Rees, M. C. (2013). “Pro-life” in the Czech Republic – What Kind of Europeanization Is Present?. Středoevropské politické studie, 15(1), 1–24. doi:
“Pro-life” in the Czech Republic – What Kind of Europeanization Is Present

Středoevropské politické studie / Central European Political Studies Review, ISSN 1212-7817

Ročník XV, Číslo 1, s. 1–24 / Volume XV, Issue 1, pp. 1–24

DOI: 10.5817/CEPSR.2012.1.1                (c) Mezinárodní politologický ústav / International Institute of Political Science


“Pro-life” in the Czech Republic – What Kind of Europeanization Is Present?


Matthew Ch. Rees[1]


Abstract: This paper attempts to show what effects Europeanization has had on the pro-life movement in the Czech Republic. The first section of the text outlines a multifaceted concept of institutional theory based on historical institutionalist ideas. Next, it looks at one specific institutional process, Europeanization, informed by the work of Radaelli as well as della Porta’s and Caiani’s work on mobilization in the European Union. The following section defines the relevant actors in the Czech pro-life movement. Finally, the paper applies this concept of Europeanization of social movements to the Czech pro-life case. The paper concludes with observations that Europeanization of the Czech pro-life movement is uneven, manifesting itself among some actors, though not all, and in some areas of Europeanization. Charitable organizations as well as one highly visible activist group are highly associated with processes of Europeanization; on the other hand, in most cases, other activist groups in the pro-life movement in the Czech Republic are more highly influenced by more general trends in interest-group internationalization. These insights may pave the way for additional research on trends both of the European pro-life movement as a whole, as well as serving as a touchstone for improving such theoretical concepts as “Europeanization” vis-à-vis “globalization” or “European integration”.


Keywords: Europeanization, Family-Values Organizations, Internationalization, Pro-Life Movement, Social Movements



1. Introduction: The Czech Pro-Life Movement and the Concept of Europeanization

As civil society in Central and Eastern Europe has consolidated since 1989, much has been written on various social movements in the Czech Republic, particularly those organizations that focus on environmental (Fagan 2004) and feminist (Císař and Vráblíková 2010) concerns. Much of this research has been informed by various conceptualizations of Europeanization and the effect of “Europe” on the formation of Czech civil society after the Cold War. Often, the concept of Europeanization is a refinement of institutional theories such as historical institutionalism, for example in the work of Radaelli (2001, 2003), which approaches this topic from a top-down perspective that focuses on the effects “Europe” has on interest-group politics, or a bottom-up approach informed by mobilization theories and ideas about political opportunity structure, such as della Porta and Caiani (2009) have used. However, both perspectives are necessary if scholars wish to fully understand the way social movements “work” in society. Additionally, most studies tend to focus solely on the political roles social movements take on; however, focusing solely on the “political” actions of a social movement may result in an incomplete understanding both of the roles social movements play in society as well as the movement’s self-conceptualization. This is important, because oftentimes movement organizations both appeal to legislators as well as offer some form of non-state assistance to members of society directly. For example, feminist organizations may lobby a legislature, but they

also may offer self-defense classes; environmental organizations often include a service component in their activities, such as organizing members to clean up a local park.

For these above reasons, it is necessary to modify the approaches scholars use to look at social movements; we must look at them both from the bottom up and the top down, and we need to address the fact that they play a broader role in society, outside the political arena, as well. In the case of European movements, it is also critical to take into account any role the European Union may play. This paper is an attempt to illustrate how this perspective can be used, using the Czech pro-life movement as a case study. The Czech pro-life movement is a particularly relevant topic, as there remains a relative paucity of knowledge about other social-movement actors outside the typically researched environmental and feminist organizations, including the pro-life movement, and “family-values organizations” (FVOs) more generally, in Czech Republic. Like other European grassroots actors, these organizations also take EU influence into account when advocating policy changes, creating messaging strategies, or performing charitable works, and do so in ways that reflect the support of allies domestically and abroad. In this way, the pro-life movement in the Czech Republic can be contrasted with other activists, such as the feminist movement, to see in what ways their allies and tactics differ (and in what ways they are similar). In sum, this text is an attempt both to refine our conceptualization of Europeanization, as well as to offer an empirical sketch of an under-researched type of organization on the Czech socio-political scene. In other words, the paper is an attempt to determine what types of Europeanization are present in the pro-life movement in the Czech Republic.

The paper begins with an overview of historical institutionalism characterized by a dynamic relationship between the strategic action of rational choice, and the “structured terrain” of social institutionalism. It next exposits a theory of Europeanization informed by such an approach. After a definition and brief taxonomy of “family values” and “pro-life” organizations, this theoretical framework is then applied to the case of the Czech pro-life movement, in order to assess the impact of European and transnational actors on these types of organizations in the Czech Republic as well as their responses to this influence. Based on the analysis, the paper argues that voluntary organizations often have both a “political” and a “non-political” aspect to their work, and that the European Union may play a vital role with respect to both aspects. The paper closes with the observation that the pro-life movement is significantly impacted by Europeanization in ways that are highly ambivalent for pro-life supporters, leading in some cases to “retrenchment” (Buller and Gamble 2002) against European Union policies, and in other cases to contingent support


2. The Institutionalist Background of Europeanization: What Is Historical Institutionalism and Why Use It?

Historical institutionalism (HI) has emerged as a frequently employed approach to make sense of the social world, by making the assertion that explanatory value on topics related to public affairs can be achieved by discussing the dynamic relationships among individuals, their institutions, and, importantly, historical “path dependence.” It accepts that institutions both shape and are shaped by individuals, and also accepts social science’s general inability to predict future events, by acknowledging the powers of unintended consequences (Thelen 1999). From earlier forms of institutional theory, such as social institutionalism, HI accepts that the motivations, goals, and preferences of individuals in society are deeply influenced by socialization of these individuals; moreover, as an institutional approach, HI concedes the simple fact that individuals simply cannot “do what they want” and still have a reasonable chance of achieving some goal. At its most fundamental, the coercive nature of the state forbids various actions, using the threat of force to compel individuals (and groups) to avoid certain behaviors. Aside from state-based physical coercion, the influence of social mores by other intermediate institutions (churches, universities, political parties, etc.) also makes a significant impact on the shape of society. Such institutions act as intermediaries between the individual and that state, so institutionalism has a particular interest in seeing how these influence individuals (and their relationships with the state generally). These intermediate institutions often provide a buffer to the coercive powers of the state, yet still promote “good” behavior, and the state itself may also employ them in some fashion. As Stone notes, “Influence sometimes spills over into coercion, and the line between them is fuzzy at best” (Stone 2002, 24). Institutionalism thus attempts to get a bird’s-eye view of society, defining individual behavior in terms of general aggregate systems.

