‘War on Women’: European Parliament Urges Including Abortion in EU Rights Charter

Written by | Friday, July 15th, 2022

Responding to the controversial US Supreme Court ruling overturning abortion rights in the United States, 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, while urging the US Congress to pass a bill to protect abortion at the federal level.
In a vote to make abortion a fundamental right in the 27-nation bloc, the MEPs endorsed a resolution which calls for adding “everyone has the right to safe and legal abortion” into the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and stressed denying the procedure amounted to a form of violence against women and girls. 324 MEPs voted in favor of the resolution, with 155 voting against and 38 absent from the assembly in Strasbourg, France. “Women’s rights are inalienable, and they cannot be removed or watered down,” they wrote. Abortion was “not a question of politics, opinions or religion. It is, and always must remain, a person’s free choice,“ Helene Fritzon, a Swedish MEP from the Socialists and Democrats parliamentary group, said.
But the non-binding resolution was merely a symbolic gesture of support for the millions of women in the US who stand to lose access to abortion after the recent ruling of the US Supreme Court that overturned the landmark Roe v Wade case and put an end to 50 years of a constitutional right to abortion there. Several US states have moved to outright ban or severely restrict access to the procedure. MEPs also point the finger at some EU member states that have put up significant hurdles in abortion access, such as Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia and Malta. The latter, a small, Catholic island nation, is under the spotlight after Andrea Prudente, an American tourist who suffered an incomplete miscarriage, was denied treatment by Maltese doctors and had to be airlifted to Spain.In their resolution, lawmakers argue abortions bans and restrictions “disproportionality” affect women in poverty, women of color, irregular migrants and LGBTIQ people, and say all these legal obstacles do not actually help reduce the number of terminations “but only force people to travel long distances or to resort to unsafe abortions.”
“Across the world, women’s rights are under assault. This global war on women demands urgent international attention — and a forceful collective response,“ writes Shada Islam, a respected and well-known Brussels-based commentator on EU affairs. In her latest op-ed, she argues that “discrimination based on gender is happening in democracies and autocracies, in secular societies and religious ones, in rich and poor nations.“ And because what happens in America does not stay in America, she writes, there are fears the ruling is likely to embolden anti-abortion movements worldwide, including in Europe. There is no denying that advances in women’s rights are being made by governments, international organizations, businesses and civil society actors, but as recent events illustrate, there is much hard work ahead. “Ending centuries of discrimination, deep-rooted patriarchy and misogyny as well religious extremism and far-right populism which fuel the war on women requires counter-actions on multiple fronts. Glib references and occasional mentions of gender equality in speeches and in long, rambling documents are not enough.”

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