The European Court of Justice said that the EU Commission had the right to refuse a ban on EU funding for abortion services. In a recent ruling, the EU’s top court stated that the ‘One of Us’ citizens’ initiative “cannot require the EU’s executive to submit a proposal for a legal act”. The Luxembourg-based court said that the Commission had shown that “the ban on abortion funding would constrain the EU’s ability to attain the objective of reducing maternal mortality”. In the meantime, the Commission had also been entitled to consider the new healthcare treatments that could result from human embryo stem cell research in its decision.
‘One of Us’ is a European Citizens’ initiative launched to demand the EU institutions to guarantee the protection of human beings since conception. It was an innovation by the Lisbon treaty, which enables citizens to demand that the Commission postpone legislation on an issue for which at least one million signatures from at least seven EU countries were provided. In 2014, the ‘One of Us’ campaign collected 1.8 million signatures out of which more than 600,000 came from Italy, followed by 250,000 from Poland, both mostly Catholic countries. The main objective of the campaign, supported by Pope Francis, was to ban the use of EU funds for research and public health activities that are linked to the destruction of human embryos, including abortion.
The Commission refused to take action saying that EU support is meant to improve maternal health. EU funding is also directed to providing access to safe abortions across developing world. As a result of the Commission’s standby, the campaigners took the Commission to court.
Ahead of the ruling, ‘One of Us’ stated that “failure to respect the voices of 1.7 million citizens would make real the perceived democratic deficit and would render the entire ECI procedure meaningless.” However, the court commented that controls were put in place as part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 framework to make sure that the EU does “not fund the destruction of human embryos.”