Institutionalism is thus the systematic study these of various elements. To the extent that these discouraging or encouraging elements can be cataloged, researchers attempt to analyze their effects on individuals and social associations. To this end, social science develops classifications of institutions (see e.g. Michael Novak’s The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (Novak 1983), Fukuyama’s The Great Disruption (Fukuyama 1999), or Rokkan’s four types of “boundary control” (Flora, et al. 1999), and examines their interaction. Part of this cataloging process is taxonomic, defining and comparing institutions according to such characteristics as their degree of formality, their size, their objectives, and their coercive/influential capability. The idea is that with a proper assessment of these institutions, we can begin to understand their interactions; from there, we can understand how individuals react within this framework.

Steinmo, however, points out that “pure” institutionalism suffered from an overly universalizing tendency to look at actors as operating in a “logic of appropriateness,” rather than having a broader set of options available to them (2008). To remedy this shortcoming, “pure” institutionalism is often paired with a “bottom-up” approach that takes account of actors at the micro level. Some economically-inclined thinkers thus adopt the rational-choice path, in which the motivations of individuals are less relevant than the results of voluntary exchange.[2] For others, due to the unquantifiable nature of motivation, rational-choice tends to ignore motivations altogether. One reason for this is understandable: as Roland Vaubel notes (2003), this helps to eliminate the normative assumption that policymakers or bureaucrats in states or international organizations always aim for the “general interest.” When this answer seems unsatisfactory, defenders of rational-choice instead resort to a tautological understanding of motivation: “because the individual wants it” (Shepsle and Bonchek 1997). This evasiveness about motivations clouds the definition of “rational.” Rational-choice does not deny that motivations exist; it merely does not choose to examine them, and accepts them as a “black box” (Hodgson 2004).

If, however, we assume that motivations matter, rational-choice theory leaves us cold. For purely descriptive, “this-is-how-it-happens” questions, rational-choice may be sufficient. However, if we wish to understand society on a deeper, less mechanistic level, it is necessary to ask about motivations on the individual level. “Rational” actions require ontological values about identity and what self-interest is; in other words, it does not address what Radaelli refers to (in the context of Europeanization) as “cognitive and normative structures” (2003). We thus find ourselves returning to the importance of institutions, and indeed Hay and Wincott argue thus that “rational-choice analysis moves from an apparently agent-centered individualism… to a deep structuralism, deriving action from context” (1998).

In other words, the rational-choice formula has only an ex post relationship with motivations, which play a critical role in the politics of pluralist societies, especially among voluntary organizations. If we look at such organizations in civil society, we can see that different actors reasonably enough have different goals, motivations, and strategies. A full taxonomy could include anything from artists’ collectives, charities, fraternal organizations, and sports clubs to interest groups, labor unions, or political parties. As Tocqueville (2000 [1848] p. 515) explained, associations are the lifeblood of democratic society. Within this broad context of what we call “civil society,” some organizations take on more “political” roles than others; furthermore, some organizations have both “political” as well as “non-political” roles. To avoid charges of Sartori’s “degreeism” (quoted in Radaelli 2000), this paper divides “political” organizations from “non-political” ones based on their primary missions. In this way, service providers and charities are largely “non-political,” while advocacy and protest organizations are “political.” This does not necessarily mean that these “non-political” organizations are ambivalent about the “proper” role of the state in society, only that these other institutions also play a critical role in solving problems of society. While these actors are not primarily political, in a pluralist society these actors are important because they move in and out of the political arena depending on the situation. Labor unions and charities, whether government subsidized or not, both fit into this category. However, even a gardening club or a sports team can turn “political” if a public policy issue, such as a proposed ban on pesticides or the building of a new stadium, has a direct effect on their interests or their perspective on “ways of doing things.” In sum, while certain organizations in a pluralist society have political goals as a fundamental raison d’être, other organizations may also engage in public policy debates as well, and in fact may be critical allies for the more “political” groups when building coalitions.

Finally, HI also adds the concept of path dependency in its understanding of institutional change. As Hay and Wincott explain, “the order in which things happen affects how they happen; the trajectory of change up to a certain point constrains the trajectory after that point; and the strategic choices made at a particular moment eliminate whole ranges of possibilities from later choices while serving as the very condition of existence of others” (1998 p. 955). Actors are “rational” in the sense that they rely on and interpret information they have at the time, and make strategic choices based on that information; they are at once “norm-abiding rule followers and self-interested rational actors” (Steinmo 2008, p. 126). For this reason, defining when an institution functions as an actor and when it functions as a collection of rules is contingent on the case, the historical context, and the level of analysis. For example, an organization can have an internal set of rules and norms, and thus function as an arena to be contested, yet it can also be an actor when its members act collectively vis-à-vis the rest of society. In other words, an institution can act, and it can also be acted upon.

In sum, structures, culture, and incentives all play a role in human action (Rozansky and Lerner 2012), (Steinmo 2008), but human action also influences this terrain of structures, culture and incentives. In this way, HI can be seen as a middle way between social institutionalism and rational-choice theory. Social institutionalism helps to define the given political space on which actors must play, including the institutional framework and the ways preferences are formed; rational-choice, on the other hand, explains how people deal with their goals and how tactical and strategic decisions are made within the context of these rules (Rees 2010). HI thus allows us to examine the structures of European society (or societies) to see what options are available to organizations as events and long-term developments in society occur, including the influence of European-level actors. For this reasons, HI-oriented studies of Europeanization have been particularly useful for an analysis of interest groups in Europe. Europeanization in this view can proceed along two axes, a “bottom-up – top-down” axis of actors, and a “hard – soft” axis of explicit and implicit actions.


3. Historical Institutionalism and Europeanization

As a general concept, Europeanization itself remains contested in the academic community, due in part to problems of concept-stretching (Radaelli 2003). Some authors have stressed aspects of “hard” Europeanization, such as Börzel (1999), while others such as Borneman and Fowler (1997) have focused on the “softer” forms, such as cultural diffusion and exchange. As Radaelli noted, the issue is not that “Europeanization” has multiple interpretations, only that this concept must be defined “upfront” (Radaelli 2003, p. 31). This paper conceives of Europeanization as containing both “top-down” as well as “bottom-up” components; the relationship between actor and acted-upon is dynamic and mutually constitutive. In light of this, Europeanization is the complex process of institutionalizing formal legislation and informal norms, both from the European level down as well as from the grassroots level up. Because “Europe” serves at once as an actor as well as an arena, both “downloading” as well as “uploading” are necessary; because “Europe” is more than a collection of formal laws, “hard” and “soft” aspects alike must be included in a definition.

Radaelli himself clearly draws on a broadly institutionalist framework, and famously delimits Europeanization by “processes of (a) construction, (b) diffusion, and (c) institutionalization of formal and informal rules, procedures, policy paradigms, styles, ‘ways of doing things,’ and shared beliefs and norms” which begin at the EU level and are then reintroduced at the national level (ibid., p. 30). Within this definition, therefore, we can see the contrast as well as interaction of “soft” and “hard” types of Europeanization.[3] As noted above, both may be present, but changes in formal structures are more concrete, and easier to point out. Radaelli also distinguishes between “Europeanization” – which he sees as a primarily top-down phenomenon – and “the EU policy process,” which includes a “bottom-up” or “uploading” of preferences through complex negotiations (ibid., p. 34). However, della Porta and Caiani also refer to “Europeanization from below” (della Porta and Caiani 2009, p. 5) as a necessary element when observing social movements in the context of Europeanization. Moreover, perceiving Europeanization as a one-way phenomenon may enable us to capture a snapshot in time of “what is Europeanized,” but from the perspective of historical institutionalism, the constant dynamic interaction of actors and institutions may offer a more accurate model of society. Indeed, Radaelli (2003) himself points out  that such strategic learning is an important dimension of the research done on political changes in a European context (as well as more generally in political science).

