European Parliament declares abortion access a human right

The move is an effort to confront countries like Poland and Malta, where women's rights are being restricted.

European Parliament declares abortion access a human right

The European Parliament on Thursday easily passed a divisive resolution that proclaimed the safe access to abortion is a human right — an effort to confront countries such as Poland and Malta, where women’s rights are being restricted.

The resolution urges EU countries to recognize that any interference with access to contraception, fertility treatment, maternity care and abortion “constitute breaches of human rights.” It implores countries to “condemn any attempt to limit access” to these services.

The measure passed with 378 MEPs voting in favor and 255 voting against.

The text — drafted by Predrag Fred Matić, a Croatian Socialist MEP — is also critical of the so-called “conscience clause,” which allows doctors to deny abortion access if they don’t believe in it. Withholding abortions “on grounds of religion or conscience,” the text says, “endangers women’s lives and rights.”

The measure — which the Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality overwhelmingly backed in May — primarily targets countries such as Poland and Malta, which ban or restrict access to abortion. It also chides governments that limited or revoked reproductive services during the coronavirus pandemic.

‘‘This vote marks a new era in the European Union and the first real resistance to a regressive agenda that has trampled on women’s rights in Europe for years,” Matić said in a statement.

Though the resolution is non-binding and its main message consensus-based, the text drew intense criticism from a group of conservative MEPs, buttressed by pro-life organizations waging a fierce anti-abortion campaign.

The center-right European People’s Party and the European Conservative and Reformists even offered two alternative texts to Matić’s text. Both options said abortion and reproductive services should be left to individual countries, not the EU.

The outrage over the Matić resolution went beyond the European Parliament. In Poland, Ordo Iuris, a fundamentalist organization, put out a petition called “Stop the Matić report.”

On Thursday, a vast majority of MEPs from the EPP group, including its leader Manfred Weber, voted against the text, according to a voting list released by the Parliament.

“Abortion is not a human right,” Rosa Estaràs Ferragut, a Spanish MEP from the EPP said during the plenary debate prior to the vote. “It could be a legal right, that’s accepted in some member states, but it’s not a human right.”

She added: “You can’t ideologize a human right, this is not democracy and this is not what I want to see in Europe.”