for the purpose of research or stem cell procurement.
The Council decided that research which was forbidden in any member state would not be supported by Community funding in that state. Italy, Germany and Austria objected to any funding for stem cell research, so a moratorium was imposed to allow for further consideration of the issue.
However, an Irish Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment briefing note dated September 11 2003 said research involving stem cells was a promising area of biotechnology which offered the prospect of developing new ways of treating serious chronic diseases.
The briefing note said that Ireland did not consider it appropriate to object to such research being carried out in member states "where it is deemed to be both legal and ethical".
On 6th November, a key Dáil committee voted to reject the European Commission proposal that EU funds be used to pay for embryo research. The Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business also agreed to ask the Tánaiste, to attend the committee and explain the Government's decision to back the EU Commission's view, which favoured funding embryo research.
On November 19th the following Irish MEPs voted for the funding Mary Banotti (FG), Pat Cox (IND), John Cushnahan (FG), Proinsias De Rossa (LAB), Avril Doyle (FG), John McCartin (FG)
On 3rd December, the Council of Ministers met to discuss the proposal. When they could not agree on any compromise the European Commission, which has twenty members, intervened to say that there were now taking control of the issue (see 2005 and 2006 when the EU Commission then raised this funding again in the 7th Framework Programme).
Van Lancker resolution adopted – EU call for abortion in every state including Ireland
A resolution put forward by the EU Committee on Women's Rights which called for “national irregularities” within the EU on abortion to be abolished was approved by the EU Parliament.
The Van Lancker resolution included a paragraph stating that: "[the European parliament] recommends that, in order to safeguard women's reproductive health and rights, abortion should be made legal, safe and accessible to all."
It described abortion as “a public health necessity and a fundamental component of women's rights”.
Vote on embryo research postponed
The Council of Ministers of the European Union adopted the specific programmes of the 6th Framework Programme for Research 2002-2006 in September 2002. It had a total budget of €17.5 million.
The Commission proposed to deal with guidelines for research projects using human embryos and stem cells following a one-year moratorium. Only Italy opposed the programme that included research involving human embryos. Spain, Portugal, Germany and Austria left the blocking minority they formerly formed with Italy. The Irish government also voted for this scheme which has opened the way for destructive experiments on child-embryos and human cloning using Irish taxpayers’ monies. Although the government had known about the proposal for more than a year, the stance Ireland would take was not even discussed in the Dáil.
Germany, Austria and Portugal expressed reservation and called for a renewal and continuation of the moratorium in the same spirit after the first year (research limited to existing stem-cells). The moratorium, initially pushed by the Danish Presidency of the union, gave the Commission the initiative to organise the debates, to compile their conclusions and to elaborate from them concrete political guidelines at the end of the moratorium, which would then be voted on in December 2003 by the Council of Ministers, according to article 166.4 of the EC Treaty.
EU reject ban on embryo research
Moves to ban public funding for human embryo research were rejected by the European Parliament, clearing the way for European Union plans to finance stem cell research.
The parliament voted by an overwhelming majority to reject the report by Italian conservative Francesco Fiori which called for a ban on funding for embryo research.
The report, which was rejected following a heated debate, had been heavily amended.
Although non-binding on the EU, in its original form the document could have interfered with the EU's plans to spend 2.15 billion euros ($1.91 billion) over the next four years on health-related genetic research.
Around 300 million euros of this was planned to go to research on aborted embryos and so-called ‘spare’ embryos from in-vitro fertilisation.