Tuesday

9th Aug 2022

MEPs urge putting abortion in EU rights charter

  • The EU does not have a say over sexual and reproductive rights, including abortion, as health policies are the competence of member states (Photo: Spacerowiczka)
Listen to article

The European Parliament demanded on Thursday (7 July) the inclusion of the right to a legal and safe abortion in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, following the controversial Supreme Court ruling overturning abortion rights in the US.

MEPs also seize the opportunity to urge the US Congress to pass a bill to protect abortion at the federal level.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The US Supreme Court on 24 June overruled the right to abortion established in the Roe vs Wade decision of 1973, returning the right to regulate abortion to individual states.

That decision sparked global outrage from progressive voices and human rights defenders, since the wider implications of such decision remain still to be seen.

A recent study found that the abortion ban could lead to a 21-precent increase in the annual number of pregnancy-related deaths, or 140 additional deaths, by the second year after the ban takes effect.

In their resolution, MEPs urged EU countries to decriminalise abortion, condemning the fact that many European women cannot have access to safe abortion.

The text was adopted with 324 in favour, 155 against and 38 abstentions. Conservative and centre-right MEPs voted against it although socialist lawmakers such as Maltese Alex Agius Saliba and Josianne Cutajar as well as Romanian Corina Crețu also oppose the proposal.

The EU does not have a say over sexual and reproductive rights, including abortion, since health policies are the competence of member states.

In recent years, access to abortion in early pregnancy has been eroded in several countries including Slovakia and Hungary. Malta is the only country where abortion is completely prohibited. But Poland imposed in 2020 a near-total ban, triggering mass protests across the country.

"That a raped and pregnant 10-year-old girl is told to consider her situation an opportunity is, of course, inhumane and unacceptable," said EU commissioner for gender equality Hellena Dalli during a plenary debate on Monday.

"Limiting rights would only create greater injustice and inequalities," she added.

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which came into force in 2009 along with the Treaty of Lisbon, is legally-binding for all EU member states.

To include abortion rights in the text, EU countries would need to launch a convention that revises the treaties, and the EU Charter, as part of the process.

Last month, MEPs called on member states to launch a convention to amend the treaties, in response to the Conference on the Future of Europe where citizens have addressed issues that require treaty changes — and they used the new text to reiterate their demands.

If a majority of member states agree that the treaties should be revised, a convention will be then convened to reach an agreement on the changes required.

This procedure, however, is seen as lengthy and laborious — and the limited success of the previous convention in 2003 calling for an EU constitution still lingers.

Up to 13 countries have previously rejected plans to launch such a convention, including Denmark, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Sweden.

French president Emmanuel Macron pledged to push the abortion rights debate in the European Council, but no progress was made during its six-month rotating presidency — and gender rights are not among the priorities of the Czech presidency.

A change to the treaties and the charter would require a unanimous vote. But unanimity seems unlikely in this case, given the position of countries like Poland.

The World Health Organization considers unsafe abortions a "preventable pandemic" causing the death of thousands of women every year.

Opinion

EU must integrate 'right to abortion' into treaties

The pushback against abortion is not happening in a vacuum. It is part of a global anti-gender trend, where transnational groups of fundamentalists support and embolden each other's actions. They are funded and active in the EU as well.

MEPs slam Polish abortion ban: 'Women will suffer'

MEPs have condemned the near-total ban on the right to abortion in Poland, following the entry into force of the country's Constitutional Tribunal ruling - which makes 98 percent of all abortions carried out annually in the country illegal.

Stakeholder

Standing for women's rights in Poland and world is liberal duty

Abortion remains criminalised in Malta and Andorra. In Poland, the ultraconservative government is doing everything to ensure that abortion is basically impossible. In Italy, Slovakia, and Croatia, despite abortion being legal, ultraconservative parties have committed themselves to scale-back access.

Podcast

Bianca's story revisited

Europeans howl in outrage about US backsliding on abortion rights — but they don't exactly have their own house in order. Take the case of Bianca. She's a Romanian.

Podcast

Bianca's story revisited

Europeans howl in outrage about US backsliding on abortion rights — but they don't exactly have their own house in order. Take the case of Bianca. She's a Romanian.

Opinion

Are there dangerous chemicals in disposable nappies in EU?

One of the first opportunities for the EU Commission to 'walk its talk' is to support the proposal for a broad restriction of harmful chemicals in single-use diapers that millions of children wear everyday across the continent.

News in Brief

  1. Rhine river on the brink of closure for shipping
  2. Moldova sees 'prelude to war' with Russia-backed forces
  3. Taliban preventing Afghan evacuations to Germany
  4. Amnesty regrets 'distress' caused by Ukraine report
  5. Energy companies warn UK gas exports to EU are contaminated
  6. EU set for clash over rules on political adverts
  7. Three grain ships due to leave Ukraine on Friday
  8. EU on track to reach gas-storage November target

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Italy poised to elect far-right rulers
  2. UN chief demands access to nuclear plant after new attack
  3. Greek PM embroiled in spyware scandal
  4. How Ukraine made the case anew for an EU army
  5. 'We must take back institutions', Orban tells US conservatives
  6. Putin must lose Ukraine war, Nato chief says
  7. Let Taiwan's democracy shine brighter
  8. Droughts prompt calls to cut water use amid harvest fears

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us