Does a “Right to Abortion” Take Priority over the Freedom of Conscience?

Vienna, September 29, 2021 – In June 2021, members of the European Parliament endorsed, by a vote of 378-255, a report on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights prepared by Croatian MEP Predrag Fred Matić.  The “Matić Report” called for the universal access to safe and legal abortion throughout the European Union.   

The Forum for Religious Freedom Europe (FOREF) takes no position regarding the legality of abortion, believing this is a contentious moral issue best decided at levels close to community standards.

However, we are compelled to respond to the Matić Report based on two principles:

  1. There is no “human right to abortion.” 
MEP Predrag Fred MATIĈ (Croatia) giving a speech at the European Parliament (Photo: Evangelical Focus)

A human right to abortion is a fiction created by the United Nations committee that monitors compliance with the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  Under the influence of a lobbying campaign in the 1990s, the CEDAW Committee interpreted Article 12 of the Convention, which compels States Parties to the treaty to “eliminate discrimination against women…in order to ensure…access to health care services, including those related to family planning,” to conclude that a right to abortion is essential to the “equality of men and women” in access to health care.

  1. The core human right to freedom of conscience should protect any individual from being forced by law to participate in or fund abortions, which are widely disallowed in many religious traditions.

Paragraph 34 of the Report states:

[F]or personal reasons, individual medical practitioners may invoke a conscience clause… however…an individual’s conscience clause may not interfere with a patient’s right to full access to healthcare and services; calls on the Member States and healthcare providers to take such circumstances into account in their geographical provision of healthcare services… (emphasis added)

The language clearly suggests that a “right to abortion” could be invoked to force a medical doctor or nurse to perform the procedure even against his or her conscience.

The Matić Report also:

  • Calls on EU member states to ensure that pro-life organizations are not allowed to provide information or enlightenment
  • Member states (that is, taxpayers) must provide state funding for abortion
  • Restrictions on abortion are to be declared illegal

FOREF urges citizens and government of the European Union, whatever their views on the morality or abortion may be, to reject this approach as one that threatens the freedom of religion.  We believe the Matić Report constitutes a dangerous step away from basic human rights that should protect our freedom to form a moral orientation, and to live peacefully in accordance with our faith.


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