Update: Estrela Report Adopted in Committee – Back on the Plenary Agenda for December 10

November 23, 2013

The Estrela Report on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, promoting compulsory sex education for toddlers and a right to abortion, was just adopted in the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM) of the European Parliament.

This is the second time that the FEMM Committee has voted on the Report as it was referred back to the Committee by majority of MEPs at an October plenary session of the European Parliament.

The Estrela Report was referred back to the Women’s committee  after an intense debate about its controversial content, which includes not only the promotion of abortion and a call for restrictions on conscientious objection but also urges compulsory sexual education for children aged 0-4 onwards. (For example, children should be informed about “enjoyment and pleasure when touching one’s own body”, “early childhood masturbation”, etc.)

As for the FEMM Committee meeting today, debate was again very intense. A lot of the Report‘s opponents spoke out, mentioning a possible breach of the Parliament‘s legal procedure because of an outright ban that was placed on tabling new amendments or discussing the existing alternative resolution.

Although Mrs. Angelika Niebler MEP (EPP) requested to postpone the vote on the Report until the European Parliament‘s Legal Service or Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) could be asked for an official opinion on the legality of the amendment ban, the Report‘s proponents argued that there was no need to further delay the vote.

Thus, Mrs. Niebler‘s proposal to wait for informed legal opinion on the amendment ban was rejected. And the entire Estrela Report was adopted by 19 MEPs voting in favor and 15 against. It was a non-nominal vote.

The amendments tabled before the last plenary session were voted on, but the report was changed only in details not in substance.

Most of the proposed amendments were rejected, but some minor changes were adopted. These include:

  • Instead of a previous call on EU Member States “to ensure compulsory, age-appropriate and gender-sensitive sexuality and relationship education for all children and adolescents (both in and out of school)” (§15), Mrs. Estrela proposed to leave the part without the words “both in and out of school”. The word “compulsory” still remains.
  • In the part underlining that “sexuality education must be provided in a safe, taboo-free, interactive atmosphere between students and educators” (§44), Mrs. Estrela proposed to exclude the words “taboo-free”, “interactive” and “between students and educators”.
  • In the following statement, the report “emphasises, therefore, that sexuality education must be part of a broader supportive approach to young people’s emotional development so as to enable them to form mutually respectful relationships with members of the opposite sex” (§54), the words “with members of the opposite sex” were excluded.

These adopted amendments do not make the Report any better or more acceptable in any way, and may be considered simply cosmetic changes. The vast majority of the radical language and proposals of the Estrela Report remain in place.

The Report has now been put on the agenda for a plenary vote in Parliament on December 10 at 11:30 a.m.

Although it’s a non-binding report, adoption of the Estrela Report would express the official opinion of the European Parliament on the matter of abortion, sexual education and conscientious objection. In each of these areas, the Report adopts a radical position that is at odds with the views of the vast majority of European citizens.

Let’s work together to stop this report in plenary.