(CN) – A European court shut the door Monday on proponents of an initiative that would ban stem cell research, abortion funding and other activities that involve the destruction of human embryos.
While regulators with the European Commission did consider the right to life and human dignity of human embryos, the General Court noted Monday that such considerations had to be balanced against “the needs of [human embryonic stem cell] research, which may result in treatments for currently incurable or life-threatening diseases, such as Parkinson’s, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and blindness.”
The commission had also informed the backers of One of Us “that one of the causes of maternal mortality was the practice of unsafe abortions.”
In support of its action, the commission relied on a 2012 report by the World Health Organization. Monday’s ruling quotes it as finding that “the direct and indirect support for certain services provided exclusively by the European Union contributed to a reduction in the number of abortions because it increased access to safe and quality services, including good-quality family planning, a broad range of contraceptive methods, emergency contraception and comprehensive sexual education.”
This report also found that “improving the safety of abortion services contributes to the reduction of maternal deaths and illness.”
The General Court said Monday that there was no manifest error therefore in the commission’s conclusion that a “ban on abortion funding would constrain the union’s ability to attain the objective of reducing maternal mortality.”
Proponents of the citizens initiative One of Us first registered with the European Commission in 2012, and they filed suit after commission took no action on their proposal two years later.
The EU treaty allows citizens to bring proposed legislation before the commission if they collect at least 1 million signatures, but the General Court ruled Monday that the commission did not commit any error in rejecting the One of Us submission.
Indeed, nothing about allowing European citizens to propose initiatives compels “require[s] the commission to submit a proposal for a legal act,” the ruling states.
A contrary interpretation, the ruling continues, “essentially results in the commission being stripped of all discretion in exercising its powers of legislative initiative following an ECI [European citizens’ initiative].
“Such an interpretation contravenes the near-monopoly of the legislative initiative conferred by the treaties upon the commission and the broad discretion it has in exercising that initiative,” the Luxembourg-based court added.
The General Court also defended the commission’s reasoning since, as it explained to One of Us, various points of the initiative are already included in current EU legislation.
Under the Horizon 2020 framework, for example, appropriate controls were put in place to ensure that the EU does “not fund the destruction of human embryos,” according to the ruling.
Furthermore, given the objectives concerning maternal health in the Millennium Development Goals, the commission argued that One of Us would cause it cut funding that the EU provides for the health sector in developing partner countries.
Such funding “contributed substantially to a reduction in the number of abortions, because it increased access to safe quality services, including good-quality family planning, a broad range of contraceptive methods, emergency contraception and comprehensive sexual education,” according to the ruling.