Catholic bishops across Europe expressed “deep concern” on Tuesday at French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal for abortion to be added to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

In a Feb. 8 statement, the presidency of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) noted that there is no “right” to abortion enshrined in European or international law.

“Attempting to change this by introducing a supposed right to abortion in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union not only goes against fundamental European beliefs and values, but would be an unjust law, devoid of an ethical foundation and destined to be a cause of perpetual conflict among the citizens of the EU,” it said.

Macron told members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on Jan. 19 that the EU rights charter needed to be revised.

“We must update this charter to be more explicit on protection of the environment, the recognition of the right to abortion,” he said.

He added: “Let us open up this debate freely with our fellow citizens ... to breathe new life into the pillar of law that forges this Europe of strong values.”

The charter, which was ratified by member states in the year 2000, recognizes the right to life but does not mention abortion.

Macron made the appeal the day after the European Union’s law-making body elected the pro-life Maltese politician Roberta Metsola as its new president.

Metsola succeeded David Sassoli, who died on Jan. 11 at the age of 65. Her election was welcomed by both the EU bishops and Maltese Church leaders.

The European Parliament voted in June 2021 in favor of a report describing abortion as “essential healthcare” and seeking to redefine conscientious objection as a “denial of medical care.”

The report also declared that violations of “sexual and reproductive health and rights” are “a form of violence against women and girls.”

On Jan. 1, France took over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, which negotiates and adopts EU laws with the European Parliament.

COMECE, founded in 1980 and based in Brussels, consists of bishops delegated by the bishops’ conferences of the 27 member states of the European Union. A single bishop represents Denmark, Sweden, and Finland, which are all EU members.

The body’s presidency consists of COMECE president Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., Italian Bishop Mariano Crociata, Irish Bishop Noel Treanor, Czech Bishop Jan Vokál, and German Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck.

In its statement, the COMECE presidency said: “Since its beginning, the European integration process has always been supported and accompanied closely by the Church.”

“We agree with President Macron on the importance of defending and promoting the values of the European Union. But we would like to point out that one of the main values is the respect for the dignity of every human person in every stage of his or her life, especially in situations of complete vulnerability, as is the case of an unborn child.”

“The founding fathers of the European Union, based on the genuine humanistic tradition that makes Europe what it is, were very conscious of the fundamental importance of the inalienable dignity of the human person as well as of community as common ground for our Union.”

They went on: “We are aware of the tragedy and complexity of the situations in which mothers considering an abortion find themselves. Caring for women who are in a difficult or a conflict situation because of their pregnancy is a central part of the diaconal ministry of the Church and must also be a duty exercised by our societies.”

“Women in distress should not be left alone, nor can the right to life of the unborn child be ignored. They both must receive all necessary help and assistance.”