New Hungary Constitution Protecting Unborn Under Heavy Fire

International   |   Susan Yoshihara   |   May 4, 2011   |   12:44PM   |   Budapest, Hungary

The new Hungarian constitution, which protects life from conception, has evoked a maelstrom of protest from the European institutions, not to mention the pro-abortion lobby.

It turns out that the commission tasked to review it on behalf of the Council of Europe is the same one that reviewed the infamous draft Kosovo constitution four years ago.

That draft enshrined abortion rights by including “the right to life from birth” and “the right to have control over his/her body in accordance with the law.” It also attempted to redefine marriage and the family, removing any reference to men and women, and instead stating “everyone has the right to marry and found a family.”

The Venice Commission is an advisory group to the CoE, established in 1990 to help former communist countries transition to constitutional democracies. The US and Holy See are members, although it is unclear whether they knew about the radical draft before it was presented to Kosovars.

I led a delegation of NGOs to Kosovo when it adopted its constitution in 2008. What we found when we got there was that the people of Kosovo were never allowed to see the draft until it was adopted, even though they held a year-long public debate on it.

The draft that the Venice Commission approved and sent to Pristina for adoption also made sure that international law was self-exectuting. The new Hungarian constitution has protections from such intrusion, saying that domestic laws must be enacted to implement international law.

It seems the Hungarians want to avoid the same interference Kosovars were subjected to in 2008. With the Venice Commission advising CoE’s review, it is clear that the European institutions will not allow this prerogative of sovereignty without a fight.

While the new constitution easily passed in the Hungarian Parliament by the governing majority, it was without any participation from the smaller opposition party who walked out before the vote.

Abortion rights groups have targeted Article 2, which states, “The life of a fetus will be protected from conception.” The pro-abortion law firm Center for Reproductive Rights, along with Amnesty International, has campaigned against the provision saying it will lead to restricted access to abortion  either by legislative reform or constitutional challenge.

Roger Kiska of the European Center for Law and Justice was “overjoyed” by the new Hungarian constitution calling it a victory for democracy, for life and the family, and for Hungary. Kiska found “shameful” the attempts by the European institutions to undermine the Hungarian government, a government overwhelmingly approved by popular electoral vote, he said.  “I hope that Hungary stays strong in its convictions because what is at stake, life and the family, are too high a price to pay simply to appease the bureaucrats in Brussels.”

The Hungarian government has maintained that the law is fully in line with the European Union’s fundamental charter of human rights and argued that the reform was necessary to replace the outmoded ‘Stalinist’ document dating from 1949.  The new constitution comes into force on January 1, 2012. Note: Susan Yoshihara writes for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. This article originally appeared in the pro-life group’s Turtle Bay and Beyond blog and is used with permission.