As noted above, “top-down” Europeanization occurs when European-level actors impose some form of rules or norms at the domestic political level.[4] From the bottom-up perspective, however, with respect to grassroots actors the “Political Opportunity Structures” (POS) approach has been employed. POS focuses more on resource mobilization by grassroots actors and taking advantage of multiple “access points” in the political process (Císař and Vráblíková 2010). Europeanization research has thus incorporated POS in efforts to address the concept of “uploading” policy preferences from the domestic level to the European level, and to illustrate one way that Europeanization occurs from the “bottom up.”

Within the context of Europeanization, this paper thus models the “European Union” both as an institutional giver of norms, values, and resource allocation (in the “top-down” perspective), as well as an arena in which external actors attempt to form policy and culture (from the bottom up), thus attempting to change the structure of “Europe” (as an attempt to change these very norms, values and the allocation of these resources). Based on previous commitments to various ideational goals, policymaking styles, and perceptions of interests, the European level represents both an active participant in policymaking for grassroots organizations as well as an arena for influencing policy; moreover, the EU as both an actor as well as a political arena has changed over time, which in turn has had an effect on values as well as strategies of actors at the national level. Actors at the grassroots level in Europe need to take advantage of what information they have combined with what resources they can obtain to “rationally” satisfy their interests as best they can.

In sum, a concept of Europeanization informed by historical institutionalism allows us to examine European political life as a two-way street of top-down imposition by “Europe as an actor” of legislation as well as of values and habits, and a bottom-up process of addressing both policy and cultural priorities from the state or local level to the European sphere. In the next section, this paper outlines a second axis of Europeanization: at one end, we find the “hard” aspect of explicit policies and statements; at the other lies the “soft” Europeanization of interactions via tacit agreements and understandings of policymaking and society.


4. “Hard” and “Soft” Europeanization

As European integration has progressed, we have started to see how EU-level institutions, whether conceived as “external” to member states or sovereign over those states, have begun to affect the institutional scaffold of national societies – in Radaelli’s (2000) terminology, there has been a degree of “transformation” in “Europeanized” areas of policy. Because Europeanization involves both formal and explicit (i.e. legal) dimensions as well as informal, often tacit (i.e. cultural) dimensions (Featherstone 2003), it is necessary to examine Europeanization with an approach that takes into account both of these aspects, particularly when dealing with organizations that are concerned with more abstract moral goals, such as human rights organizations.

“Hard” Europeanization focuses on policy and specific documentation, of either “top-down” implementation of specific EU policies, or “bottom-up” attempts by member states or national and local activists to advocate their policy preferences in the European arena (Knill and Lehmkuhl 1999). These policy preferences need not be in agreement with the policies of the Union as a whole, and may indeed lead to “retrenchment” of local and state level policy-oriented actors, or it can trigger efforts from local and state actors to find allies in other European nations. This two-way process can result in several possible policy outcomes; for example, a country or interest group can argue for a specific policy outcome at the EU level (though by no means do member states and interest groups necessarily agree on what a certain policy should be – for example, an local environmental group, a nationwide labor union, and a national government may all have opposing viewpoints vis-à-vis each other on an EU policy proposal concerning the construction of factories), or they may indeed find common ground via the principle of subsidiarity and oppose all policy options, based on a view that the EU is the improper level to make these decisions. The important aspect of “hard” Europeanization is its focus on tangible policy changes. In the context of the abortion debate specifically, this phenomenon has been relatively absent in comparison to environmental movements, though the policy of “gender mainstreaming” has put the issue at least on the agenda tangentially, as is shown below.

“Soft” Europeanization, on the other hand, is more culturally or normatively oriented, and refers to changes that “alter the beliefs and expectations of the actors” (Knill and Lehmkuhl 1999). For “soft” Europeanization, “Europe” changes the societies that are members of it not by policy, but by encouraging certain preferences and discouraging others through socialization processes. Radaelli (2003) points out societies may be thoroughly “transformed” by Europeanization in this way.

However, difficulties arise when operationalizing this “soft” Europeanization. Knill and Lehmkuhl (1999) identify three related ways in which “soft” Europeanization takes place from the top down: first, supporters may derive additional legitimization in the domestic arena when citing “European” desires to reform; second, subtle pressure may be exerted by “Europe” on the need to coordinate policy, though emphasizing flexibility in developing country-specific solutions; and third, opposition at the national level may be co-opted early on, with the idea that it is more advantageous to work for a compromise within the system than to be completely shut out of the discussion altogether. Later, Szyszczak (2006) identified the Open Method of Coordination as a forum particularly conducive to the development of “soft” Europeanization, emphasizing policy “transfer” rather than “coordination” of national policies, especially in “areas of employment policy, the modernisation of social protection, and immigration” (Szyszczak 2006). The Open Method of Coordination in this way actually acts as both a top-down and a bottom-up case – reciprocal and repeated communication provides for both uploading and “teaching,” as well as “learning” and downloading of policy. Nevertheless, in the context of the OMC, this is primarily an elite phenomenon, rather than a grassroots one. Moreover, two of these ways (additional legitimization and the OMC) are primarily based on the idea of more effective ways of implementing “hard” policies, rather than changing the “culture” of the European political space.

Della Porta and Caiani (2009), however, note a “bottom-up,” Europeanization based on social movements and the construction of a pan-European identity. In their comprehensive study on left-wing activists at the European Social Forum, they repeatedly emphasize that many of these particular activists do not consider themselves “anti-European,” but rather “critical Europeanists” who are not opposed to the construction of the EU per se, only the political and social direction in which it is going. These activists “have different images of Europe and its potential, often criticizing specific European policies rather than Europe in general” (ibid., p. 23). These activists also convene to coordinate policy proposals for “uploading” to either their national or European political representatives. This can perhaps be perceived as a grassroots version of open coordination, though these activists are far removed from OMC. However, not only are specific policies discussed (in the sense of “hard” Europeanization), but grassroots actors begin to form deeper relationships: “protests have cognitive, affective, and relational impacts on the very movements that carry them out” (della Porta and Caiani 2009, p. 136). In this context of “soft” Europeanization, therefore, “activists not only feel quite attached to Europe but perceive themselves as promoters of a cosmopolitan vision, part of which is an open European identity” (ibid., p. 158). Insofar as this “European” identity can be defined and contrasted in the context of national or local historical traditions (including resistance to the formation of a specific vision of “European” identity as a form of “retrenchment,” and the substitution of one “European” identity for another), we can detect the presence of “soft” Europeanization.

