Wednesday 16 April 2008

"Sad day for the unborn child in Europe, but the fight goes on"

A resolution calling for unlimited access to abortion throughout Europe (see my blogs of 18th March and 6th April) was today rushed through the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The Assembly passed the resolution with 102 votes in favour, 69 votes against and 14 abstentions. Amendments seeking to make the resolution less extreme in its promotion of abortion were rejected.

Pat Buckley of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), who was present at today's debate, commented: "Today is a tragic day for Europe, not least because this report in favour of even more killing of unborn children was rushed through the Assembly without proper scrutiny. Plenary session speeches were limited to three minutes, amendment speeches to 30 seconds and scrutiny by the Assembly's legal affairs committee denied. It was disappointing to see that only 185 members out of 318 thought the issue important enough to be present. The only consolation is that the resolution is not legally binding."

Mr Nigel Dodds, MP and MLA for Belfast North, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and a minister in the Northern Ireland executive, said: "It's a sad day for the unborn child in Europe, but the fight goes on."

Read SPUC's release on today's vote here. You can find out how Assembly members voted here.

Pat Buckley (left) also spoke to me about the debate: "Mrs Gisela Wurm, a socialist deputy from Austria who prepared the report, claimed that refusal of abortion was violence against women.

"Mr Christos Pourgourides of Cyprus, on behalf of the conservative (EPP/CD) group, asked for the report to be referred to the legal affairs committee. This committee customarily looks at all human-rights related material. However, this request was rejected by the chair and without a vote. If the report had gone to the legal committee, it would actually have fallen from the assembly's future agenda.

"Senator Terry Leyden of Ireland's Fianna Fáil party, and vice-chair of the assembly's liberal group, said the resolution was partisan, one-sided and based on flawed logic. Ireland, which did not have widespread abortion, had the lowest maternal mortality in Europe. Other speakers were allowed to exceed their allotted time, but Senator Leyden was promptly stopped from speaking.

"Mr Joe Costello TD of the Irish Labour party went against the socialist consensus by voting pro-life. Maltese delegates also spoke in favour of protecting unborn life. There were 69 amendments proposed.

"Tragically, this is the first time that any international document has asserted a right to abortion."