European Parliament Promotes ‘Right to Safe Abortion’

March 9, 2011

In time for the 100th anniversary of the International Women’s Day on March 8, the European Parliament passed two reports this week at its plenary session in Strasbourg on the equality of women.

Both reports—the Report on reducing health inequalities in the EU by Portuguese Socialist Edite Estrela and the Report on equality between women and men in the EU 2010 by Bulgarian Christian Democrat Mariya Nedelcheva—call for abortion as an instrument of family planning. Despite strong efforts by MEPs to advocate for a right to life and against the problematic paragraphs, a majority of the European Parliament adopted language in each report that promotes a ‘right’ to safe abortion and ensures unlimited access to contraception and sexual rights. The reports also seek to prohibit any discrimination on the ground of age and sexual orientation with regards to sexual and reproductive rights, abortion and fertility treatment.

By adopting the two reports, the European Parliament officially:

  • Considers that the EU and the Member States should guarantee women easy access to methods of contraception and the right to safe abortion (Estrela, Point 25)
  • Calls on the Commission to provide the Member States with examples of good and best (Estrela, 26f) practices to encourage more uniform access to fertility treatment;
  • Calls on the EU and the Member States to take the necessary measures, in relation to access to assisted reproductive technologies (ART), to eliminate discrimination against women on the grounds of marital status, age, sexual orientation or ethnic or cultural origins (Estrala , 29)
  • Considers that the EU and the Member States must support civil-society and women’s organisations that promote women’s human rights, including their sexual and reproductive rights, the right to a healthy lifestyle and the right to work, with a view to ensuring that women have a voice on European and national health policy issues; (Estrela, 53)
  • Calls on the Member States and the Commission to pay particular attention to vulnerable groups of women: disabled, elderly, immigrant, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, and minority women and women who have little or no training and are responsible for dependants, all of these being specific groups in need of measures tailored to their circumstances; calls on the Commission to broaden the scope of the European Year of Volunteering 2011 to include promotion of gender equality; (Nedelcheva, 63)
  • Notes that transgender people remain a highly marginalised and victimised group facing a high degree of stigmatisation, exclusion and violence, as reported by the Fundamental Rights Agency; strongly encourages the Commission and the Member States to follow the Agency’s recommendations for stronger and clearer protection against discrimination on grounds of gender identity; (Nedelcheva, 66)
  • Advocates access for women and men to adequate information and support on reproductive health, and stresses that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men to avail themselves of services in this area; stresses that women must have control over their sexual and reproductive rights, particularly through easy access to contraception and abortion; calls on the Member States and the Commission to adopt measures and actions raising awareness among men about their responsibilities in sexual and reproductive matters; (Nedelcheva, 67)

Both reports are so-called ‘own-initiative reports’  produced by a committee. Thus, the reports are not legally binding or capable of becoming EU law. However, they have strong political influence and will be used in the typical soft-law manner to justify legislative reports later on. In a press release on March 8, MEP Martin Kastler (CSU, Germany) called the reports “a scandal” and “Trojan horses on paper”. To openly declare abortion a means of family planning is a “cruel mockery of the right to life and of humanity”, Kastler said.

European Dignity Watch regrets the adoption of such language. A “right to abortion” is not based on any international treaty and does not exist. It is all the more unacceptable that a majority of MEPs feel entitled to break this international consensus and push for a right to “safe abortion”. A democratic mandate is not a carte blanche to promote an alleged right that has never been agreed to by the international community.