Late-term abortions and infanticides: NGOs and citizens call on the Council of Europe to take action

fvhfnqA group of NGOs lead by the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) and supported already by more than 130 000 European citizens gets ready to refer the matter of late-term abortions and neonatal infanticides to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). This initiative, launched on the 20 November 2014, reacts to the stubborn refusal of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe to address the issue, although he was called to do so by four NGOs. It also answers to the failure of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to adopt a common position on the issue in July 2014.  The NGOs are calling the PACE to condemn the neonatal infanticide and to recall that every born alive person has the right to respect of his life and the right to care, irrespective of his birth circumstances.

It is the first time that the PACE is addressed by such an important number of citizens. This petition procedure, provided by Article 65 of the Rules of the PACE, allows any citizen to request to the President and to the Bureau of the PACE to put a matter on its agenda.

The NGOs denounce the killing of children that survive abortion. Some European countries, like the United Kingdom, allow abortion upon a mere request even if the child is viable (up to 24 weeks). Other countries, like Spain, allow it without any control. The viability threshold, as defined by WHO, is established at 22 weeks of gestation. Sometimes the child is born alive following a failure of an abortion. Those children can be injured by the attempted abortion and they are often abandoned to die without care, agonizing in a basin and struggling to breathe, or directly killed by a lethal injection or suffocation, especially if they are viable, and they are then thrown out with the biological waste. This is an inhumane and illegal treatment which is completely ignored by Europe’s oh-so-proactive human rights watchdogs. According to the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, at 23 weeks of pregnancy, 10% of children survive abortion. According to the accounts of midwives, this percentage is even higher. The medical staff is often helpless, as they are sometimes asked to abort or kill the children, while on other occasions they are told to to save premature children of the very same age, depending on whether or not they are wanted by their parents.

Some European countries, aware of this problem, reduced the delay of legal abortion to 22 weeks, in any circumstances. This is the case of Norway that adopted such a law in January 2014. Others maintain an extremely life-unfriendly  legislation, such as United Kingdom and Sweden. 

The group wants to denounce the pain caused to the foetus by abortion itself. In France, the child or the foetus is firstly killed by a lethal injection in the heart or in the umbilical cord, and then the birth is induced. Sometimes this injection is badly done or does not produce its effect and the child is born alive. An English study evaluates the rate of success to 87%[1]: the failure of the fœticide injection is estimated at 13% of cases. The most used late-term abortion method in some countries (76% of abortions between 15 and 19 weeks and 44% after 20 weeks in England in 2013[2]), called the “dilatation-evacuation” method is even worse. It consists in dilating the cervix of uterus to get the baby out with a pair of surgical pliers. The foetus or the child is often extracted bit by bit: the doctor ipulls out what he can take hold of. After the evacuation, the body is reconstructed to verify whether any parts are missing. The child is torn to pieces while it is still alive. 

In this regard, European law provides better protection to animals than to human beings. Thedirective 2010/63/UE of the European Union, which aims to assure the protection of animals which are used for scientific purposes, forbids such practices, but it is of course not applicable to human beings. However, it recognises that it is “scientifically shown” that the “foetal forms of mammals” (which comprises also the human beings) can “experience pain, suffering and anguish “even before the third term of the pregnancy. Indeed, scientific studies show that the foetus reacts to touch by eight weeks[3], and he feels suffering by 14th week[4].


Concretely, the collective is requesting PACE, and by it to the Council of Europe the following:

–   To recommend the generalization of the prohibition of abortion of viable children;

–   To affirm that children born alive and non-viable should be humanly treated and they should enjoy the right to care, especially palliative care;

–   To affirm that children born alive and viable enjoy the right to life and care, irrespective of the circumstances of their birth and of their parents’ desire. 

Those requests aim a stricter application of the European and international law in force, according to which every human being born alive enjoys the right to respect to his life and physical integrity, the right to medical care, without discrimination on the basis of his circumstances of birth[5]. Moreover, by adopting the international Convention of the rights of the child, the States recognized that “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.” The States also engaged themselves to ensure “to the maximum extent possible the survival and the development of the child” (Article 6). The PACE already affirmed in 1986 that the « human embryos and foetuses must be treated in all circumstances with the respect due to human dignity »[6].


Contact : Grégor Puppinck, Director of European Centre for Law and Justice.

Tel: 03 88 24 94 40 /

(Press release by ECLJ, edited by AGENDA EUROPE)



[3] “A motor response can first be seen as a whole body movement away from a stimulus and observed on ultrasound from as early as 7.5 weeks’ gestational age. The perioral area is the first part of the body to respond to touch at approximately 8 weeks, but by 14 weeks most of the body is responsive to touch.” Myers LB, Bulich LA, Hess, P, Miller, NM. Fetal endoscopic surgery: indications and anaesthetic management. Best Practice & Research Clinical Anaesthesiology. 18:2 (2004) 231-258.

[4] See notably Anand KJS, Palmer FB, Papanicolaou AC. Repetitive neonatal pain and neurocognitive abilities in ex‑preterm children. Pain [Epub] doi:pii: S0304-3959(13)00335-7. 10.1016/j.pain.2013.06.027, 2013.  PMID: 23792285: N.M. Miller, R.P. Smith and N.M. Fisk, “The Fetal Patient,” in Myers and Bulich, Anesthesia for Fetal Intervention and Surgery,BC Decker, Inc. (2005).

[5] Articles 2 et 14 de la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme.

[6] RECOMMENDATION 1046 (1986) on the use of human embryos and foetuses for diagnostic, therapeutic, scientific, industrial and commercial purposes.