By Alex Newman
STOCKHOLM, Sweden – While abortion is legal throughout much of Europe, the public and elected officials in several countries – Ireland, Malta and Poland primarily – remain committed to protecting the right to life of unborn children.
But they are in a war, having to fight off big-spending lobby groups and transnational quasi-governmental institutions such as the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe, which are working to establish abortion-on-demand everywhere.
That means, according to legal experts and policymakers who discussed the issue with WND, utilizing court rulings that draw a tighter noose around pro-life countries – forcing them to “clarify” laws regarding who may abort children and under what circumstances.
In Ireland, even the constitution protects the lives of unborn children.
Voters there already have rejected legalized abortion in referendums, with the termination of pregnancy allowed only to protect the life of the mother.
Poland has a pro-life policy, even though it has a few more exceptions, such as protecting the health of the mother, cases of rape or if the unborn child has serious defects.
But if the ECHR and the abortion lobby get their way, those narrow exceptions – already widely criticized by pro-life activists in both countries — eventually will become loopholes so giant that aborting children might just as well be legalized completely, experts told WND.
At the end of 2010, the ECHR ruled on the case A., B. and C. v. Ireland, a suit brought by three women against the Irish government’s pro-life laws.
Pro-life activists and abortion supporters alike suspected the Strasbourg-based court might try to pull a Roe v. Wade, creating a purported “right” to abortion out of thin air.
It did not.
However, the verdict condemned the Irish government for not having a clear method for determining whether a woman qualified for an abortion under the “life of the mother” exception.
Even before that landmark ruling, Poland also found itself in the crosshairs at the ECHR for its pro-life laws in the 2007 Tysiac v. Poland case.
In that case, a woman with an eye disease sought to abort her unborn child to protect her vision. Doctors refused to provide permission, and the child was born.
The ECHR awarded damages to the plaintiff, who was refused authorization to terminate her pregnancy based on the existing exemptions.
Child born as result of human rights violation?
In his dissenting opinion, then-ECHR Judge Francisco Javier Borrego blasted the ruling, concluding that “the court has decided that a human being was born as a result of a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.”
“According to this reasoning, there is a Polish child, currently 6 years old, whose right to be born contradicts the convention,” Borrego continued. “I would never have thought that the convention would go so far, and I find it frightening.”
Commenting on the more recent ruling against Ireland, Borrego told WND that the case was “truly surprising” as well.
“Three demands, without any probative documentary support whatsoever, constitute a case that is examined by the Grand Chamber,” he said, referring to the full court. “Never in the history of the European tribunal has something like this occurred.
“The European Convention on Human Rights does not confer on the European Court of Human Rights the status of a European Parliament that can impose concrete laws on member States,” Borrego concluded.
Other experts involved in the two landmark rulings and the pro-life cause agreed, expressing shock and dismay that European institutions were usurping powers in a stealthy effort to impose abortion.
“In these two cases, the court tried to favor greatly the expression and the freedom of the women, without directly confronting the state’s right to submit abortion to strict conditions,” noted Grégor Puppinck, director of the pro-life European Centre for Law and Justice, which regularly files briefs with the ECHR and has intervened on the issue in defense of the unborn.
“To that end, the court stated that if the state decides to authorize abortion, even exceptionally, it should create a coherent legal framework and a procedure allowing women to establish effectively their ‘right’ to abortion,” Puppinck continued.
Imposing abortion indirectly
Abortion is not imposed directly on Ireland and Poland, but through the “peripheral way of the procedural obligations” that guarantee not a substantial “right to abortion,” but a “procedural right” of knowing whether a person fulfills the legal criteria to secure the “right” to access abortion.
In other words, according to Puppinck, the ECHR – while acknowledging that the European Convention on Human Rights does not purport to enshrine any alleged “right” to abortion – essentially claimed that because Ireland and Poland offer exceptions to the prohibition on abortion, the “right” to abortion falls within the scope of the European rights convention.
To comply with the court’s recommendations, Ireland is expected to follow Poland’s lead by creating a so-called “committee of experts” that will decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not a woman qualifies for a legal abortion under the existing legal exemptions.
The United Nations, the abortion lobby and various European institutions, meanwhile, are trying to affect the composition of the committees, seeking fewer medical professionals who use objective criteria in favor of lawyers, activists and others who would be more likely to broaden the scope of the exemptions.