Finally, actors may be financially supported by the European Union, and have varying degrees of commitment as purely “political” actors. In della Porta’s and Caiani’s study, for example, the European Trade Union Confederation is subsidized by the EU (European Trade Union Confederation 2004), but was also highly active in mobilizing actors against various EU policies (della Porta and Caiani 2009). Nevertheless, it also worked to create these “cognitive… impacts” among its members as well as among other groups of protesters. In other words, the ETUC has worked toward “soft” Europeanization from the bottom up (trying to influence the European level), while receiving funds from the top down (and thus affected by “top-down” Europeanization) concomitantly. Numerous charitable and religious organizations supported by the European Union, such as Caritas and Comunita di Sant’Egidio, also were highly visible in the European Social Forum (ibid., p. 77). Because such organizations straddle the fence of formal policymaking and voluntaristic civil society, they are a necessary part of understanding the political culture of a pluralist, liberal Europe.




















Table 1: Types of Europeanization

Types of Europeanization NEW.jpg
Source: Adapted by the author from Radaelli (2003), Knill and Lehmkuhl (1999), della Porta and Caiani (2009)


In sum, we can ascertain four basic types of Europeanization relevant for interest groups. To a certain extent, there will naturally be some degree of overlap, as various actors are involved in multiple activities which occur in different quadrants of the above figure. However, within this framework, we may also be able to locate what types of Europeanization deal with what type of actor. The following chapters address these four types of Europeanization as they apply to Czech family values organizations; results indicate that “top-down” Europeanization is primarily, but not solely, a “soft” phenomenon; on the other hand, “bottom-up” mobilization of the Czech pro-life movement is characterized by relatively diffuse actors and usually a more generalized trend toward “internationalization” or “globalization” rather than developing specifically “European” approaches.


5. Defining Family Values Organizations and Pro-Life Organizations

A “family values organization,” (FVO) for the purposes of this paper, serves as an umbrella term for those organizations that are chiefly motivated by values traditionally associated with Judeo-Christian religious teachings and their wish to translate them into public life, either politically or socially. As such, these organizations, and the people that comprise them, generally concern themselves with such topics as support for traditional nuclear families with married heterosexual parents, opposition to research on human embryos, and opposition to abortion. While they may not be Catholics,[5] academic research on the pro-life movement in the US at least indicates that activists in the pro-life movement are more Catholic than the general population (Munson 2008) and they often subscribe to values and arguments laid down and articulated most comprehensively in Catholic Social Teaching. This in turn means that they also typically favor a strong role for charity and voluntary action outside state bureaucratic structures (Rerum Novarum 1891). In this way, some “family values organizations” may be expressly political, but others may primarily be dedicated to “non-political” service provision or charity. The emphasis is on the sources of their beliefs, rather than on the particular activities they perform. Moreover, in the case of the pro-life movement in the Czech Republic, these charitable organizations often work closely with their more politically active counterparts, and this has a significant effect on their attitudes toward European integration and Europeanization.

“Pro-life” organizations are a subgroup of these FVOs, which focus on abortion and the protection of unborn and newborn children. These organizations also can be, but are not necessarily, expressly “political” (i.e., focused on policy advocacy), and the research below indicates that indeed, more organizations are focused on service provision than on directly influencing public policy on the abortion debate. While their members may share other values in line with the tenets of Judeo-Christian religious teachings, such as opposition to gay marriage, their primary focus continues to be on abortion and the reduction of its occurrence, either by use of public policy instruments or by offering alternatives such as support for women with unplanned pregnancies. To the extent that they discuss other social issues, it is usually in the context of a defense of the nuclear family structure. Having described who in Czech society this paper is referring to, we can then move on to an approach to studying society and where these particular actors fit within it.


6. Methodological Considerations

Previous research on pro-life organizations in the Czech Republic (Vidomus 2011), (Sokačová 2005), (Bošková, et al. 2008) has focused particularly on Hnutí Pro život o.s. as the chief advocacy organization of the pro-life movement in the Czech Republic. However, these papers have generally shied away from the role “Europe” plays in the Czech debate. Another text, by Dudová (2010), briefly touches on the European aspects of the abortion debate, but tends to focus much more on the “pro-choice” side of the debate, and pays little attention to civil society actors opposed to abortion.

In an effort to identify which organizations were most visible in Czech society with respect to the debate over abortion, this paper relies on a media search of the Anopress IT database from the past three years. When the terms “Potrat” or “Interrupce” occurred in connection with “Protest” or “Odpůrce,” the article was flagged and reviewed to discover who the actors were. Media visibility thus serves as a proxy for mobilization ability; larger or more frequent public activity (which requires greater organizational resources) is more widely and more frequently reported on. Over this past three-year period, four organizations stood out in the Czech media with respect to the abortion debate. Hnutí Pro život o.s. and Stop genocidě were the most prominent independent actors in the Czech pro-life movement;  the majority of coverage centered on Hnutí Pro život’s annual March for Life (Pochod pro život), as well as exhibitions by Stop genocidě. Other prominent actors included the Christian Democratic Union (KDU-ČSL, a political party) and its activists,[6] as well as Akce D.O.S.T. Of these four, two organizations (Hnutí Pro život ČR o.s. and Stop genocidě) are particularly focused on abortion, while a third (Akce D.O.S.T.) is concerned with propagating a more general concept of Judeo-Christian values in the Czech Republic, including but not limited to stricter regulations on abortion. After using the Anopress IT data to identify these three main organizations, an evaluation of the content of these organizations’ public materials was conducted to locate smaller organizations with similar interests, using snowball sampling (see Císař and Vráblíková (2010)). The most comprehensive list of these organizations was a list of those who participated in Hnutí Pro život’s Pochod pro život. Often these smaller organizations were volunteer service providers or less politically active organizations, and information was derived from their publicly available materials, generally online. Having identified these “big three” organizations as well as the smaller ones, public statements, websites, and newsletters were evaluated, supplemented by email conversations with representatives of these organizations, and statements and articles touching on European Union activities were flagged and evaluated as positive or negative developments from the perspective of the Czech pro-life movement.


7. Historical Aspects of the Pro-Life Movement in the Czech Republic

The history of pro-life activism in the Czech Republic is related to the promulgation of a 1957 law that legalized abortion in Czechoslovakia, but dissident doctors had to wait until the fall of Communism to formally organize, and in 1992 the most well-known (Bošková, et al. 2008) pro-life organization in Czech Republic, Hnutí Pro život o.s. (HPŽ) was formed in Jihlava, later changing its name to Hnutí Pro život ČR o.s. to reflect its republic-wide approach (Hnutí Pro život ČR o.s. n.d.). As Císař and Vráblíková (2010) note, the Communist regime indeed propagandized that women were emancipated under Communism (including using the liberalization of abortion laws as an example of this “emancipation”), which gave the Christian-focused pro-life movement in general a “dissident” and outsider character from the outset.[7] Ironically, the Communist propaganda also meant that women’s rights organizations themselves were also considered suspect during much of the 1990s (Císař and Vráblíková 2010), (Šiklová 1998). As result, both FVOs and feminist groups had to respond to a highly secularized society, but also one in which “women’s issues” (as abortion has often been framed) were marginalized. In other words, the “pre-EU” Czech Republic was already a unique environment in which to test the possible effects of Europeanization on abortion legislation and attitudes.

