While Pope Francis was applauded at the European Parliament on Tuesday at his mention of children “killed even before being born” as among the victims of a “throwaway” culture, the European Court for Human Rights has said regulating the treatment of infants born-alive after late-term abortion is outside its competence. According to the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 10 percent of children survive abortion attempts. “Every year, children are born alive at the time of the abortion procedure after the 20th week of pregnancy in Europe. They are, most often, abandoned to die without care, struggling to breathe, sometimes for several hours, or they are killed by lethal injection or suffocation, then thrown away with organic waste,” Gregor Puppinck, director of the European Center for Law and Justice, told CNA Nov. 24. Together with the International Catholic Child Bureau, the World Union of Catholic Women Organizations, and the Federation of Catholic Family Associations, the ECLJ has asked for a meeting with the Council of Europe’s High Commissioner for Human Rights. The purpose was to present to the high commissioner a document exposing the fate of children born alive after abortion. “To leave some of them to die without treatment, or killing them, simply because they are not wanted, is inhuman,” stressed Puppinck. Last July, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which gathers the governments of the 47 member states, failed to reach an agreement on measures to be taken in order “to guarantee that foetuses who survive abortions are not deprived from the medical treatment that they are entitled to — as human persons born alive — according to the European Convention on Human Rights.” Puppinck underscored that “some governments, by fear of questioning late abortions, refused to recognize publicly that these newborns have rights.” “The following request for a meeting with the High Commissioner for Human Rights has been refused, since the High Commissioner held that his mandate did not cover those questions.” “This position is contradicted by the fact that the very same High Commissioner, on Jan. 15, took a public position against sex-selective abortion, asking for it’s criminal prohibition,” Puppinck claimed. Failing to hold a meeting with the Council of Europe’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, the NGOs have launched a petition to bring the question in front of the Strasbourg Parliament Assembly. “This is just one of the issues at stake within the European Union,” said Puppinck. The lawyer underscored that “there is a split for what concerns the notion of freedom. The individualistic notion of freedom forbids, in fact, any other kind of expression, and also puts into question the autonomy of the others.” This split may be found in two cases recently brought to the European Union: Sindicatul 'Pastoral cel bun' v Romania, and Fernandez Martinez v Spain. The first case is about a labor union formed in 2008 by the clergy of an Orthodox diocese in Romania to defend their “professional, economic, social and cultural interests” in their dealings with the Romanian Orthodox Church. When the Romanian government registered the union, the Church sued, pointing out that her canons do not allow for unions and arguing that registration violated the principle of church autonomy. A Romanian court agreed with the Church, and the union challenged the court’s judgement in the European Court for Human Rights. The union argued that the decision not to register it violated Article 11 of the European Convention, which grants a right to freedom of association. In 2012, the chamber reasoned that, under Article 11, a State may limit freedom of association only if it shows “a pressing social need,” defined in terms of a “threat to a democratic society,” and this did not happen in Romania. So the chamber faulted the Romanian court, and Romania appealed to the Grand Chambre — the last judicial appeal venue in European legislation. The second case is that of Fernandez Martinez, a Spanish instructor of religion. In Spain, public schools offer classes in Catholicism, taught by instructors approved by the local bishop. Fernandez Martinez did not get his bishop’s approval. A laicized priest, Fernandez Martinez took a public stand against mandatory priestly celibacy. When the school dismissed the instructor, he brought suit under the European Convention: his dismissal — he argued — violated his right to privacy, family life, and expression. A section of the European Court ruled against him, because in withdrawing approval — the section stated — the bishop had acted “in accordance with the principle of religious autonomy”. “This religious autonomy is put always more into question in Europe,” said Puppinck. And he also stressed that “the fact the first case was with an Orthodox Church is meaningful. I may say that Orthodox and Catholics should always more work together, even in political field, to defend their freedom and foster their mutual commitment for the common good.”
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