Finally, if the committee decides that a woman does not meet the legal requirements to obtain an abortion, she should be able to appeal the decision to a judicial body, according to European institutions, thereby making judges the final arbiters of who lives and dies.
“Thus, the final interpretative power of the conditions for access to abortion will be transferred to the judicial power and ultimately to the European Court of Human Rights,” Puppinck explained. “With such a mechanism, the European Court would soon be called on to decide on the reasons for decisions of refusal of those committees.”
There is a risk, then, that the ECHR will eventually impose legalized abortion on Ireland and Poland using dubious legal reasoning and underhanded tactics, Puppinck believes.
Indeed, the Council of Europe is already making moves in that direction, with a December 2012 meeting of delegates to the Committee of Ministers urging Ireland to speed up its implementation of the ECHR ruling. The next meeting on the issue will be held in March.
“What was consistent with the [European Human Rights] Convention for 30 years suddenly is no longer,” Puppinck told WND.
He added that the convention had not changed, only the “cultural circumstances as perceived by the court.”
“So today, the European Convention provides the legal basis to condemn countries that have not yet legalized practices that did not exist in 1950, or even which were strictly penalized,” he noted. “Countries are thus condemned for not having liberalized abortion.”
The implications of the European Convention’s reasoning are troubling, Puppinck and other experts told WND.
“In fact, all these subjects are of natural morality, and it is surprising that the last word on the matter belongs now to an international court; and that the majority of the judges of an international court can overturn a decision from the national parliaments, and even from the referendum,” said Puppinck.
The prominent pro-life attorney also said that the court is no longer dealing just with matters of justice.
Now, the ECHR has assumed a new role as the self-styled “conscience of Europe” – hence the court’s efforts to advance its ideological views on morality that are at odds with history, law, tradition and the beliefs of much of the population.
“The ECHR’s human rights doctrine claims itself as the exclusive moral foundation of social life in our European modern liberal civilization,” Puppinck noted. “It occupies the place of ultimate standard of reference, a place left vacant by the decline of religion.
“Human rights have become a quasi-religion and the European Court is its Curia, it is a moral authority with a relativist mindset, armed with a real temporal power,” he added. “No other civil or religious institution ever had so much power in all European history.”
Pointing out that Ireland has already voted against abortion three times in referendums, Puppinck said the Council of Europe is determined to bring the Irish people into the abortionist camp, even if it means using dubious rulings from a transnational court.
He also cited a series of ECHR rulings over the last decade related to its current effort to expand legalized abortion and broader plans to impose “progressive” morality on the peoples of Europe.
WND reported on one of those cases recently, Cassar vs. Malta, in which the ECHR was asked to stop its radical “social engineering” in a key case about “transgender marriage.”
Legal experts pointed out to WND, however, that the ECHR is hardly unique.
Remarks offered in 2009 by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in “Mullahs of the West: Judges as Moral Arbiters,” for example, blasted some of the dubious rulings on moral questions by the ECHR.
Scalia also noted, though, that his own court is doing the same in America.
“The European Court of Human Rights does not, of course, stand alone in making value-laden judgments for the society,” the conservative-leaning justice explained.
“My court does it all the time. Roe v. Wade is perhaps the prime example, requiring abortion-on-demand throughout the United States,” Scalia said. “But there are many more examples.”
No basis in the law
Aleksander Stępkowski, a law professor at the University of Warsaw, agrees that there is no basis in law for the ECHR’s efforts to expand abortion in pro-life nations.
“The European Convention on Human Rights does protect human life in Article 2, and it has no provision which should authorize abortion,” said Stępkowski, who also is chairman of history of political and legal thought and director of the Ordo Iuris Legal Centre.
“Unfortunately, we live in times when the text of an international convention is not so important as it might be assumed,” he told WND.
The highly respected Polish pro-life leader noted with dismay that the original intent of the European convention and even the document’s plain wording are not considered the most important factors in deciding cases.
Instead, the aims and goals of the convention’s contemporary interpreters have become paramount, Stępkowski explained.
“This process is authorized by a judge-made approach to the convention as a ‘living document’,” he added, striking a parallel with similar arguments used in the United States by progressives today.
Similar to the U.S., Stępkowski said that using this reasoning, the court began to consider the right to life irrelevant in cases related to abortion, instead focusing on a woman’s “right to privacy.”
It’s the same rationale used by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that struck down state laws criminalizing abortion.
