May 21. 2024. 6:59

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MEPs want to include abortion in EU Charter of Fundamental Rights


The European Parliament voted in favour of enshrining the right to abortion in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union on Thursday (11 April), but its chances of succeeding are slim as it would require the green light from all 27 member states.

The Socialists and Democrats (S&D), Renew Europe, Greens, and The Left groups were behind the resolution, adopted by 336 votes to 163, with 39 abstentions.

The resolution seeks to add the following article to the Charter: “Everyone has the right to bodily autonomy, to free, informed, full and universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and to all related healthcare services without discrimination, including the access to safe and legal abortion.”

However, it is highly unlikely that the Parliament’s request will succeed. The revision of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, proclaimed in December 2000, requires unanimity among the member states.

“In recent years, it is clear that there has been a step backwards in terms of women’s rights around the world, and in particular sexual and reproductive health and rights”, Spanish MEP Soraya Rodríguez Ramos (Renew) wrote in a press release.

Maltese MEP Cyrus Engerer (S&D) said after the vote that it gives “a clear sign on where the Parliament stands on abortion. It is time for the EU to be a place where abortion can be a reality for all women and people who can be pregnant to have full access to this basic fundamental rights”.

On 5 March, in a historic vote, France became the first country in the world to enshrine the right of women to have an abortion in the constitution, qualified as “French pride” by President Emmanuel Macron.

European Commission registers European Citizens’ Initiative to support safe and accessible abortion

The European Commission has registered a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) for safe and accessible abortion. The decision is the starting shot for the ‘My Voice, My Choice’ movement to collect one million signatures in support of their cause. The group hopes to become the fastest ECI to achieve this target, with the aim of meeting it before the European elections in June.

Rare chances it happens

Several countries in the EU have severely restricted access to abortion. In Malta, where legislation was relaxed in 2023, abortion is only permitted if the mother’s life is in danger or if the foetus is not viable.

In Poland, abortion is only permitted in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger. In Hungary, since 2022, women have had to listen to the foetus’ heartbeat before having an abortion.

In Italy, since Giorgia Meloni came to power in 2022, feminist associations have been constantly fighting to keep guaranteing access to abortion in a country where a lot a doctors refuse to do it, invoking the conscience clause.

The resolution adopted by MEPs states that doctors should not have the right to refuse to provide health services on the basis of the so-called conscience clause.

Gaps in Europe in access to abortion are qualified as “unacceptable” by the S&D group, who accused the Commission and the Council of “constantly hiding” behind the argument of “national competences”.

“The lack of EU standardisation in this area leads to the criminalisation of abortion, grave limitations in accessing it and clandestine abortion procedures”, said their the press release.

The Greens/EFA said in their own press release that “denying the right to abortion constitutes gender-based violence and a violation of rights”.

“In Poland, Malta, Italy, Slovakia and Romania, things need to change. And elsewhere, sufficient resources must be made available to ensure that these rights become a reality”.

Poland’s de facto abortion ban risks lives, says MEP

While technically allowed in some cases, abortion in Poland may as well be forbidden, putting women’s lives at risk, said Robert Biedron, EU lawmaker and leader of the Polish opposition party Nova Lewika on Thursday (17 November).

The threat of the rising far right

While the far right is leading the polls for the European elections in June in France for example, MEPs rang the alarm.

“I am […] very worried to see the anti-abortion movement taking root in far-right and populistic rhetoric, fueled by money coming from Russia and ultra-conservative religious groups based in the US”, Maltese MEP Cyrus Engerer (S&D) said after the vote.

“Across Europe, the far right is on the offensive against women’s rights”, the French delegation of the Left warned, adding that more than 20 million women do not have effective access to abortion.

France enshrines abortion in its Constitution, a world first

France has become the first country in the world to enshrine the right of women to have an abortion in the constitution, following a vote from MPs and senators who met in Congress at the Château de Versailles on Monday.

Read more with Euractiv

European Commission registers European Citizens’ Initiative to support safe and accessible abortion

European Commission registers European Citizens’ Initiative to support safe and accessible abortion

The European Commission has registered a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) for safe and accessible abortion. The decision is the starting shot for the ‘My Voice, My Choice’ movement to collect one million signatures in support of their cause. The group hopes to become the fastest ECI to achieve this target, with the aim of meeting it before the European elections in June.