Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Human embryos should be protected, because they are “One of Us”

Hearing about the European Citizens Initiative “One of Us” in the European Parliament was a success

Human Dignity and the protection of life are not political values but are inviolable and must be respected. “The issue is a simple and logical one: human life exists from conception and therefore should be respected. The European Court of Justice also defined that human embryo starts at conception. 

The European Commission should be more consistent with this fact ”explained Gregor Puppink Director of the European Center for Law and Justice and leader of the European Citizens Initiative “One of Us” at the hearing which took place in the European Parliament last Thursday, 10 April. The hearing in the European Parliament had as main target to create a dialogue between the representatives of the Citizens Initiative that collected almost 2 million signatures and the Members of the European Parliament under the supervision of the European Commission that will give an answer on the Citizenship Initiative before the 28th of May. 

See the video of the hearing here
See the rest of the article here

The preparations for the hearing did not went smoothly. The website of the European Dignity Watch wrote that two days before the Hearing, the Citizen’s Committee received a letter with a draft agenda, which has been changed without the consent of the Citizens’ Committee. As it turned out, Parliament tried to give minimal speaking time to the representatives of the “One of Us” while filling the slots with statements of MEPs. MEPs were seemingly attempting to lecture “One of Us” instead of listening, as would be appropriate for such a hearing. This agenda was tantamount to forcing a sham hearing, designed to limit the freedom to express what “One of Us” was standing for. Only after threatening to call off the hearing if the Parliament would not withdraw their agenda, could the hearing start with an agenda that has been changed in order to comply with the requests that had been made by “One of Us” , . The hearing started 15 minutes late.  

Mr. Puppink explained at the opening, that the request is simple precise and in accordance to EU law and asked for the inclusion of an ethics clause in the financial regulation of the EU that excludes explicitly  any destruction of human embryos. No funds should be attributed to destroy embryos, because they are “one of us”, a message sent by 2 million European citizens in the largest petition ever held in EU history. 

Professor Filippo Vari explained that actually after 10 years of embryonic stem cell research, there was not any progression on finding solution on terminal diseases.  As a consequence, the question was raised why embryonic cells should be used for these “scientific” researches. The expectations of getting a breakthrough on terminal diseases by embryonic stem cell research is clearly a delusion. Question that has been raised by an MEP was a logical one: Do we really need embryonic stem cell research? Or is there a deeper cause, an ideology that is the base on these issues and that is the case on abortion and the protection of life from conception?

Sophia Kuby from the European Dignity Watch asked critical questions to the European Commission how development aid has been used to finance ideological health care projects by organizations that open and actively preach abortion. Although abortion is officially not an official EU competence or a European right, Kuby showed clearly that transparency is lacking about the funds that are spend on organisations like IPPF in developing countries. She stated: “My question is if the European Commission funds abortions. If they do so, they should honestly say this. With this European Citizens’ Initiative, the Commission clearly will have to give an answer to this question” (see here a link to the EDW investigation how the EU is funding abortion through development aid)

The opposition was also active in the debates, trying to get the discussions focused on the problem of abortion instead of the funding of embryonic stem cell research. Sophie In ‘t Veld congratulated the fact that almost 2 million signatures were collected, but that is just a small part of the whole European population, therefore trying to denigrate the democratic initiative, initiated by the Lisbon Treaty, silencing the voice of millions of citizens by the European Parliament.

Also Michael Cashman called for “democratic discussions” about this Citizens Initiative. Something that our opponents clearly forgot when they did not respect the Rules of Procedures concerning the Estrela report, dealing with Sexual and Reproduction Health and Rights. Interesting is also that he claimed that he speaks on behalf of the Development Committee (DEVE), while no officials statements or meetings of the committees have been made concerning the One of Us. It is highly doubtful therefore if the DEVE committee supports his personal opinion as MEP Ewald Stadler questioned during the hearing

Besides this, the opposition tried to convince  the necessity of legalising abortion by comparing the maternal mortality of African and Latin American countries with those of the EU. (In fact, maternal mortality depends on a great amount of different causes, so that Mr. Cashman’s comparison makes little or no sense. He should instead have compared like with like. For example, he might have searched for data somewhat closer to home, comparing the incidence of maternal deaths in Ireland and the UK. Had he done so, he would have discovered that the latest available WHO statistics report that in  2010 in Ireland there were 6 cases of maternal mortality for each 100.000 lifebirths, whereas in the UK there were 12. If liberal abortion laws have an effect on maternal mortality, it must be that they significantly increase the risk.

