By Hilary White

EUROPE, January 3, 2006 ( – A Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights released a 40-page document ordering the EU to impose rules on Catholic countries to force Catholic doctors and hospitals either to abort or refer women for abortions.

The order came after Slovakia, a predominantly Catholic country, had proposed a treaty with the Vatican which specified guarantees for legal protection for unborn persons, including embryos. The European Union said that the agreement violated “international human rights” to abortion and EU laws.

While recognizing that its recommendations are not binding, the Network says that the right to conscientious objection was “not unlimited.” The report says that the right to conscience should be “regulated” so that where it conflicts with “circumstances where abortion is legal, no woman shall be deprived from having effective access to the medical service of abortion.”

The report recommended that the state in question must “ensure, first, that an effective remedy should be open to challenge any refusal to provide abortion.” Without specifying what kind of “remedy,” it said “an obligation” should be “imposed on the health care practitioner exercising his or her right to religious conscientious objection” to refer for abortions – an act which itself conflicts conscientious objection.Â

The Vatican treaty with Slovakia laid out that Catholic hospitals and medical professionals would not be legally obligated to “perform artificial abortions, artificial or assisted fertilizations, experiments with or handling of human organs, human embryos or human sex cells, euthanasia, cloning, sterilizations, [and] acts connected with contraception.” The treaty did not require Slovakia to ban abortions or other attacks on human life but only to guarantee the rights of Catholic medical practitioners not to be forced to violate their conscience.

The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (CFAM) contacted abortion advocates in Europe who boasted that the report was a result of effective abortion lobbying. CFAM’s weekly internet bulletin, the Friday Fax, quoted Irene Donadio of International Planned Parenthood Federation, who wrote, “The Conclusions reflect all the arguments presented by the SRHR [sexual and reproductive health and rights] community!!!!”

The Network report complains that some EU countries, notably Poland, Lithuania and Slovakia are too Catholic and that women are having difficulty finding doctors willing to abort their children.

Read the Friday Fax: