Abortion in Poland: misleading statements of the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights

Publié le 6 Avr, 2018

On Friday, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, threatened Poland that the potential adoption of its draft bill against eugenic abortion would violate the country’s human rights’ commitments[1].


This is not the first time that Mr. Muiznieks has advocated abortion.


However, on closer examination, his threat seems exaggerated for the most part. The European Convention for Human Rights, as interpreted by the Strasbourg Court, would not justify such a warning. In fact, this Convention, which was adopted in 1950, does not include such a right, only a “right to life”. The Court has always held that this legislation does not include the right to abortion. Furthermore, it has also stated that the States are free to consider “the unborn child” as a “person”, if they so wish.


Thus neither Poland nor Malta, Ireland, San Marino or other European countries are obliged to legalise abortion. On the other hand, they have made a commitment to prevent and reduce recourse to abortion.


To say that human rights warrant the legalisation of eugenic abortion cannot be taken seriously. It is contrary to legal reality, history and the ethics of post-war Human Rights which have taken a stand against eugenics. It is, therefore, an anti-democratic, campaigner discourse since this “Commissioner” is taking the liberty to intervene inappropriately in a national legislative process. It is impossible to see by what sinister logic eugenics could become a fundamental right guaranteeing human dignity in this respect.


Such discourse ultimately undermines the credibility of the mandate of the European Commissioner and the Council of Europe. By perverting human rights, he is backing hostilities against them and weakening them. It is highly regrettable.


It is not the first time that Nils Muiznieks has made extreme statements. Asked to rule on cases of neonatal infanticide, especially those concerning disabled children, he considered that this topic was outside his mandate (see The Council of Europe rejects the petition on neonatal infanticide). Last December, he published a report in his name, written primarily by an organisation promoting abortion to denounce  “resurgent threats to the health and sexual and reproductive rights of women” (see “Never has Europe been so pro-life”).


[1] AFP (French Press Agency) press release dated 23 March 2018: Abortion: warning from the Council of Europe and demonstrations in Warsaw.

Grégor Puppinck

Grégor Puppinck


Grégor Puppinck est Directeur de l'ECLJ. Il est docteur en droit, diplômé des facultés de droit de Strasbourg, Paris II et de l'Institut des Hautes Études Internationales (Panthéon-Assas).

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