HPŽ is oriented along the lines of traditional Catholic Social Teaching, though the organization itself is non-sectarian, and indeed Orthodox clergy (who share similar doctrine with Catholics on this matter, see e.g. Němec and Přibyl (2001)) also participate in such events as the HPŽ’s annual Pochod pro život (March for Life) (Interview with Orthodox Priest 2012). HPŽ closely cooperates with other pro-life organizations in the Czech Republic, most notably Stop genocidě, in organizing petitions and rallies, as well as distribution of flyers and other publications, and serves as an umbrella group for the mobilization of the pro-life movement in the Czech Republic. In addition to supporting further restrictions on abortion, HPŽ also publishes a quarterly newsletter to inform its members on issues of “contraception, embryology, euthanasia, sexual ethics, and demography” (Hnutí Pro život ČR o.s. 2010) and other non-materialist public policies with a view to supporting “natural families based on marriage between one man and one woman” (Hnutí Pro život ČR o.s. 2012) and Judeo-Christian values. The newsletter also features book reviews and often translations from, a Canada-based online publication. Finally, HPŽ supports a pregnancy crisis hotline as a service provider. The organization is primarily financed by Czech individuals, and receives no international funding (Email interview with HPŽ official 2012).

As a protest organization, the primary tactic of Stop genocidě has been to post graphic signs and billboards in public to call attention to the “inexpressible evil” of abortion (Stop genocidě n.d.). They also distribute DVD films and other materials. Once again, however, the focus is less on direct lobbying of policymakers than on changing the politico-cultural context of abortion in the Czech Republic. For this reason, they often concentrate their message on young people, frequently setting up their exhibition in front of high schools. The organization is less focused on service delivery, and instead refers women dealing with an unexpected pregnancy to HPŽ’s crisis hotline. Similar to HPŽ, Stop genocidě also is financed by Czech citizens, though representatives note that it is influenced by the tactics of other organizations from abroad.

Akce D.O.S.T., founded in 2007, is an explicitly Euro-skeptic (and thus somewhat unsurprisingly) nationally-based organization. D.O.S.T. stands for “Důvěra (Trust), Objektivita (Objectivity), Svoboda (Freedom), and Tradice (Tradition),” and the word “dost” itself means “enough” in Czech (Akce D.O.S.T. 2007). It focuses on “traditional” liberal-conservative values and their manifestation in Czech society, and opposes what it sees as demands from the European Union and (some) Czech political elites to impose a “rootless cosmopolitanism.” The Czech President, Václav Klaus, has addressed the organization and supported it (Česká média 2011), and one of the initial sponsors of the organization’s manifesto was Klaus’ secretary; a later adviser close to Klaus, Petr Mach, is also active in the organization. Akce D.O.S.T. addresses a variety of social issues not limited to abortion, such as the legalization of gay marriage or the teaching of sex education in the Czech Republic; it derives its influence through its ability to mobilize politically influential leaders in a “grass-tops” way (Mitchell 1998), by finding people already influential in political life to help launch a grassroots movement. However, it is unconnected to any party, and indeed had links on its homepage to not one but three petition campaigns of potential presidential candidates for the 2013 election, none of whom had been endorsed by Klaus: Jiří Karas, Jana Bobošíková, and Ladislav Jakl, who was an official in Klaus’ Office of the Presidency (Akce D.O.S.T. 2012). Interestingly, Klaus himself endorsed Miloš Zeman (Blažková 2012). In sum, Akce D.O.S.T. is one of the most visible FVOs; however, it does not confine its activities solely to “pro-life” politics, and is instead organizes around a variety of different topics. It thus represents a sort of “catch-all” FVO which nevertheless has a deep and visible interest in Czech abortion politics on the pro-life side.

Finally, in addition to these three major “political” organizations, there are many smaller organizations that tend to focus on “non-political” service provision and direct assistance to pregnant women and new mothers. In light of this, these organizations tend to minimize the strictly political aspects of their activities, and whatever advocacy work they do on the issue of abortion is frequently manifested under the auspices of HPŽ, who coordinates major political actions. Nevertheless, they are relevant to the abortion debate in ways that will be addressed below.


8. The Current State of the Pro-Life Movement in the Czech Republic

Domestically, there are a number of factors that affect the current state of the pro-life movement in the Czech Republic. First, it is institutionally affected by various material factors, such as access to resources as well as its opponents’ access to resources. As Císař and Vráblíková (2010) note, “[e]xternally mobilized resources from various institutions play an important role in contemporary movements’ budgets. Importantly from our point of view, international institutions increase the availability of certain resources for certain actors, and decrease it for others.” However, the Czech pro-life movement is highly dependent on domestic, private sources of funding, particularly for its advocacy activities.

In contrast to material factors, however, ontological values, or “cognitive and normative structures” (Radaelli 2003), are more resistant to change. Similar to the feminist movement, these values are universalist in their nature; in the case of the pro-life movement, these are based on a specific conception of rights derived from a European, Judeo-Christian heritage. However, the pro-life movement is hardly immune from the ideas and attitudes of Czech as well as European society. This includes attitudes (both positive and negative) to religion and religiously-informed organizations and their influence on public policy, as well as more generalized attitudes about the roles of women in society.

We see this in the case of abortion rights at the Czech domestic level by the existence of a wide gulf between believers and non-believers. A 2012 poll conducted by the Center for Public Opinion Research (Centrum pro výzkum veřejného mínění, CVVM) reflects the high secularization of Czech society, noting that only 29% of the Czech population “trusts” churches; non-believers are unsurprisingly less likely to trust churches, and believers are more likely to do so (Česka Tisková Kancelář 2012). The low figure of trust in churches coincides with the support for legalized abortion in the Czech Republic. Almost 75% of the Czech population supports the idea that the pregnant woman herself should decide on having an abortion; this statistic has remained relatively unchanged since the 1990s, according to opinion polls conducted by CVVM (České noviny 2011).[8] Secularists tend toward a secular conception of abortion rights; Christians tend toward the pro-life perspective of rights.

In other words, just like any other social movement, the Czech pro-life movement is forced by path dependence to work with the attitudes of society as it already is, rather than a perfectly reasoned, dispassionate collection of individuals. Additionally, the Czech Republic’s continued integration into the European Union has prompted some actors, particularly Akce D.O.S.T., to form, and the character of the organization is fundamentally oriented to responding to this development.

If the EU is perceived by the pro-life movement as a threat to the articulation its moral arguments, either in “hard” or “soft” ways, it would not be surprising that there would be a groundswell of opposition to certain aspects of European integration from the pro-life movement.


