EU Rejected women’s right to abortion report

On 10th December, the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg rejected – for the second time in two months – the Estrela report on sexual and reproductive health. Written and defended by Portuguese socialist eurodeputy Edite Estrela, the report promoted women’s right to abortion and called for European government to guarantee mandatory sex education in schools.

The rejected proposal also recommended that women who had had illegal abortions should not be criminally prosecuted. In addition, the Estrela report emphasized that “under no circumstances” should abortion be promoted as a family planning method, calling for member states to adopt appropriate policies and measures to ensure that women do not resort to abortion “for social or economic reasons,” while condemning any obstacles or delays in access to abortions in cases where it is a legal option and eliminating “obstacles” such as the «widespread use of conscientious objection, medically unnecessary waiting periods, and biased counselling”.

The conservative parliamentary group approved an alternative report presented by the European People’s Party (EPP) and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), with 334 votes in favour, 327 against and 35 abstentions. The Estrela report, which was rejected before putting it to vote in the European parliament, was brought back to the table at the plenary session in Strasbourg after being returned to the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM) on 22nd of October 2013.

The alternative report prepared by the conservative eurodeputies that was approved stated that sexual health and sex education in schools fell under the jurisdiction of each member state.

This was the second time the Estrela report sought approval in European parliament, after its first rejection on 22 October by a majority of eurodeputies who support the right to life and human dignity.

This rejection of the radical report drafted by the socialist eurodeputies clearly demonstrates how European lawmakers are not prepared to accept the international pro-abortion campaign trying to impose its ideology as a human right. The approved conservative proposal argues that abortion policies must be determined at the member state level, an opinion that was also expressed in the Programme of Action adopted at the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the Programme of Action adopted by the 1995 Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women.

The vote, which was held on Human Rights Day, is a major setback for radical activists who continue to press their pro-abortion agenda in every country, despite national laws and policies which prohibit, restrict and regulate abortion.

The defeat of the Estrela report is proof positive of the rejection of the growing effort to enforce abortion across the globe. The report contains 80 references to abortion, including its censure of the right of physicians to conscientiously object to the practice and the regulatory measures passed by national lawmakers. The report also included the following point:

A recommendation based on human rights and a concern for public health which calls for the legalization of high-quality and safe abortions that are accessible to all within public health systems of member states, including access to abortions for women from other countries, who often seek out these services elsewhere due to their own country’s restrictive laws. This will put an end to clandestine abortion which puts women’s physical and mental health at serious risk.

It is also important to emphasize that because legal abortion is often obstructed or delayed   owing to obstacles in the access to the appropriate services, an excessive use of conscientious objection, medically unnecessary waiting periods and biased counselling, Member States must regulate and supervise the use of conscientious objection among professionals involved to ensure reproductive rights are protected, as well as the right to access legal health services and quality public healthcare; but we should also ensure that the right to conscientious objection is an individual right and not a collective policy, and that counselling should be confidential and non-judgmental, and that medical staff of religious clinics and hospitals of the European Union be urged to refuse reproductive health services.

The defeat of this project in European Parliament takes on special significance in light of recent crucial events taking place at the United Nations in the defining of world priorities beyond 2015, associated to the millennium development goal, namely, the efforts of pro-abortion activists and NGOs who work around the clock to implant their “sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)” as the main focus of new sustainable development goals, and as priorities for population and development 20 years after the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

The rejection of this agenda on the part of European Parliament should encourage other countries to continue in their defence of legislation and policies that protect the right to life, both before and after birth, as stated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (CIVICA 11 December 2013).