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

Publié le : 6 April 2018

Par : Grégor Puppinck

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, docteur en droit, est Directeur du Centre Européen pour le Droit et la Justice (ECLJ-Strasbourg). Il est expert auprès du Conseil de l'Europe et conseille régulièrement des États membres en matière de droits de l'homme. Il est membre du Panel d’experts de l’OSCE/ODIHR sur la liberté de religion et de convictions. Diplômé de l'Institut des Hautes Etudes Internationales (IHEI), il est titulaire d'un doctorat en droit, avec une thèse intitulée « L'auteur de la norme bioéthique » analysant l'élaboration des normes dans le domaine de la bioéthique. Il a enseigné dans plusieurs facultés de droit, en France et aux Etats-Unis. Il est l’auteur de plusieurs livres et de nombreux articles juridiques, en particulier dans les domaines de la bioéthique et de la liberté de conscience. L’ECLJ est une organisation non gouvernementale axée sur la protection des droits de l'homme et dotée du statut consultatif auprès du Conseil Economique et Social des Nations Unies (ECOSOC). L’ECLJ défend en particulier les libertés fondamentales auprès de la Cour européenne des droits de l'homme, de l'Organisation des Nations Unies, du Conseil de l'Europe, du Parlement européen, et de l'Organisation pour la sécurité et la coopération en Europe (OSCE).