Two Cheers for Pro-Life Europe

Most Americans, particularly political conservatives, would be shocked to learn that pagan Europe is often better than Christian America on the life issues. We typically think Europe is exponentially further out on the pelvic left. On some issues – like homosexual marriage – they are. But on the life issues, not so much.

Two European countries, Malta and Ireland, outlaw abortion outright. In countries where abortion is legal, they have gestational limits on abortion that would give Leroy Carhart an aneurism. European gestational limits would put Carhart’s partial-birth abortion practice into immediate receivership. And good riddance.

On cloning, European sensibilities and laws are far better than here. A conservative state like Missouri allows for cloning of human beings as long as they are embryos killed for their stem cells. Such a thing would be anathema in Germany and other countries over there.

What about physician-assisted suicide? It is legal in Washington, Oregon, and Montana, but is allowed almost everywhere else in the United States where patients, now routinely, have their feeding tubes removed. While it is fully legal in the Netherlands, there have been numerous reports in the European press, which is just as liberal as here but honest on the issue, of massive abuses towards those who are put down without asking for it. But breaking news out of the Council of Europe shows that, on this creepy practice of “mercy killings,” the true heart of Europe beats more with Catholic Social Teaching than with the Third Reich.

A coalition led by the remarkable Italian MP Luca Volonté has managed to get a resolution passed out of the Parliament Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) that says, “euthanasia must always be banned.”

So, what is the Council of Europe? It is forty-seven member states dedicated to protecting the rights established by the European Convention on Human Rights. Don’t confuse it with the so-called European Institutions that purport to rule twenty-seven European states from shiny new buildings in Brussels. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t already know that. Even Europeans get confused about this plethora of largely non-democratic bodies.

The PACE resolution, which passed just two days ago, sets the rather startling principle that “Euthanasia, in the sense of intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or his alleged benefit, must always be prohibited.” That might seem obvious enough but try to get a similar declaration out of the U.S. Congress.

             Italian MP Luca Volonté: fighting the good fight 

The PACE resolution deals specifically with living wills and advance directives, documents crafted by healthy patients intended to guide their care when incapacitated. Advocates like Gregor Puppinck, who runs the Strasbourg-based European Center for Law and Justice, point out that living wills and advance directives are often used against patients and allow for “backdoor” mercy killings. The new resolution sets out a series of principles that should govern the practice in the member states of the Council of Europe. One of the principles is that “in case of doubt, the decision must always be pro-life and in favor of the prolongation of life.”

The bad news is the resolution is not binding on the forty-seven member states. Puppinck believes, however, that it will have an “influence on the legislative process and on the judicial process, especially on the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.” He points out the Assembly “recommends that the Committee of Ministers [the national ambassadors in Strasbourg], bring the resolution to the attention of member states, with a request for implementation.” That is not as far-fetched and toothless as it seems. The Nazis made Europeans far more allergic to such things than we are.

Calling the resolution “a major victory for the protection of life and dignity” Puppinck expects that it will have an impact on an impending judgment in a European Court case called Koch v. Germany concerning a ban on assisted suicide.

This is not the first such victory for life advocates in Europe. They seem to be on a kind of roll. Only last January the European Court rendered a decision on assisted suicide. While the court said there is something like a right to commit suicide, the court denied a right to have anyone help you do it. The new PACE resolution seems to suggest that assisted suicide is in fact a violation of the right to life guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

Luca Volonté, who led the effort and is chairman of the European People’s Party in PACE said, “We have fought a good battle and we have won, thank God, against a real ideological tyranny of the culture of death.”


Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-Fam.