EU pro-life petition surpasses 1.8 million signatures
A pro-life petition on the European Citizen's Initiative website - the EU's equivalent to epetitions.direct.gov.uk or whitehouse.gov/petitions - has gathered more than 1.89 million signatures.
The One of Us pro-life group's petition states that "the EU should establish a ban and end the financing of activities which presuppose the destruction of human embryos".
This would include banning all abortions and stem cell research that destroys embryos as part of the method.
The petition closed on 2 November 2013, but final calculations have been completed nine days later.
At this stage, the organising group reports that 20 countries have reached the minimum threshold of signatures required in order to receive a response from the European Commission.
The One of Us initiative has garnered support from Christian communities all across Europe, with Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox communities all acting in unison.
A large plank of the legal argument is based upon the European Court of Justice's case of Brüstle v. Greenpeace in 2011. The case involved neuropathologist Professor Brüstle's acquisition of a patent for a treatment for Parkinson's disease based on the use of embryonic stem cells.
This was objected to by Greenpeace, which then sued Brüstle in the German Federal Patent Court. The court in turn referred to parts of the European Biotechnology Directive (98/44/EC) and how it impacted patentability of stem cell-based developments in the EU.
Article six of the directive prohibits "uses of human embryos for industrial or commercial purposes" but it didn't specifically explain what it meant by "human embryos". This is where the European Court of Justice stepped in, and ruled that a human ovule must be regarded as a human embryo, recognising that an embryo "initiates the human development process".
The One of Us organisers argue that this ruling demands broader European action. They claim that it contradicts assertions made by Maltese EU Commissioner John Dalli that abortion is not an issue that the EU comments on.
While calling this number a huge defeat for the "biotech industries and the Malthusian lobbies [such as the International Planned Parenthood Foundation]" the organisers also state that abortion is not a human right recognised in international law, and that they have many prominent and authoritative global political figures supporting them on this point. These include such people as:
• Anna Zaborska, former chair of the Women's Committee of the European Parliament.
• Christine Boutin, president of the French Christian Democrat party.
• Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.
• The Honourable Javier Borrego, former judge to the European Court of Human rights.
• Gregor Puppinck the Executive Director of the European Centre for Law and Justice.
At this stage, national authorities in all the member states involved have three months to certify that the number of signatures collected is valid and that there has been no forgery or falsifying of signatures of any kind. Once that is complete, the European Commission is required to meet the organisers of the initiative within three months, whereupon discussions will be had about the exact nature of issues raised and how best to respond to them.
The European Commission is not obliged to propose any new legislation as a result of this, but it is quite clear that substantial pressure has been brought to bear.
The One of Us organisers said in a statement: "The organisers of the Initiative will now continue, before the European Commission and Parliament, to advocate for the respect of the human being, from the beginning of their life."