Friday 22. October 2021
#151 - July-August 2012


COMECE publishes the latest Opinions of its Reflection Group on Bioethics


The principal and most recent Report and Opinion – on the term ’sexual and reproductive health’ – was publicly presented at the European Parliament, during the Week for Life.


The second Week for Life took place at the European Parliament on March last. The event, organised by the Secretariat of COMECE in collaboration with MEPs of different political groups and European pro-life NGOs, covered topics ranging from palliative care in the context of Europe against cancer; ’sexual and reproductive health’ and its meaning particularly in the ambit of cooperation for development; and stem cell research and the new European research programme, Horizon 2020. On the last day, devoted to a meeting between MEPs and representative European organisations involved with activities in defense of life, the Citizens’ Initiative One of Us was publicly announced (see the europeinfos article in our last issue).

The session on ’sexual and reproductive health’ was chaired by MEP Mr. Konrad Szymanski, ECR, Poland, and counted the presence of Sophia Kuby, from the European Dignity Watch, launching its report The Funding of Abortion Through EU Development Aid – An Analysis of EU’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy; the Zambian Ambassador to Belgium, Inonge Lewanika; and Theresa Okafor, from the Foundation for African Cultural Heritage (see the interview with her here), both witnesses to the African situation with regard to ’sexual and reproductive health’. The Secretariat of COMECE presented the report and Opinion “The term ‘sexual and reproductive health’ and its meaning at international and European levels”.

This document was prepared by the COMECE’s Reflection Group on Bioethics, set up in 1996, and now comprising 15 Bioethics experts representing some of the EU Catholic Bishops’ Conferences. These experts provide a rich exchange of views facilitated by their multi-disciplinary backgrounds including theological, philosophical, legal, medical and other scientific disciplines. Members meet twice a year to discuss the impact of scientific advances and biotechnological innovations for mankind.


The document explains the ambiguity of the term ’sexual and reproductive health’ as it appears to include abortion as a ‘right’, in contradiction with a strict interpretation of international law and European legislation. The repeated use of the term – in declarations, resolutions, recommendations – tends to bring the phrase into common use and contributes, through customary law, to the establishment of a ‘right’, despite the reservations made by many countries, the primary actors in international law, and despite the fact that it is not mentioned in any convention or universal international treaty. The document therefore offers a clarification of this concept as well as some recommendations to EU decision-makers: to refrain from using such a term in the official documents of the EU and to vote against its use or for its deletion whenever its use is included in any draft official document; to replace it, where used in draft texts, with expressions such as ’health of the mother and child’ or ’maternal and child health’, which are more appropriate as they are less subject to ideological use; and to stipulate that the term adopted as a replacement excludes destructive interventions, such as abortion. Where it is not possible, in a specific case, to avoid the use of the term, it should be clearly stipulated that, in accordance with international law and European legislation, this term does not include destructive interventions such as abortion.

As for the other Opinions now compiled in a unique booklet – volume 2 of ‘Science & Ethics’ – they encompass subject matter such as ‘the state of post-coma unresponsiveness’, ‘human enhancement’ and the ‘non-commercialisation of parts of the human body’. How can we deal with patients in state of post-coma unresponsiveness? What are the prospects for human enhancement by technological means? How can we fight organ trafficking and transplant tourism? These are very technical yet nevertheless crucial topics with which EU lawmakers are more and more confronted. All Opinions provide an analysis of these concepts and situations and offer reflections and recommendations directed towards EU decision-makers.


José Ramos-Ascensão


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Published in English, French, German
COMECE, 19 square de Meeûs, B-1050 Brussels
Tel: +32/2/235 05 10

Editors-in-Chief: Martin Maier SJ

Note: The views expressed in europeinfos are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Jesuit European Office and COMECE.