The revision of the law extending euthanasia to minors is pitting the federal majority parties against each other. The socialists and liberals support euthanasia for minors under certain conditions. The Christian democrat parties are opposed.
The Christian Democratic and Flemish party (CD&V), however, left a slight opening by setting the age at which a minor would be treated as an adult at 15 years. The Humanist Democratic Centre (CDH) is more reluctant. “It’s not wise to legislate in an area where even physicians and specialists cannot agree,” explains André du Bus, the CDH commissioner in the senate. The two Christian democrat parties are at odds with their governmental partners who are anxious to conclude the matter.
In a justice and social affairs committee meeting on Wednesday, Jean-Jacques de Gucht, son of Karel, requested a quick vote, to occur at least before parliamentary vacations. The Reform movement (MR) mostly shares in this opinion. It’s a simple matter of bringing the text to a vote in the chamber prior to the 2014 elections.
CDH is slamming on the brakes, and CD&V does not appreciate seeing their government allies take off without them, leaving them high and dry. This was the case in 1990 regarding another ethical matter, abortion. There also, the Christian family of parties was isolated since the socialists and liberals could count on the nationalist and ecologist votes. This cobbled-together majority left a bad taste.
“The work undertaken in the senate needs to continue in order to pull together a consensus in the government majority”, confides Benoît Lutgen. The CDH president emphasizes that in addition, this ethical matter does not appear in the general government policy declaration. “Having each party go off with its own partisan shopping list is out of the question. We don’t each vote for whatever strikes our fancy. I am requesting in regard to this text a consensus among party presidents.” And if not? “We have not yet gotten to that point”, adds Lutgen.
Wouter Beke adopted the same position: “No patchwork majority in this ethical matter.” What if, due to lack of consensus, it had to be done? At this point in the discussions in committee, this is the most likely scenario. “It would cause problems within the majority”, admits the MR.
The committee will meet to discuss the agenda on Wednesday. The majority of the senators are anxious to conclude this matter in a full session before going on vacation. This is a potentially explosive matter for the majority, even if they need to keep cool heads. Without minimizing this issue’s importance, other items on the horizon have greater priority, such as the budget and state reform.