9. Top-Down Europeanization in the Czech Pro-Life Movement

“Hard” Europeanization in its top-down form is characterized chiefly by the adoption of specific legislation by member states of the EU. However, in the context of abortion provision, the European Commission has been careful to note that Member States are chiefly responsible for the health care systems (this includes abortion services) of their respective countries (European Commission 2007). In this respect, the European Union has officially left abortion as an issue that is in the competence of the Member States of the EU. As a result, “hard” concepts of Europeanization in this case thus may be difficult to observe, though in 2002 the European Parliament issued a Declaration that “in order to safeguard women’s reproductive health and rights, abortion should be made legal, safe and accessible to all” (European Parliament, Committee on Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities 2002), and there are instances where some MEP’s have repeatedly called for a more direct approval of abortion on the EU level (European Parliament 2011), (European Parliament 2010), (European Parliament 2010). Moreover, as Sedelmeier (2006) asserts, the acquis communautaire was particularly influential for new Member States because “as non-member states, the candidates had no voice in the making of the rules that they ha[d] to adopt, and the power asymmetry vis-à-vis the incumbents… led to a top-down process of rule transfer, with no scope for ‘uploading’ their own preferences to the EU level.” In other words, the EU reinforced trends in the societies of Member States which reflected a liberal constellation of rights concerning the family and abortion, and sidelined actors with alternative definitions and priorities in the context of human rights. In POS terms, while the space for feminist organizations opened, concomitantly the institutional space for FVOs closed. This explicit “top-down process of rule transfer” represented an initial impact of Europeanization for many groups in society, including women’s groups. As Císař and Vráblíková (2010 p. 211) note, one particularly important development was EU pressure on the Czech Republic to include representatives of women’s rights groups (favoring more liberalized abortion policy) in ministerial consultations. Europeanization in the form of retrenchment occurred in the pro-life movement as a knock-on effect of this development. The main “institutional change” resulted thus from the opening of the domestic political scene to feminist actors; it thus gave a greater voice to opponents of the pro-life movement, without opening the door to pro-life advocates.

The EC also has declared that “public health” touches on many aspects of “solidarity” and health care inequalities throughout the EU. In the case of the pro-life movement, the indirect, or “soft,” side of Europeanization is a more salient topic than any formal changes in law. First, and most importantly, the Union has worked extensively to finance and empower feminist organizations (Mazey 1998), which generally perceive access to abortion as a topic worthy of advocacy. This is particularly true in newer Member States (Chiva 2009). Additionally, the Union has official working relationships with various UN organs that promote a vision of public health that advocates easily accessible contraception and abortion. This indirect form of influencing civil society by financing various political actors supportive of abortion alters the political terrain for pro-life activists, but this happens in the “soft” way of socialization and tacit understandings about the roles both of activist organizations in democracies as well as the roles of women in society. Similar to the activists studied by della Porta and Caiani, we see the pro-life movement in the Czech Republic, particularly Akce D.O.S.T., beginning to mobilize against a European Union considered indifferent or even hostile to its values. Additionally, as the EU has increasingly become concerned with “feminizing” its policies, particularly concerning labor rights and social policy (Chiva 2009, p. 198), it adopted a conception of human rights which prioritized equality between men and women in such a way that supporters of legalized abortion, such as the European Women’s Lobby, gained a foothold in influencing policy (Hoskyns 1991). In other words, while the EU does not directly take a position on the issue of abortion, (and pro-life groups in the Czech Republic thus address their concerns about EU-level “family planning,” (i.e. contraception and abortion policies) to Czech citizens – in other words, on the national level), the EU disproportionately supports organizations that favor looser restrictions on these topics. This includes feminist organizations at the national level (Císař 2008) as well as NGOs and IGOs at the European level, particularly the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network, and the World Health Organization’s European Regional Office (European Commission 2012). Both of these organizations both strongly support legalized and easily accessible abortion (International Planned Parenthood Federation 2012), (World Health Organization European Regional Office 2012). Only recently have activists opposed to this view of human rights started to emerge at the EU level, such as the New Women for Europe organization (Rolandsen Agustín 2012). Nevertheless, in contrast to EU support for “both sides” of an issue, for example when the EU supports environmentalist groups as well as industry (Fagan 2004), the process of “gender mainstreaming” that EU institutions use when determining policy produces a ratcheting effect, narrowing the options for the pro-life movement both at the EU level (where abortion is officially not a topic, and thus cannot officially be lobbied for) and at the national level, (where the EU supports particular actors and a particular version of gender policy that crowds out FVOs’ ability to influence policy at the domestic level). Insofar as the EU is perceived as another obstacle for pro-life sentiment, evidenced by its support for feminist movements opposed to certain “pro-family” policies at the intersection of abortion, contraception, and public health such as international aid for contraception (Hnutí Pro život ČR o.s. 2012), as well as certain explicit “rights” defined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights[9] (Hnutí Pro život ČR o.s. 2009), the pro-life movement in the Czech Republic is skeptical of Europeanization’s more ideational aspects – both in “hard” and “soft” forms – from the top-down perspective. “Political” actors in the pro-life movement, particularly Akce D.O.S.T., navigate a political space that is less receptive to their policy preferences, as well as less open to “soft” consultations about their concerns.

On the other hand, the EU indirectly supports some of the work of charitable organizations in the pro-life movement, particularly those that are more focused on the “non-political,” such as counseling centers (both to counsel women against having an abortion as well as post-abortion grief counseling), or emergency shelters for women who are pregnant or have small children. The two types of organizations (“political” and “non-political”) often work closely together, and many of the volunteers are involved with both types of organizations, yet they maintain a degree of legal separation. Nevertheless, similar to Fagan’s observations with respect to environmental groups (2004), funding from external sources for service provision outside of Europe is relatively absent, so “European” (EU) financing provides a critical role that non-European groups, such as USAID or US charities, do not provide. In this way, we can see that the EU also serves as a way to open certain opportunities, rather than closing them.

As a result, we find evidence for the ambivalence of some actors in the pro-life movement toward the influence of the European Union. “Non-political” service providers instrumentally (even “rationally” in the sense of rational-choice theory and Political Opportunity Structures approaches) take advantage of European funds for things such as improvements for infrastructure. Of the 22 publicly announced groups (Hnutí Pro život o.s. 2012) involved with the 2011 Pochod pro život (other than HPŽ and Stop genocidě themselves), only three were explicitly advocacy groups, though an additional four focused on educating people (generally teens and youth) on abortion or sexual behavior. Four more were Christian-oriented media, two were prayer circles, and nine focused on service provision. Of these nine, all but two had significant income from projects co-financed by European Social Funds, often for renovations of buildings.[10] Of the two that received no EU funding, one was Linka pomocí (Help Line), which is itself mainly funded by HPŽ; the other was a small post-abortion counseling organization founded in the United States. In other words, while the pro-life movement relies on service providers for mobilization, these service providers themselves are rather dependent on European support.

