Leading pro-life campaigners in Europe are urging Belgium’s king not to sign a measure to extend euthanasia to children with disabilities.
Belgium’s parliament voted earlier this month to allow the controversial practice. No age limit would be set, but the children who are euthanized would have “to possess the capacity of discernment.”
The legislation permits a child to request euthanasia, with the consent of his parents, if there is a terminal diagnosis accompanied by great pain with no available treatment options. The measure also extends euthanasia to persons suffering with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Religious and family groups are criticizing the push for child euthanasia, and hundreds of Belgians have taken to the streets in protest.
On 17 February, Robin Haig, the chairman of the British pro-life group SPUC, wrote to King Philippe of Belgium urging him not to sign the bill passed by Belgian’s parliament which would allow the euthanasia of children. The letter appears below:
His Majesty King Philippe of the Belgians
Palais de Bruxelles
Rue Brederode 16
17 February 2014
Law for euthanasia of children
We write, on behalf of the tens of thousands of members and supporters of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, to express our distress, which you no doubt share, at the recent passage of the law through the Belgian Parliament permitting euthanasia for children.
Critics of the law have engaged in discussion over whether a child can be mature enough to make such a decision. We go further and say that no law should permit innocent human beings to be killed. Such a law, which may appear to require that strict respect for legality is maintained, is in reality a rejection of our patrimony: of human rights, democracy and our duty to the weaker members of society.
As the late Pope Blessed John-Paul II said of abortion and euthanasia:
These attacks go directly against respect for life and they represent a direct threat to the entire culture of human rights. It is a threat capable, in the end, of jeopardizing the very meaning of democratic coexistence: rather than societies of “people living together”, our cities risk becoming societies of people who are rejected, marginalized, uprooted and oppressed. (Evangelium Vitae, 18)
The late Holy Father continued:
The State is no longer the “common home” where all can live together on the basis of principles of fundamental equality, but is transformed into a tyrant State, which arrogates to itself the right to dispose of the life of the weakest and most defenceless members, from the unborn child to the elderly, in the name of a public interest which is really nothing but the interest of one part. The appearance of the strictest respect for legality is maintained, at least when the laws permitting abortion and euthanasia are the result of a ballot in accordance with what are generally seen as the rules of democracy. Really, what we have here is only the tragic caricature of legality; …. (Evangelium Vitae, 19)
This great defender and vindicator of European democracy went on to say:
Fundamentally, democracy is a “system” and as such is a means and not an end. Its “moral” value is not automatic, but depends on conformity to the moral law to which it, like every other form of human behaviour, must be subject: in other words, its morality depends on the morality of the ends which it pursues and of the means which it employs. (Evangelium Vitae, 70)
Such “laws” are thus described by Blessed John-Paul as an attack on the culture of human rights, a caricature of legality, and a threat to democracy’s moral validity. Blessed John-Paul also said:
In the Encyclical Pacem in Terris, John XXIII pointed out that “it is generally accepted today that the common good is best safeguarded when personal rights and duties are guaranteed. The chief concern of civil authorities must therefore be to ensure that these rights are recognized, respected, co-ordinated, defended and promoted, and that each individual is enabled to perform his duties more easily. For ‘to safeguard the inviolable rights of the human person, and to facilitate the performance of his duties, is the principal duty of every public authority’. Thus any government which refused to recognize human rights or acted in violation of them, would not only fail in its duty; its decrees would be wholly lacking in binding force”. (Evangelium Vitae, 71)
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The footnote to Evangelium Vitae here notes that Pope John XXIII was in turn quoting from Pius XII’s Radio Message of Pentecost 1941 (1 June 1941). It goes on to note that Pacem in Terris cites Pius XII’s wartime Encyclical Letter Mit brennender Sorge and his Christmas Radio Message (24 December 1942).
Thus Blessed John-Paul, and his predecessors, linked the duty of public officials, and the threats to the inviolable rights of the person, to the darkest times of recent European history.
We do not know what the consequences of refusing to sign this law will be for you or for the Belgian monarchy. We know that your esteemed forebear King Baudouin stepped down from the throne temporarily when he nobly refused to confirm a pro-abortion law in 1990. We would urge you to do all in your power to protect Belgium’s children from this latest attack. Even if your refusal to authorise this law has profound consequences for the future of the Belgian monarchy, we urge you to consider what future proposals you or your successor may face in another 25 years if this law is not resisted now with maximum determination.
We pray that you will have wise advisers in this difficult time. If we can assist you in any way in resisting this law we should be honoured to do so.
We have the honour to be, Sire, Your Majesty’s humble and obedient servants,
John Smeaton, Chief Executive
Robin Haig, Chairman