The Council of Europe concluded that women’s sexual and reproductive rights are “under threat” in a number of European countries. These include proposal for almost total bans on abortion in Lithuania, Spain, Slovakia, Poland and Russia. In the report that was published earlier this week, the Council tasked with upholding human rights said that “in recent years, resurgent threats to women’s sexual and reproductive rights have emerged in Europe”.
The report said regarding the proposal that they “provide a powerful illustration of the extent and nature of the backlash to the advancement of women’s rights and gender equality in some parts of Europe”. The Council also referred to the countries in the EU’s neighborhood such as Armenia, Macedonia, Georgia, and Russia where new requirements were introduced such as “obligatory waiting periods” and biased counseling, which according to the World Health Organization are only meant to undermine women’s decision making.
The EU countries – Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia – have also been supportive of similar programs. Even in countries where abortion is legal, women are not able to access a legal health service to doctors, being refused on the grounds of conscientious objection. In Italy, approximately 70% of medical professional refuse to provide abortion care.
The report also pointed out the threat to human rights defenders: “The recent introduction of restrictive regulations and policies affecting civil society in general, such as those now in place in Hungary and the Russian Federation, have had direct and concrete implications for human rights defenders and civil society organizations working to advance women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.”
This issue with human rights defenders is also pertinent in the EU itself where Hungary’s law on “foreign-funded NGOs” requires all non-profit organizations receiving grants from abroad to declare their funding, which can be seen as the attempt to undermine progressive movements within the society.