For illustrative purposes, four typical examples of the use of ESF funding among pro-life groups that were involved in HPŽ’s Pochod pro život include the Nadační fond Betlém nenarozeným, (The Bethlehem Unborn Foundation), Dlaň životu (The Palm of Life), Na počátku (At the Beginning), and the Centrum pro rodinu a sociálí peči, o.s. (The Center for Family and Social Care), though other organizations have financing schemes similar to these. The first example given is the Nadační fond Betlém nenarozeným, which is the fundraising wing of one such service provider, Dlaň životu. Nadační fond Betlém nenarozeným and Dlaň životu provide an emergency shelter for women who are pregnant or have children; a significant portion of their 2010 funding derived from the European Fund for Regional Development, from which the organizations were able to improve their shelter by installing solar panels (Nadační fond Betlém nenarozeným 2010). A similar situation occurred in 2011 for Na počátku, which received ESF funding for insulation, as well as for “social activation services” to help mothers and infants adjust to life outside a temporary shelter (Na počátku 2012). Finally, other organizations involved with the pro-life movement (often Catholic-oriented charities associated with Caritas), such as the Centrum pro rodinu a sociálí peči, o.s., have a variety of extensive projects with European Union funds ranging from the EU’s Operational Fund for Human Resources and Development to the European Fund for Regional Development (Centrum pro rodinu a sociální peči o.s. n.d.). These funds are used for such projects as supporting women who wish to return to work after maternity leave or assistance to children with handicaps and their families. For such organizations, the EU is a positive influence, and helps them to achieve their less “political” goals.


10. Pro-Life Mobilization in the Czech Republic – From the Bottom Up

Two organizations in particular can be considered the most important actors in the Czech pro-life movement in terms of their visibility and influence; as noted above, the organizations Hnutí Pro život ČR o.s. and Stop genocidě have dominated Czech press coverage on the debate over abortion laws. They closely cooperate with each other and there are extensive examples of cooperation in terms of referring to one another on their respective websites. A third organization under review, Akce D.O.S.T., is less focused directly on abortion, and instead concerns itself with a variety of social issues such as gay marriage and “rootless” multiculturalism, but has been selected for its significant amount of media attention in recent years. Part of this visibility is related to the closeness of its leadership to political heavyweights, particularly the Czech President Václav Klaus, which has helped to increase its influence. The following section sheds light on the formation and activities of these three actors. Finally, charitable organizations pay a significant role in increasing the visibility of the pro-life movement, albeit usually indirectly.

If we examine the two main organizations that primarily concentrate on greater restrictions on abortion in the Czech Republic (HPŽ and Stop genocidě), we can observe a complex relationship with the European Union and other international groups. The picture that emerges is one of a movement that is by no means insulated from the broader European and international society, and indeed, HPŽ officially cooperates with the international pro-life movement through two groups, Human Life International, based in the US (Human Life International n.d.), and From Ocean to Ocean, based primarily in Russia (From Ocean to Ocean 2012). Stop genocidě is most notably influenced by the Genocide Awareness Project, run by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform based in the United States (Interview with Stop genocidě official 2012). However, both organizations in the Czech Republic are primarily national-level, lay actors, whose ties to pan-European organizations are less relevant than their ties to global organizations (including churches) not limited to the European sphere. Moreover, in the case of HPŽ, the organization is at once a “political” and a “non-political” social actor, which means Europeanization includes multiple facets – as mentioned previously, HPŽ’s work is affected from the “top-down” perspective by European legislation, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as by the “soft” influences Europe brings to the Czech Republic, in terms of granting “a place at the table” and support to Czech feminist groups. Conversely, its “bottom-up” activities are less “Europe” oriented; there is less evidence of a “bottom-up” Europeanization, though increasing frequency of cooperation on a more generally international level.

The case of Akce D.O.S.T. is a far less internationalized organization; however, there is evidence of it reaching out to other EU skeptics as well, such as when it invited the well-known Euro-skeptic Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party to speak to its members (Akce D.O.S.T. 2012). It also campaigned in Prague against the Treaty of Lisbon under the banner of “Freedom for Ireland” (Akce D.O.S.T. n.d.). Insofar as one of its chief issues under which it mobilizes is the EU itself, we can say that it provides evidence for the Europeanization of at least one FVO in the Czech Republic – its very existence is predicated on the idea that the European Union is a threat to Czech (and European) civil society. This is an example of “soft,” bottom-up Europeanization, though not in the sense of “accepting” a European identity, but of perceiving one, emphatically rejecting it, and redefining it as a “Europe of sovereign states” respecting Europe’s “spiritual roots and civilizational successes,” as well as its “civil liberties and national traditions” (Akce D.O.S.T. 2012). Similar to the findings of della Porta and Caiani (2009), the work of Akce D.O.S.T. reflects a Euro-skepticism based not strictly on a nationalist bent, but of an “alternative” Europe. Of course, the “Europe” of Akce D.O.S.T. (which should conform to their vision of a Western, Judeo-Christian society) is one that is considerably different than the “Europe” of left-wing activists studied by della Porta and Caiani (2009), but both spring from a universalist and universalizing set of values, including the “proper” role of the state and the EU.

Tactically, the pro-life movement is forced to adopt mobilization strategies that reflect the societal environment as a response to the “rules of the game” (Shepsle and Bonchek 1997). Interestingly, however, political actors tend to continue to focus primarily on national policies, and when they do go abroad, it is often to organizations outside a strictly “European” theater of operations, such as cooperation with Russian and US-based groups. Additionally, there appears to be no formal contact between the Czech pro-life movement and the aforementioned New Women for Europe organization (Rolandsen Agustín 2012). The only exception to this lack of European focus is the pro-life movement’s relationship to the Catholic Church, as was demonstrated by the presence of Austrian as well as Czech Catholic clergy during the March for Life; however, it would be difficult to characterize the Church as a strictly “European” phenomenon. A significant exception, however, occurs in the case of Akce D.O.S.T., which has a significant European orientation, which is primarily focused on a type of “soft” Europeanization that affirms a pan-European but also Christian heritage. Overall, however, the movement is characterized more by an “internationalization” rather than “Europeanization.”

The charities and smaller organizations mentioned above are chiefly involved in international organizations through their relationships with Caritas, the European network of Catholic charities. However, as service organizations, their primary focus is on the local level, and there is little evidence to show that they view this as a strictly “European” relationship rather than as a “Catholic” relationship. However, it is difficult to consider the Catholic Church as a “European” phenomenon, and indeed, Caritas Internationalis is active in 165 countries around the world (Caritas Internationalis n.d.). In this way, we see that any “identity formation” occurs in the context of a universalist (Catholic) view, rather than attempts to build one out of an alternative “European” identity.

In sum, bottom-up manifestations to Europeanization and the types of social effects it brings are varied within the pro-life movement in the Czech Republic. Because access to EU policymaking is highly circumscribed, opportunities for the pro-life movement (not only in the Czech Republic) to influence legislation on abortion and family planning policy at the European level have been few and indirect, and largely reactive, rather than proactive. In this way, the pro-life movement in the Czech Republic addresses its more “political” arguments on the national level, either to national politicians or to Czech citizens directly. The “political” stance it takes toward the EU is one characterized by ambivalence at best, and deep opposition to its allegedly secularizing characteristics and its empowerment of their political opponents at worst. Paradoxically, however, its tactics do not appear to reflect this perceived threat. When the Czech pro-life movement goes in search of allies abroad, it tends to look outside of Europe, with the important caveat of Akce D.O.S.T. In this way, it remains a largely reactive movement with respect to “hard” Europeanization. In the case of “non-political” organizations, we see little evidence of either sustained advocacy of a “new European identity” or of attempts to delegitimize “Europe” as such. However, there is also little evidence of these organizations attempting to partner with groups outside of Europe as well, with the exception of Caritas Internationalis.




