Hungary's new pro-life 'Easter' Constitution

Hungary's new pro-life 'Easter' Constitution

Babette Francis

Human Life International and pro-life and pro-family groups around the world are delighted with Hungary's new Constitution. It has been nicknamed the "Easter" Constitution because it passed with a big majority this last Easter Monday and also because it represents a resurrection of values many feared had all but disappeared from the laws of Europe.

To understand the significance of this document, and why pro-choice ideologues in Europe are in a panic over its passage, we need to understand that it is an astonishing achievement in a positive direction, representing a step in what many believe is a long and uneven journey back to Hungary's - and Europe's - Christian roots.

Human Life International's media representative Stephen Phelan comments: "Clearly the Hungarian Constitution marks a departure from the secular liberal ideology that, like a heavy leaden cape, seems to be darkening and weighing down so much of the contemporary world."

Christian roots

The preamble of the Constitution starts with the first line of the Hungarian national anthem, "O Lord, blessed be the Hungarian nation," recalling the Christian roots of this country. It continues to emphasise this theme, stating the unique role played by King St Stephen in establishing Hungary and acknowledging the role that Christianity has played in her preservation.

It is also very interesting to see how this Constitution ends: "We, Members of Parliament elected on 25 April 2010, being aware of our responsibility before Man and God and availing ourselves of our power to adopt a Constitution, have hereby determined, the first unified Fundamental Law of Hungary as above."

The Australian Constitution includes the words "humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God" in its first paragraph, but in recent times that has been more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Hopefully the Hungarian Constitution will inspire more contemporary legislators to acknowledge they have a responsibility before God.

The most important innovations of the Hungarian Constitution are found in Article 2, which establishes that "the life of the fetus shall be protected from the moment of conception." The document in the following Article 3 n.3 also expressly prohibits eugenic practices, as well as the use of the human body or its parts for financial gain and human cloning.

The logical consequence of Article 2 is that abortion and other crimes against life would at some point be declared illegal and criminalised after this Constitution enters into force on 1 January 2012. As the Constitution establishes, the government shall submit to the parliament the acts necessary for the implementation of this new fundamental law.

As if to emphasise the seriousness about their newly rediscovered respect for human life at all its stages, the government is already conducting a very effective anti-abortion advertising campaign. Granted, this campaign is born more of a need to reverse Hungary's demographic collapse; but it is good to see sanity beginning to regain a footing in Eastern Europe.

The question that many are asking is whether the government will have the courage to follow through and penalise the crime of abortion. The government is already being attacked by pro-aborts in the EU and elsewhere, and is being pressured to reverse the pro-life provisions or mitigate them with other tactics. Some Christian Democrats, who were very much responsible for the inclusion of this article in the Constitution, have declared, as HLI affiliate Dr Imre Téglásy reported, that they are not ready to press for the criminalisation of abortion:

"This is the theoretical declaration that we are committed to, and it is supported by the earlier decision of the Constitutional Court as well. At the same time we are aware of the fact that we cannot impose such a law on society, since it wouldn't be accepted by the great majority of it. So it is our aim now to convince people more and more that human life should be protected from the moment of conception. Our standpoint is that this theoretical declaration should be included clearly in the constitution, and the act itself can come to have a reality once the opinion of the majority of society changes regarding this topic."

The attempts to revive pro-life laws in Hungary have been ongoing for some time. The Constitutional Court of Hungary declared in 2000, after various pro-lifers including HLI challenged the liberality of the abortion law, that indeed it was unconstitutionally broad and the procedure should be more restricted. After this decision the parliament made certain cosmetic changes, but these were largely ineffective.

The Easter Constitution may be challenged at the European Court of Human Rights, as Poland's anti-abortion law has been.

Marriage

In an attempt to avoid the disastrous confusion over the nature of marriage that has overtaken the West, the new Constitution defines the family as being "understood to be the conjugal union of a man and a woman based on their independent consent. Hungary shall also protect the institution of the family, which it recognises as the basis for the survival of the nation."

In the document's discussion of human rights no mention is made of sexual orientation, so there are no constitutional grounds to grant special treatment to homosexuals nor to recognise the unions between persons of the same sex.