However, there were a lot of MEPs who actually support and welcome the Citizens’ Initiative. Peter van Dalen confirms that the initiative is a good answer to the massive lobby of the power of the bio-medical industry. He calls on better use of funds for adult stem cell research instead of embryonic stem cell research. Also MEP Czymanski stated that the EU should act as an institution and look more critically to how the money is spent in developing countries. Another MEP stated that “nature and human life is not a democratic issue. Sometimes we seem to be more concerned for the rights of animals than human life”

A critical question concerning the framing of the “One of Us” came from MEP Anna Zaborska who stated that framing the Initiative as purely a catholic initiative is a clear attempt to treat Christians as second-class citizens.

At the end of the meeting Chairwoman, Ms. Castex tried to frame the discussions by concluding that “all is still about abortion which is not a European competence” completely forgetting her objective role of chairing the last session and completely ignoring what has been discussed during the whole meeting. The participants showed their disagreements clearly by loud jeers and catcalls.

The meeting came to an  end. I do agree with Michael Cashman that democracy will be taken seriously and constructive discussions will take place concerning the “One of Us” but also other issues that deal with the protection of human life from its conception or  Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

The questions appear when deciding when the life of a human being begins. For ECPM this question has a clear answer: the human life begins at conception. As a consequence, the embryo has just as much dignity as a grown up person and it deserves just as much respect and protection.

One of the main characteristics of the European Union is the diversity it enjoys. Different, countries, different cultures, different languages and many other differences. However, one clear thing that people not only in Europe but in the entire world share is the dignity each person has. Dignity is not something people gain after hard work nor something that comes in different quantities. It is something all people equally have from the moment they begin their existence which is conception.

To clarify this, let’s turn the argument around. What if the human embryo was not seen as human? What would we say about a situation in which human embryos were indeed purely seen as ‘matter’? We would first of all not even know what to do with a woman who is pregnant, we would not congratulate her or pay special attention at all to her situation. We would for example be perfectly okay with a situation in which human embryos are burnt after abortion to heat the hospital. That did actually happen in several hospitals in the UK[1]. We would have no problem at all with ‘gendercide’,  a situation that means that selective abortion takes place against girls. This is also something that is actually taken place and is indeed assisted through western abortion clinics[2]

However we actually and legally we do treat embryo’s as human. If a woman is for example suffering from unwanted abortion due to violence, this fact is taken into account by a judge in punishing the perpetrator. In general there are in health care already in more than one member-state certain protection regulations for embryos during pregnancy. We find burning embryos for heating repulsive and the European Parliament adopted a resolution against gendercide[3].

We congratulate pregnant women and try to sympathize with their loss if there is a miscarriage. So, we treat embryos as human life. 

And we have to, we have no choice than doing so. It is logically impossible to treat embryos as something different than human life and in the reality of life we act therefore accordingly. In many EU member-states there is a certain number of weeks after which abortion is forbidden. Often this is 24 weeks. However, still then any attempt to redefine embryos before that as ‘something else’ than human life is a pure artificial abstraction invented by the abortion lobby.  In real life we experience and treat embryos as human life. And if this is the case, we cannot separate embryos from ourselves and from human dignity. 

If we would one stage of human life exempt from human dignity, what would logically prevent us to deny human dignity to other stages of human life? 

The human embryo deserves therefore respect and protection and for this reason the Citizens’ Initiative of the EU One of Us held a hearing in the European Parliament for “the integration of an ethic provision in the European legislation, excluding from founding any activities implying the destruction of Human lives” to ensure that “public money is spent on research projects that do not involve the destruction of human embryos.”

Despite attempts to compromise the hearing by modifying the agenda just days before the hearing, the event is considered a success and a proof that democracy in the European Union works. Criticism of the initiative was, sadly, not little, but mostly unfounded and easily overthrown with sound arguments, solid facts and scientific evidence brought forth by proponents of the initiative. Furthermore, the Commission had already agreed that the legislative proposal of ‘One of Us’ “falls within the competence of the EU, respects European law and fundamental rights.”

ECPM joins “One of Us” in rejoicing on this result of the hearing since protecting the dignity of human persons from conception until death is a very important point in our election campaign. As stated in our manifesto, we oppose disrespecting the dignity human persons deserve in the embryonic stage by destroying them for scientific purpose. 

“Respect for Human Dignity in the field of Biomedical research requires universal acceptance of the principle that Science must serve Humanity rather than Humanity serve Science. Human life, in whatever form, whatever its appearance or capacity, has inherent and indisputable dignity. Basic biological principles irrefutably show that from the moment of conception or creation the embryo inside or outside the womb is a unique human being with a unique genetic code.”

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