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European Parliament threatens Poland over pro-life law

The European Parliament in Strasbourg (Getty)

A Polish church spokesman dismissed a threat of European Union sanctions if his country’s parliament goes ahead with church-backed legislation to curb abortions of handicapped fetuses.

“The Polish bishops’ conference underlines that the right to life is fundamental to every human being, so we should all protect this right for defenseless children,” said Father Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, conference spokesman. “Nobody can take this right away, nor can external or internal pressures change the scientifically proved fact that human life begins at the moment of conception.”

The European Parliament said it would demand EU action if legislators went ahead with new restrictions, which were backed by 830,000 Poles in a petition introduced Nov. 30 before the Sejm, the Polish parliament’s lower house.

In a December 8 interview with Catholic News Service, Father Rytel-Andrianik said it would be difficult to “judge in advance” the impact of EU threats, which have been criticized as interference by some politicians in the traditionally Catholic country.

“Research has shown how children develop before birth, so this isn’t a matter just of religion, but of science, too,” said Father Rytel-Andrianik.

The resolution said members of the European Parliament would invoke Article 7 a European Union treaty to demand Poland’s suspension from the intergovernmental European Council, if it went ahead with controversial judicial and media reforms, as well as with banning abortions because of fetal impairment.

The EU resolution said the projected measures represented a “serious breach of European values,” and also urged Poland to “take a firm stand on women’s rights, by providing free and accessible contraception without discrimination.”

Father Rytel-Andrianik said talk of EU sanctions had come during a “complex, changing situation” in Poland, where Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, who backed the pro-life initiative, resigned on December 7.

He said Poland’s Catholic bishops would continue backing the new legislation, which is to be introduced in early 2018.

“Our present law doesn’t protect human life sufficiently; it allows the abortion of unborn children when they’re supposed to be damaged or somehow imperfect, and in 90 percent of cases this refers to children with Down syndrome,” he said. “If parents decide not to bring up a child, they can always pass the child up for adoption, especially when so many families are ready to care for them.”