Table 2: Types of Europeanization in the Pro-Life Movement

Pro-life EuropeanizationNEW.jpg
Source: Author


11. Conclusion

When we examine the Czech pro-life movement from the multifaceted perspective outlined in this paper, we can begin to more comprehensively perceive the effects of Europeanization on social movements, as well as gaining a better understanding of their own ideas about their roles in society. This complementary process of Europeanization’s effects and social movements’ ideational developments, combined with an sketch of social movements’ self-conception of their roles in society, allows us to more deeply understand how and why they act in the ways they do. This paper has attempted to present an initial framework for a way we can approach this theme. Additional research on social movements in democracies along the border of the “political” and the “non-political” would likely yield fruitful results, irrespective of Europeanization issues.

Like many social movements in Europe, pro-life organizations in the Czech Republic are both objects of and contributors to Europeanization, and the historical and institutional settings both significantly contribute to the goals as well as tactics of various actors on the Czech pro-life scene. Not every type of Europeanization occurs in the Czech Republic in this sector of activism surprisingly; less surprisingly, there are contradictory approaches and attitudes to the European Union depending on the type of actor and the type of Europeanization (top-down hard, top-down soft, bottom-up hard, bottom-up soft). The three “major” organizations tend to resist top-down Europeanization; in at least one case we see retrenchment strategies. From the bottom up, these organizations either seek out allies outside of Europe, or work to develop a European identity based on a far different but no less “European” value set than other organizations dedicated to defining and creating a “European” identity, such as those cited in della Porta and Caiani (2009). In contrast, smaller organizations tend to be service providers and less explicit about their reactions to “Europe;” in general, they tend to take advantage of the opportunities that the EU opens for them, while remaining critical of certain policies.

Overall, top-down policies such as the implementation of gender mainstreaming and certain types of European aid to third countries create resistance to European legislation. This was particularly noticeable with respect to opposition to The Charter of Fundamental Rights, and consequently to the Treaty of Lisbon, particularly among the three major “political” organizations studied here. Additionally, the “cognitive threats” of a secular conception of rights more generally pose obstacles to the Czech pro-life movement at the national level. Conversely, the availability of European money for charitable work has helped pro-life service providers achieve their goals, which blunts some criticism. Less “political” (and often smaller) organizations are readily engaged with European actors when it helps them to achieve objectives that they otherwise may have difficulty fulfilling. For these organizations, while the EU may not be a “pro-life” entity, it can certainly act as a deep-pocketed partner on some ancillary issues related to the pro-life movement. While some research on the relationship of Catholic charities, particularly multinational organizations such as Caritas, to Europeanization itself has been performed, such as the work by Davis (2009) and in a working paper by Anheier (2002), more research on this topic would help scholars to understand the theoretical and practical potential of “Europeanization.”

From the bottom-up, grassroots organizing side, we can see that pro-life organizations have reached out to European and other international counterparts to campaign for more stringent restrictions on abortion outside of a strictly European political space. In this way, we see less of a “Europeanizing” tendency than one of a general “internationalizing” of political advocacy. The European Union remains as a somewhat tangential target audience, though in contrast to the findings of della Porta and Caiani (2009) on left-wing groups, pro-life actors in Europe rarely mobilize across national lines to advocate a “pro-life Europe” outside of a general internationalist view. Further research is required on why this is the case, particularly when supporters of legalized abortion have been so much more successful in developing pan-European networks. Additionally, in the case of Akce D.O.S.T., there clearly exists a view of what Europe is, and a clearly contrasted view of what, for Akce D.O.S.T., Europe should be. That they adamantly reject a particular view of the soft top-down vision of Europe does not mean they are not Europeanized; the mere engagement of the debate and their development of an “alternative” Europe is enough to indicate the presence of a more “Europeanized” and more “Europeanizing” Czech society, again in accordance with the findings of della Porta and Caiani. In sum, we can observe an uncomfortable Europeanization of the Czech pro-life movement, but it is undeniable that processes of it occur in the Czech pro-life experience, particularly in “soft” ways. Further research on the role of the European Union in pro-life movements of other countries may also be helpful, and it may be especially interesting to compare the “success” of feminist organizations networking in the European arena with the relative paucity of these links for organizations oriented to more “traditional” values.



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[1] Matthew Ch. Rees, Department of International Relations and European Studies, Masaryk University, Joštova 10, Brno 602 00, Česká republika / Czech Republic;

[2] However, even the most adamant of rational-choice scholars concede that the “rules of the game” have a significant, if not decisive, effect on the outcome of political action. See e.g. Mueller (2005) and Shepsle and Bonchek (1997).

[3] Della Porta and Caiani, however, see also Europeanization “as a regional form of globalization” (2009, p. 4). However, it is necessary to delimit Europeanization in the context of the pro-life movement in the Czech Republic. As argued later, there are elements of the domestic pro-life movement being “internationalized” rather than “Europeanized” – some actors in the Czech pro-life movement tend to be more influenced by organizations outside the European sphere.

[4] Additionally, within the context of Europeanization, trans-European NGOs may have a significant impact on the ways that national or local actors use to effect their political demands, as della Porta and Caiani (2009) point out.

[5] The Czech press, when reporting on the pro-life movement, often refers to participants in protest actions in the Czech Republic simply as “Catholics” as well, especially when they do not mention specific organizations (such as Hnutí Pro život or Stop genocidě) as protest organizers; however, there are no direct quotes from protesters indicating that “Catholics” are the organizers, and public documents from the largest pro-life group in the Czech Republic downplay their confessional nature (Hnutí Pro život ČR o.s. 2012).

[6] Because of its direct connection with a political party, a fourth organization, the Mladí křesťanští demokraté (Young Christian Democrats) will only be mentioned in passing, though as a party-oriented organization, it must be pointed out that they also have significant resources for mobilization and messaging; however, precisely due to their “party-oriented” character, their work is outside the scope of this paper. Additional research is needed on the relationship between Czech political parties and the debate over abortion generally, as well as the relationship between Europeanization of the abortion debate and political parties, particularly in Central Europe.

[7] For a fascinating look at Christian participation in the Czech dissident movement, see Luxmoore and Baubiuch (1995).

[8] Nevertheless, the pro-life movement has been referred to as a “counter-movement” for its “counter-modern” stance (Vidomus 2011). An interesting formulation of “movements” and “counter-movements” with respect to abortion can be found in Meyer and Staggenborg (1996).

[9] HPŽ argues that the Charter of Fundamental Rights may used by the European Court of Justice to de facto rule that abortion and euthanasia are “human rights” and as such could be enacted throughout the Union.

[10] In addition, at least one of the media organizations received EU funds for its projects. See “Tv Noe hledá nové moderatory,” (TV Noe 2008). In sum, of the 24 organizations listed as participating, one-third (and three-quarters of service providers) received funding from the EU.

Copyright (c) 2013 Matthew C. Rees

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