-- Catholic News Agency
Pro-life Petition Could Spark European Legislation, Debate
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM, August 20 (CNA) .- A citizen-led initiative in Europe is nearing the one million signatures needed to prompt a discussion on human life and push for an end to funding of abortion and embryo-destroying research.
The initiative, called "One of Us," seeks to protect the "dignity, the right to life and the integrity of every human being" at all stages of development.
It asks the European Union "to end the financing of activities which presuppose the destruction of human embryos, in particular in the areas of research, development aid and public health," according to the organizers' website.
The petition was introduced as a European citizens' initiative, a participative democracy project in which the people can submit legislative proposals to the European parliament if they can generate one million signatures from citizens within a year.
Since November 2012, One of Us has received more than 800,000 signatures, needing just under 200,000 more by Nov. 1, 2013 to reach the target.
The campaign has been met with widespread support throughout Europe, gaining the endorsement of 40 pro-life leaders, politicians, scholars and doctors from across the continent.
In addition, it has received the support of numerous Catholic bishops and two consecutive Popes.
"I greet the Movement for Life and wish it success on the 'One of Us' initiative so that Europe might always be a place where every human being's dignity is safeguarded," said Benedict XVI in February, during one of his last public appearances.
Pope Francis has also supported the initiative, asking pro-life activists to sign the petition during Italy's March for Life in May.
If the petition gains enough votes and the European Commission respects its own rules regarding citizens' initiatives, the "European Parliament will be forced to schedule a debate on the issue of life at conception," One of Us explains.
The group's goal is to enact a ban on the funding of embryo-destroying research and abortions, as well as achieve a greater cultural awareness of the importance of respecting human life from conception.
The petition's organizers are also calling for a "concrete ethical standard" to be established across Europe regarding respect for all of humanity, regardless of age or development.
Laws on abortion and embryo-destroying research currently vary widely across the continent. First trimester abortion is legal in nearly all European countries, but other restrictions on the procedure – as well as those regulating reproductive technologies and research that takes the life of a human embryo – differ greatly in various nations.
If it succeeds, One of Us will be only the second European citizens' initiative to garner one million votes. The other successful petition declares water to be a human right and has collected nearly two million signatures.
A number of other citizens' initiatives that expire this year are expected to fail, falling short of the one million signature mark.
Even if the proposed legislation never becomes law, the organizers are optimistic, saying that it "could be a starting point of a new Europe-wide mobilization of the pro-life movement."
"Every experience we collect here can be used for campaigns on other pro-life issues in further course," the group explained. "In that sense, it can be expected that the outcome may be very enduring."
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