"One of Us" Campaign Gaining Ground in Slovakia

National Coordinator of European Citizens Initiative Speaks on Fostering a Culture of Life

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The “One of Us” campaign has gained much attention throughout Europe. According to its website,the citizen’s initiative seeks “juridical protection of the dignity, the right to life and of the integrity of every human being from conception in the areas of EU competence in which such protection is of particular importance.”

Thousands have signed petitions in support of “One of Us” all across Europe. In Slovakia, which is considered the 8th most pro-life country in Europe, have collected 1,315 signatures, since it began in the end of 2012.

Marek Michalčík, National Coordinator for “One of Us” Slovakia spoke with ZENIT on the campaign’s work.

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ZENIT: You launched “One of US” on January 31st, How  has the initiative be doing so far since it began.

Michalčík: Although we began at the end of 2012, we only recently held the press conference announcing the campaign. The information regarding how to sign the petition has already appeared in several media broadcasts and, in my opinion, is going very well.

ZENIT: Do you have a National Committee for “One of Us” or a pro life network?

Michalčík: There are two civil associations in our country in charge of the initiative – the Forum for Life and the Donum Vitae, both are pro-life organizations and we cooperate together.

ZENIT: Who has promoted, or rather, supported the Initiative in Slovakia?

Michalčík: One of our main supporters is Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Anna Záborská, as well as MEP Miroslav Mikolášik. Also promoting the initiative is the Forum for Life and its member organizations (currently over 40). We have also been working with volunteers, parishes etc. in this regard.

ZENIT: What is your strategy to support, to spread the news, as well as to gather the signatures for the “One of Us” campaign?

Michalčík: We try to use the channels we have built for over more than a decade in our pro-life activities. Recently, we launched our biggest campaign supporting life from the moment of conception on March 25th. This year, we have chosen to make its headline identical with the title of the “One of Us“ European citizen initiative. It will culminate in March and one of its aims is to encourage the people to show their attitude in favour of life and sign it.

ZENIT:  What is the current legislative, political and social situation regarding the unborn in Slovakia?

Michalčík: The legislation practically hasn´t changed since 1986. Abortion is allowed on the basis of a woman´s request until the 12th week of pregnancy. In cases where there is a great risk of serious damage to the fetus or danger to the life of mother, it is offered anytime. There are roughly 12,000 abortions performed each year; the highest number was achieved in 1988 – 50,000.

The attitude of public towards abortions was revealed in public opinion research poll from 2011:

According to more than a half of respondents (53%), abortion should be allowed only for serious reasons. One quarter of respondents thinks that abortion should be allowed for any reason. According to 16% of respondents, abortion should not be permitted at all. 7% of respondents didn’t know how to respond to the question.

In 2009, a legal amendment was approved imposing a duty to gynaecologists to inform women about the nature and the surgical procedure before an abortion, as well as disclosing information about organizations and institutions that assist pregnant women in need. There is also an obligation to wait 48-hours before performing an abortion. The question of objection of conscience by doctors is tolerated but not legally stabilized. There still are the politicians in Slovakia who are openly for life, but there are not many of them.

Currently, there is a great public debate regarding abortion pills. The pills were secretly registered last year, but haven´t been available for purchase yet. Their use would be illegal under the current legislation.

ZENIT: How is the Pro-Life Movement in Slovakia?

Michalčík: The pro-life movement has grown in strength over the last 15 years. Besides the Forum for Life, there are also other organizations. Many institutions that until now overlooked this topic, have started to deal with it. The first National March for Life will take place on the September 22nd, and is being organized by the Bishops’ conference of Slovakia.

The Church puts more emphasis on the matters regarding the protection of life. Since the beginning of the year, the Masses with the intention of spreading a culture of life have been celebrated on a daily basis all over the country. But in the majority of Slovakian society, the situation is not very good.

ZENIT: MEP Anna Zaborska is a known pro life supporter in the European Parliament…

Michalčík:Yes, she is a co-founder of the Forum for Life and she is among the most active pro-life politicians in the country. We are very proud of her.

ZENIT: What impact do you think the “One of Us” campaign could have in Slovakia as well as in European Union (EU)?

Michalčík: There are many people in the Republic of Slovakia who were shocked to find out that their taxes are used for funding embryonic research in the UK, while in our country such research is illegal. It is our responsibility to regulate the flow of public funding towards things that are ethical and right. Within the EU it can contribute to the discussion about subsidiarity in ethical questions and about respect for the flow of European money only to the areas of common consent of all member countries.

ZENIT: Why do you think many youth have joined “One of Us”?

Young people are close in age to the unborn; they often identify with them and that´s why they are not indifferent to the matter of their destiny. But they should also care about the ethics of the research and consistent respect for the dignity of every human being. Because a joyful future can only happen when everyone’s life is unconditionally respected, without threat of abortion or euthanasia.

ZENIT: Why should someone sign the “One of Us” petition?

Michalčík: We are Europeans. It is an opportunity to demonstrate our responsibility for the whole of Europe and to express our attitude in respecting human life from the moment of conception. It can also be one of the impulses for a change of direction in Europe towards a culture of life, instead of culture of death.

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Elisabetta Pittino

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