On October 22, the European Parliament rejected a report that recommended nations of the European Union declare abortion to be a human right. The Parliament also rejected the notion that abortion should be made available within all public health systems of member nations.
According to CNSNews.com, the 351-319 vote sent the measure back to its committee on women’s rights and gender equality, an outcome its supporters said was due to “intense lobbying by right-wing religious and political conservatives.”
Life News reported that had the recommendation been accepted, pro-life nations such as Ireland, Poland, and Malta would have been pressured to legalize abortion on demand.
Opponents of the report sharply disagreed with the “sexual and reproductive health and rights” measure, in particular a clause stating that “as a human rights concern, abortion should be made legal, safe and accessible to all.”
Even in member-states in which abortion is legal, the report observed that obstacles were present, including “medically unnecessary waiting periods or biased counseling,” and “the abuse of conscientious objection or overly restrictive interpretations of existing limits.”
If the measure had passed, European Union member-states would be asked to “regulate and monitor the use of conscientious objection so as to ensure that reproductive health care is guaranteed as an individual’s right, while access to lawful services is ensured and appropriate and affordable referrals systems are in place.”
Prior to the vote, European Catholic bishops said in a statement that abortion does not fall within the EU’s jurisdiction, and that individual member-states have responsibility for “the definition of their health policy and for the organization and delivery of health services and medical care.”
“The E.U. should respect and not interfere with decisions that do not fall within its sphere of competence,” the bishops said.
Supporters of the measure include the “LGBT Intergroup,” a forum of more than 150 members of the European Parliament “committed to upholding the fundamental rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”
“Right-wing bigots from the EFD, ECR and EPP groups argued against this report, and women’s right to a safe and healthy reproductive and sexual life,” said LGBT Intergroup co-president Ulrike Lunacek.
According to the Malta Independent, European Dignity Watch, a pro-life non-government organization based in Brussels, had criticized the attempt to establish “a so-called ‘right to abortion.'”
“The majority who voted in favour of the report in committee bluntly ignores that such a right exists nowhere in international law and is ready to sacrifice internationally-recognised rights, such as the right to conscientious objection,” it said in a statement.
A list of members of the European Parliament and how they voted can be seen here.
In a related endeavor, one pro-life European citizens’ initiative (ECI) titled “One of Us” has also gathered more than 1.42 million signatures for its goal of ending E.U. funding for abortion and research practices that destroy human embryos. A ban on E.U. funding for abortion would affect some of the world’s largest providers of abortions.
In the United States, a similar ban was enacted by the Reagan administration in 1984. The Mexico City Policy prohibited U.S. aid to organizations that promote or perform abortions around the world. The policy was reversed by President Clinton in 1993, restored by President Bush in 2001, and then rescinded again by President Obama in 2009.