Belgium must follow the French example and better protect rights such as abortion against far-right conservatism, writes Open Vld chairman Tom Ongena. ‘That is why I advocate enshrining the right to self-determination (the right to abortion and euthanasia) in the constitution.’
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” These are the words of Martin Luther King. He was convinced that no matter how dark some episodes of our history are, our society is becoming increasingly just. That in the long term we will always evolve towards more freedom and a stronger democracy.
We liberals also believe in this. We firmly believe that tomorrow will be better than today. That our children will be more prosperous and freer than we are. But that is not a historical law. That arc never bends towards justice on its own. Our rights are not securely established or eternal achievements. On the contrary, our freedoms are particularly vulnerable and under attack today.
Just look at Poland or the US, where the right to abortion is being restricted. In Hungary where the independence of judges is being eroded. Or to Italy, where lesbian couples lost their rights as parents.
These freedoms are also under pressure in our own country. For example, the extreme right wants to restrict the right to abortion. Only in the case of rape, when the future child is not viable or when the mother’s life is in danger, do they still want to allow abortion. In concrete terms, this means that a teenage girl or any woman who simply has an unwanted pregnancy can no longer get an abortion. Even in the case of severe disabilities, the pregnancy can no longer be interrupted.
Some obscure clerical movements want to “evaluate” the euthanasia law, or have the element of psychological suffering removed from the law. The ultimate goal is to erode the law and make the right to euthanasia impossible in practice.
It is clear: we are at a pivotal moment with our freedoms. Are we going to protect our rights and freedoms? Or will we allow fanatics to roll back fundamental freedoms such as abortion and euthanasia?
France is already showing us a good example. There, the Assembly agreed to President Macron’s plan to include the right to abortion in the constitution.
We must also dare to take that step in our country. We must constitutionally enshrine the right to self-determination, such as the right to abortion and euthanasia. There are various avenues for this. We can add a new article or add the right to self-determination to the current article 22. In the Netherlands, lawyer and author of Taste of an improved Constitution, Huub Linthorst, already a cross. He advocates the introduction of the following article:
“Everyone has the right to control his own body and his own life and the life that a person carries within him as a result of a pregnancy, subject to restrictions imposed by or pursuant to the law that are appropriate and necessary to achieve a legitimate goal.”
With this we anchor the right to abortion, but also that of euthanasia, in the constitution. The end goal is to protect the freedom of citizens against an overly interfering and restrictive government. That has always been the goal of liberals, ever since the – then revolutionary – Belgian Constitution was drawn up in 1830. And that is still our motivation: to protect freedom against religious dogmas, against ultra-conservative political forces or against anyone who would do this. wants to restrict justice.
Now is the time to push the arc of our history toward justice.