The ECHR and activist judges acting as moral arbiters, however, are not the only source of the problem.
Stepkowski explained that the pressure on Ireland and Poland to make abortion widely accessible is possible due to legislative clauses authorizing exceptional cases in which abortion can be performed without penalty.
The ECHR has no authority to demand the legalization of abortion, but it has seized on the “highly controversial and unnecessary” exceptions to make its case, according to Stępkowski.
European transnational bodies such as the Council of Europe and the ECHR are seeking to create a procedure for a woman to “appeal” if she is denied an abortion based on one of the existing exemptions.
The decision-making board, apparently inspired by World Health Organization documents, would consist not just of doctors and medical specialists but also “women’s rights activists” and lawyers, according to European institutions and the abortion lobby.
“The aim is to take into account not only medical premises but also some more subjective issues based on a specifically considered ‘compassion,’” Stępkowski said, such as serious child defects.
Stepkowski noted that even those who accept the “barbarous eugenic perspective” that children can be aborted due to defects, draw a line sometimes and repudiate, for example, the killing of an unborn child with two fingers fused together.
‘Barbarous eugenic perspective’
Stępkowski said the “slow acceptance of a more and more liberal reading of statutory provision authorizing abortion in some cases has already started and it has powerful support from the Council of Europe.”
The only way to solve the problem, he told WND, is to completely ban all abortion, with all of the exceptional situations considered in terms of the general necessity principle.
Like other legal experts, he pointed out that Malta – a deeply conservative nation that has no exceptions authorizing abortion – is not facing the same types of problems plaguing Poland and Ireland.
“If a country authorizes the evil of abortion even to a very limited extent, in fact it opens the way to its gradual acceptance,” he added.
As such, Polish lawmakers already are working to ban abortion completely. In 2011, a comprehensive ban was just about to pass through Parliament, but extraordinary political maneuvering ultimately stopped it.
Efforts to completely ban abortion, however, are still marching onward, with Stępkowski’s Ordo Luris Law Centre helping lead the way by providing the legal and philosophical arguments.
He characterizes abortion “nothing but violence of the more powerful upon the weaker.” as Stępkowski put it.
‘Committee’ decides on abortion?
In Ireland, pro-life leader and former Irish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Kathy Sinnott expressed similar concerns about the ECHR rulings and the increasing pressure on her nation to expand access to abortion.
In a phone interview with WND, Sinnott said one of the major dangers in the ECHR ruling was that the recommended “committee” to decide whether a woman qualifies for abortion under the exception for the life of the mother could claim that suicidal thoughts are a valid justification.
“If they include suicide, it’s just a matter of a woman ticking the ‘suicide’ box,” she explained, pointing out that studies show abortion actually increases the risk of suicide. “Any given case, they could just tick the box ‘suicide’ and get their abortion.”
Along with other leaders and MEPs, Sinnott, who filed a brief in the ECHR case with the European Center for Law and Justice, is fighting hard to ensure that the Irish government does not respond to the A. B. and C. v. Ireland ruling in a way that would not be compatible with the established right to life or the democratically expressed wishes of the people.
“They see Ireland as out of line,” she said of various European transnational entities, noting that her nation has the right of referendum and was given explicit but largely “useless” guarantees by European bodies that they would not attempt to impose abortion on the Irish people.
“Europe is well aware of two things: One, that we are pro-life, and that we have a right of referendum and can block them at any point,” Sinnott said.
“However, from being in the Parliament, I know that they would like everybody on the same page,” she added.
She pointed to various mechanisms being used in Europe and worldwide to legalize and expand abortion.
“They absolutely think we’re crazy.”
Sinnott also expressed serious concerns about Europe’s direction on pro-life issues, highlighting, among other examples, that commonsense measures to block taxpayer funding for coercive abortion, infanticide or forced sterilization abroad are consistently defeated at the European Union.
She blasted “Europhile” politicians and said that the means used by domestic and European pro-abortion forces to coerce Ireland into legalizing the practice were troubling.
“The determination with which they’re doing it, and the lack of democracy with which they’re doing it, is very European,” Sinnott added, referring to transnational institutions’ infamous lack of public accountability.
WND reported last year that the European Union, which is separate from the Council of Europe and its ECHR but still closely related, has long been trying to force its radical views on member states.
Even countries like Switzerland, which has refused to join the EU, are being targeted by European institutions for having low taxes, decentralized government and other policies at odds with supranational institutions’ demands.