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Statement by the COMECE Secretariat on the adoption by the European Parliament of a Report on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
The Secretariat of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) regrets the adoption by the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 3 July 2002, by 280 votes to 240 with 28 abstentions, of the report by Anne van Lancker MEP on sexual and reproductive health and rights (A5-0223/2002). The COMECE Secretariat has followed the drafting of this report and the discussion surrounding it with close interest and concern.
The report raises some serious issues. We therefore find it all the more regrettable that these issues are obscured by a number of polemical assertions based on the questionable conclusions of what the report itself admits is inadequate research. We especially regret that the report calls for abortion to be made legal and for the morning-after pill to be made more accessible in all Member States and Accession Countries. We also regret the contradiction between the report's assurances of respect for subsidiarity and an inclusive approach to sexual health on the one hand, and its espousal of a reductive approach to the delivery of sexual and reproductive health services in the Member States and Accession Countries on the other.
The Catholic Church considers the health of all women, men and children, at all stages of their life, to be of the utmost importance. It advocates a holistic approach based on a combination of medical care, education and personal responsibility, and supports this through hospitals, schools, community centers and other projects. With regard to abortion, the Catholic Church teaches that human life begins from the moment of conception: abortion is wrong because it denies the right of the unborn human being to life. This does not detract from the Church's support for the fundamental human right of women to live in dignity and security.
The European Union has no powers or responsibilities regarding abortion or any issue related to the delivery of sexual and reproductive healthcare. These issues remain the exclusive competence of the Member States, as was confirmed by David Byrne, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, during the debate on this report in Parliament on 2 July. Whilst this principle is also recognized in the first paragraph of the report, it is contradicted in the rest. It is regrettable and inappropriate that the Parliament should seek to influence the policies of not only Member States, but also Accession Countries, in an area for which it has no responsibility.
This report will not change the legislation or policy of the European Union, its Member States or the Accession Countries. However, we fear that this report will send two messages that can only serve to discredit the Parliament. Either it will give the impression that the Parliament wishes to impose on Member States and Accession Countries policies on which they have the exclusive, democratic right to decide. Or it will promote the suspicion that the Parliament has no more urgent business than to produce reports on issues for which it has no competence. We hope that neither of these is true, but the adoption of this report does little to promote confidence among citizens in the democratic decision-making process of the European Union.
These are complex and sensitive ethical issues that deserve to be addressed seriously and with respect at the appropriate level. Given that this report was drafted at the own initiative of the Committee on Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities of the European Parliament, without reference either to a specific legislative proposal or to the practical application of sexual and reproductive healthcare in a local context, its conclusions are inevitably of an ideological character. However, we should like to emphasize that abusive and offensive language and behavior, which has been targeted at both sides in this debate, only serves to undermine the cause of those who use it. In particular, we believe that those who claim to be fighting for the right to life should treat their fellow human beings with respect.
[Text in English sent to ZENIT by COMECE]