By Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues (PNCI)
Members of the European Parliament (EP) rejected a radical report by MEP [Member of Parliament] Edite Estrela entitled “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” by approving an alternative report presented by Members of the European People’s Party (EPP), and European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR). The vote was 334 to 327 with 35 abstentions. The report had returned to the Plenary in Strasbourg after being sent back to the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM) last month.
The rejection of the radical report is a clear demonstration by European lawmakers that they will not allow the ferocious international campaign for abortion to impose an ideology that cloaks the violence of abortion as a human right on their countries. By approving the alternative report MEPs expressed belief that policies related to abortion are to be determined by sovereign countries, a view expressed in Programme of Action of the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and to the Programme of Action of the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women.
The vote, occurring on Human Rights Day, is a clear set-back for radical activists who continue their international campaign that seeks to impose abortion on countries despite national laws and policies that ban, restrict and regulate abortion.
Prior to the vote, the Chairman of FEMM, Mikael Gustafsson, boasted in a letter to MEPs in support of the Estrela report that is was endorsed by such NGOs as Amnesty International, Marie Stopes, International Planned Parenthood Federation[IPPF], European Parliamentary Forum, and European Women’s Lobby. Edite Estrela mentioned support from Catholics for Choice, Women’s Platform, ILGA Europe, and the European Humanist Federation. It was reported the Director of IPPF European Network, Vicky Claeys, admitted in a public meeting in the European Parliament that she had helped with the drafting of the report.
The defeat of this extreme report is a sign of increasing global rejection of the relentless efforts to force abortion on countries around the world. The expansive report contained 80 references to abortion including criticism of the right of conscientious objection by physicians and of the regulations passed by national lawmakers. It included the following:
33. Recommends that, as a human rights and public health concern, high-quality abortion services should be made legal, safe, and accessible to all within the public health systems of the Member States, including non-resident women, who often seek these services in other countries because of restrictive abortion laws in their country of origin, and to avoid clandestine abortions that seriously endanger women’s physical and mental health;
34. Underlines that even when legal, abortion is often prevented or delayed by obstacles to the access of appropriate services, such as the widespread use of conscientious objection, medically unnecessary waiting periods or biased counselling; stresses that the Member States should regulate and monitor the use of conscientious objection in the key professions, so as to ensure that reproductive healthcare is guaranteed as an individual’s right, while access to lawful services is ensured and appropriate public referrals systems of good quality are in place; stresses that the right to conscientious objection is an individual right and not a collective policy, and that advice and counselling must be confidential and non-judgmental; is concerned that medical staff are coerced into refusing SRHR services in religion-based hospitals and clinics throughout the EU;
The report also sought to achieve “sufficient funding for the broad SRHR [sexual and reproductive health and rights] agenda in all appropriate instruments”, including development aid, despite the overwhelming support from 1.8 million citizens of the European Union for the “One of Us” initiative which instructed the European Parliament to not fund abortion in any way, shape, or form. Pro-abortion activists increasingly are attempting to make abortion an issue at the European Parliament despite the fact that the European Union has no “competency” on abortion, meaning individual countries are to determine sovereign laws and policies related to abortion, not the EU.
European pro-life and pro-family NGOs [Non-Governmental Organizations] mobilized in opposition to the radical report. Letters and emails were sent to MEPs along with protests and the use of social media. A Facebook page, Estrela No–Respect Subsidiarity, was created as a source of information and to rally action.
The defeat at the European Parliament for the agenda ensconced in the broad undefined phrase “sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)” has added significance when viewed in light of critical events taking place at the United Nations to determine the priorities of the world as it moves beyond the 2015 deadline for the millennium developments goals (MDGs). Pro-abortion activists and NGOs are working overtime to position “sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)” as the main focus of the new sustainable development goals and as priorities for population and development 20 years after the International Conference on Population and Development meeting in Cairo.