The Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches’ opinion on the Constitutional revision of Article 119 of the Federal Constitution
In the referendum on Article 119 of the Federal Constitution is a mere seven words in a nondescript sentence of paragraph 2, letter c, and sentence 3. It will specify how many embryos can be produced artificially. Today, the following applies: There may be so many embryos produced outside the mother’s womb, “as she can immediately be implanted with”. New, this sentence part should read: “as are necessary for the medically assisted reproduction”. The revision of Article 119 BV is a prerequisite for the lifting of the ban on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in reproduction medical law.
Lawmakers want to enable parents, who have a hereditary disposition, to have a possible genetic investigation in the scope of artificial fertilization. The Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches can understand this concern. However, the genetically based selection of embryos penetrates the highly sensitive and problematic area of eugenics, i.e. the artificial selection and control of human reproduction. Therefore, a clear and strict legal regulation must be established. The revision presented does not fulfil this condition. Therefore, the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches rejects the constitutional amendment.
The Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches’ reasons for its rejection are as follows:
- Problematic change of purpose: Under current law, only as many embryos from a woman’s eggs shall be produced, as “she” will in fact have implanted. The amended Constitution Article no longer has the woman in mind, but merely the necessary medical measures. This change of purpose focuses exclusively on biomedicine and its interests. The real purpose, enabling a pregnancy, is no longer mentioned.
- Retraction of the legislature: With the revision of Article 119 BV, the decision on the number of embryos produced is relinquished solely to the reproductive medicine. The legislature omitted in fact a legal limitation of the PGD, and opened a new practice of reproductive medicine field from which it at the same time withdraws itself. Surplus embryos might in future – because they are already there – also be used for research or for so-called “saviour babies”.
- Unclear Embryo Protection: The genetic engineering developments prompted the legislature, to include an article on the “dignity of creation” in the Constitution (Article 120 BV). Is there an analogous protection of dignity for human embryos? The current version of Art. 119 BV does not explicitly include it, but it is understood to give such protection. This protection would, however, be void with the adoption of the proposed amendment. Therefore, the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches calls for an article that explicitly places the dignity of the embryo under the protection of the Federal Constitution.
- From the exception to the rule: Human life – whether born or unborn –must be protected. The embryo selection collides with the fundamental duty to protect human life. Therefore, PGD occurs only as an exception to the basic life protection in question and not as a freely selective alternative. At the same time an ethical consultation is required before the decision to use PGD. Because in the decision, to apply PGD, the Yes to use embryo selection is already included. The consequences and impositions of a conscience decision must therefore be clarified and weighed before the decision for a PGD. The danger that exceptions to the rule become self-evident is great, especially in the context of the new biotechnologies. To counteract this is a task for the whole of society.
- The specification of God’s Yes to every human: freedom of choice is a valuable asset that requires a willingness to take on responsibility. How much responsibility should be imposed on people, and when does it become an unbearable burden? Should the choice of human life really become an everyday decision? The Bible knows about the dangers of excessive human demands and therefore has the story of God’s Yes to every human prominently placed at the beginning: Every human is the divinely willed creature. Because for the creator no life is condemnable (1 Tim 4:4), no human life must be revised and selected. This basic decision to life must be reflected in societal conditions in which every child is welcome, and parents get all the support and every possible reason to accept their child happily and also bravely. •
A detailed 12-page opinion of the SEC found in www.kirchenbund.ch under Publications. Swiss Protestant Churches Sulgenauweg 26, CH-3000 Berne, Tel +41 31 370 2525,
(Translation Current Concerns)