GUE/NGL MEPs and guest speakers took part in a debate on abortion rights in Ireland today as part of the Group's study days in Ireland event.
GUE/NGL MEP Mikael Gustafsson, Chair of the European Parliament's Women's Rights and Gender Equality committee, chaired the discussion. He said: “Although abortion policy is not an EU competency, we, as elected representatives, have a responsibility to campaign for universal reproductive rights that do not criminalise women.”
The MEPs heard interventions from Sarah Malone at the Abortion Rights Campaign who described how the pro-choice movement had intensified in light of the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar.
Niall Behan from the Irish Family Planning Association outlined that although preventative policies like better access to sex education and contraception are essential, they cannot replace access to abortion. He also talked about how denying access to abortion puts a huge physical, psychological and economic burden on Irish women, particularly among the poorest women and undocumented migrants.
Jacqueline Healy from the National Women's Council explained that women remain largely voiceless in the debate and urged the Irish government to legislate to give effect to the X case.
Commenting after the guest speakers' interventions, GUE/NGL President Gabi Zimmer and GUE/NGL MEPs Martina Anderson and Paul Murphy added their views to the debate.
Gabi Zimmer said: “A woman's right to make a choice about her own body is a human rights issue and is central to the struggle for gender equality. Universal abortion rights are inherent to the values of the Left and we must fight for them wherever they are being denied.”
Martina Anderson set out the Sinn Féin position on the issue: “Sinn Féin supports legislation that protects women where their lives are in danger. We also support legislation that protects doctors and provides them with clarity and certainty.”
Paul Murphy said: “At every stage in the struggle for free, safe and legal abortion, the backwards nature of the political establishment and the Catholic church in Ireland, which remains hugely influential over the political establishment, has blocked progress. Change can only come from action at the grassroots level among working people.”
Sinn Féin and the Socialist Party are two of the 17 political parties that make up the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL), a European Parliamentary Group made-up of 34 Members hailing from 12 European countries.
Study days are held biannually in different regions by each European Parliamentary Group. It is a chance for MEPs to meet with local activists, experts, and national parties.
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