Hungary contemplates major about-face with pro-life, pro-family constitution
BUDAPEST, December 3, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The recently elected government of Hungary has put forward a draft document for a new constitution that would guarantee the right to life from conception, and protect the natural family, the holy crown and the place of Christianity in Hungary’s 1000-year history.
The new constitution would include clauses defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Should these constitutional changes be adopted, they would create a complete about-face for Hungary, which currently has one of the most liberal abortion laws in Europe.
An ad-hoc parliamentary committee in charge of drafting the constitution has presented the draft document for debate in the Hungarian National Assembly between Dec. 10 and 15, before being submitted to a vote. If the document is approved by parliament, new changes to the constitution will only be possible if two subsequent parliaments vote on identical changes with the backing of a two-thirds majority on each occasion, the document stated.
The newly governing party, Fidesz, is usually described in the European media as “centre-right” and socially conservative. It rules in a coalition government with the Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP). This April, the Fidesz/KNDP coalition won a huge landslide victory with a two-thirds majority, with Fidesz winning 263 of 386 seats in the National Assembly. Fidesz started its political life as a student-led anti-communist party who were actively persecuted by the regime. Its power has grown in successive elections since winning 8.95 percent of the vote in 1990, to its current 52.73 percent.
Modern Hungary’s first constitution was adopted in 1949 when the country was under communist rule. This was heavily amended in 1989 when communism in Europe was collapsing, and the current revision was announced earlier this year. If it is adopted, the new constitution will be the country’s first under a democratic government.
A pro-life constitution would mean a massive shift in Hungarian law, and a nearly unprecedented change for any EU country. Under communist rule abortion was allowed without restriction and was paid for by the state since the 1950s. Hungary’s current abortion rate, at nearly 30 percent of all pregnancies, is one of the highest in Europe.
Hungary’s birth rate is similar to that of many European countries spiraling down into a demographic crisis, with a general fertility rate of 1.39 children born per woman and a median age for women of 42.6 years. Population growth rate is - 0.156 per cent.
Although the Hungarian population today is only 51 percent Catholic, the country’s connection to the Church is ancient and still strong. The first king, Stephen I is a canonized saint in the Catholic Church and was crowned with a crown sent from Rome by the pope in AD 1000. The Kingdom of Hungary remained a significant power in Europe until the communist take-over in the 20th century.
In his remarks to the new ambassador of Hungary to the Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI mentioned the country’s ancient connection to the Church, and said it is “desirable … that the new Constitution be inspired by Christian values, particularly in what concerns the position of marriage and the family in society and the protection of life.”
“Marriage and the family constitute the decisive foundation for a healthy development of the civil society of countries and peoples. Marriage as a basic form of ordering the relationship between man and woman and, at the same time, as basic cell of the state community, has also been molded by biblical faith,” the pope said.
“Europe will no longer be Europe if this basic cell of the social construction disappears or is substantially transformed.”
Paul Tully, the general secretary for the UK’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, told LifeSiteNews.com that it is not unprecedented for European countries to do a complete about-face on abortion and related social issues.
“It’s not all that unusual,” he said, citing the case of Poland, which immediately instituted pro-life laws after its people kicked out its communist rulers in the early 1990s.
“In a sense,’ Tully said, “this is a similar thing, in terms of shaking off former communist influences.” Tully agreed that it would be unusual, but also that in general, countries that have a strong religious heritage and have thrown off Soviet rule have a greater animus against abortion in public opinion.
Hungary, he said, has “a strong attachment to religious values, as in Poland,” and this draft constitution seems to be a deliberate hearkening back to the country’s pre-communist days as a Christian kingdom.
The new government’s plans have already come under attack by Europe’s intellectual liberals with an editorial piece appearing in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, warning that the European Union needs to “send a message” to Hungary’s new government, which it accuses of “dismantling the rule of law and eroding a fragile democratic political culture.”