This Constitution also encourages generosity with life. First, there is a refreshing provision that would allow parents to vote on behalf of their underage children. The right of one minor per parent to "vote" shall be exercised by his or her mother or other legal representative. In this way, those who are having children have a greater say in Hungary's elections than those who are not. This provision may not survive the legislative process, but what a delightful idea - my husband and I would have had an extra eight votes at every election!

Secondly, the Constitution establishes that parents' tax contributions shall be determined in part by their expenses in raising children, giving parents with young children a very sorely needed tax break.

There are further important provisions in the new Constitution. One establishes the separation of Church and State, but not an absolute wall of separation. Instead, it states: "For the attainment of community goals, the State shall cooperate with the churches."

Other provisions promise greater economic freedom, such as the provision that Hungary's economy shall be based upon work which creates value, and upon freedom of enterprise. At a time when so many countries are creating enormous budget deficits, we should praise Hungary's commitment to a balanced, transparent and sustainable management of their budget.

Important role

HLI's affiliate in Hungary, Dr Imre Téglásy, played an important role in the adoption of this Constitution through his political connections and his tireless efforts to shape public opinion and mobilise support. As the father of ten children, he is already living the values he promotes. And fortitude is a Téglásy family trait: Dr Téglásy's father helped lead the resistance to the Russians and the Communists in his region during the 1956 Hungarian Uprising. He was almost killed and later paid a steep price at the hands of the public authorities for standing up for freedom and human rights. This is the battle his son, HLI's representative, continues today in his defence of life and family.

Stephen Mosher, President of the Population Research Institute writes: "I was praying before the tomb of the great Cardinal Mindszenty in his cathedral at Esztergom, when I heard the news that his beloved Hungary had passed a new, pro-life constitution. The Cardinal, who took sanctuary in the US Embassy for 16 years after Soviet troops crushed the Hungarian Uprising of 1956, would be proud. In a move that has shocked the European Union and drawn heavy fire from pro-choice and homosexual activist groups around the world, Hungary approved a new constitution that bans gay marriage, and protects human life from the moment of conception.

"Approved on April 18th, the document also makes across-the-board changes to the Hungarian political structure, including financial reforms intended to address the country's ballooning deficits. According to Hungarian officials, this constitution is designed to be the final step in moving the former Soviet bloc country away from the old communist ways of doing things.

"We've just participated in a historical moment,' parliamentary speaker Laszlo Kover said to the Associated Press. 'The new constitution is built upon our past and traditions, but seeks and contains answers to current problems while keeping an eye on the future.'

"Questions have been raised about some of the constitution's provisions. Some have criticised a provision that allows the dissolution of parliament if a budget is not passed on time, but in an era of ballooning deficits, this may be just what is needed to achieve fiscal restraint. (Certainly the US Congress would be forced to seriously address their own fiscal problems if their failure to do so would put them immediately before the electorate in a special election!)."

Life and marriage

"What is drawing the most attention from the media, however, is the fear-mongering of pro-choice and pro-homosexual groups, whose only reason for bashing the new constitution is that it protects life and marriage. The Hungarian LGBT Alliance, for example, urged the president "not to sign the new constitution into law, and to give a new opportunity to the Parliament to adopt a truly modern, European constitution ... instead of a political pamphlet motivated by homophobic prejudices.

"Human Rights Watch, which has become stridently pro-abortion over the past few years, has levelled criticism against the new constitution as well, fretting that (among other things) its pro-life clauses might 'lead to efforts to overturn Hungary's abortion law and result in restrictions on abortion that would put a number of fundamental rights for women at stake.'

"We at PRI sincerely hope that the worst fears of this pro-abortion organisation are realised, and that the new constitution will provide the legal basis for restricting, if not banning entirely, abortions in dying Hungary ...".

Eleanor Schlafly, President of the US-based Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation which promotes faith, family and freedom, says she prays that Hungary's new Easter Constitution truly represent a resurrection of this magnificent country that has suffered much during its history.

Babette Francis, National & Overseas Co-coordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc., is Human Life International's representative in Australia.

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