Aggravation of Abortion? – Problems, typical of the whole of the Constitution framing process, around the protection of the right to life of the fetus

Last year one of the first news about the text of the new Constitution was about the extension of right to life to the fetus. The bill submitted to the Parliament is about the protection of the right to life of the fetus. The nontransparent framing process of the Constitution and the lack of real public debate make it impossible to have a clear view on this issue. On March 31 HCLU and Patent Association gave out a joint press release.

 In the beginning of March, Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister stated in a TV news program that they managed to find “a wording that answers European traditions” to refer to the fetus in the Constitution, thus changing the current fetus protection law is not necessary.” In his answer to the letter of Patent Association, Zsolt Semjén, Deputy Prime Minister made it clear that they aim to change the law.

The letter written on behalf of Zsolt Semjén closes with the following sentence: “In our opinion, the declaration of principle in question must be clearly present in the Constitution, however, the particular change of legislation will only have political reality, if the value judgment of the majority of the society also changes in this issue.” Besides the letter of the Deputy Prime Minister, Kálmán Nagy, a CDPP (Christian Democratic People’s Party) member of the Health Committee of the Hungarian Parliament stated that his party generally supports the drastic proposal of JOBBIK (The Movement for a Better Hungary) regarding the aggravation of abortion regulations. He added that after the closure of the Constitution framing process, this issue would have to be dealt with in a separate law. 

In our opinion, this double communication makes it questionable whether the Government is going to aggravate the laws regulating abortion. The framing process of the Constitution itself is not suitable to have a public debate on this issue affecting basic rights: on one hand due to the blur of the Government’s intention, on the other hand due to the shortness of time available for a debate. Moreover, the described communication also hinders a real debate on the outcome of a possible Constitutional Court examination.

In his letter, Zsolt Semjén referred to the right of self-determination of women in quotation marks, stating: it “cannot mean the determination over the life of another person”. In our opinion the approach that wants to give the impression that the importance of the freedom of self-determination and the determination over one’s own body is insignificant in a debate over abortion is a basic mistake and is contrary to the traditions of the European human rights. It is a serious distortion to present abortion as an arbitrary decision over another person’s life. The statement according to which the present proposed wording of the Constitution answers European traditions is also false: even in Ireland, which is well-known for its strict regulations on abortion, the Constitution does not refer with a sentence to the protection of the life of the fetus from the moment of conception.

The Chair of Catholics for Choice wrote an article, titled “The Hungarian Trojan Horse” in connection with the protection of the right to life of the fetus in the Népszabadság on March 24, 2011. 

The reply written on behalf of Zsolt Semjén

From: Semjén Zsolt <zsolt.semjen@me.gov.hu> 

Date: 17 March, 2011 10:11

Re: Letter of Patent Association on the protection of right to life of the fetus

To: "\"PATENT Association\""<sajto@patent.org.hu>

Dr. Júlia Sponcz

PATENT Association

Dear Madam,

On behalf of Zsolt Semjén MP I would like to thank you for your request. I find your concerns presented in your letter unfounded, as contrary to your opinion, it is no one’s intention to overshadow the protection of women’s human rights.

I shall note that “the self-determination of the mother” cannot mean the determination over the life of another person.

Let me inform you in connection with your raisings, that as a Christian Democrat politician, along with my fellow MPs, we consider our mission to stand up for the minority most deprived of their rights and most defenseless, that is our fellow-beings in their fetal age. We believe that there is neither scientific, nor logical or philosophical difference in a fetus being two- four- or eight-month old, being inside or outside the abdomen. If based solely on age a human life can be terminated, on the same basis, members of other social groups could be sentenced to death as well.

This is why we consider unevadable that the Constitution should declare the fetus’ right to protection from the moment of conception. This is the principle declaration we insist on; besides this we also appreciate the former decision of the Constitutional Court

Then again, we are aware that one cannot force a law on society, which is not accepted by the majority. Thus our aim is to convince people that life from the moment of conception must be protected. In our opinion, the declaration of principle in question must be clearly present in the Constitution; however, the particular change of legislation will only have political reality, if the value judgment of the majority of the society also changes in this issue.

Budapest, March 16, 2011

With regards:

Péter Jenik

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