This week, the European Parliament debates a resolution on the global threat to abortion rights. Coordinated by The Left, the resolution calls for upholding existing abortion rights in the US, for EU member states to decriminalise abortion and for the European Commission to act within its health mandate to ensure universal access to safe and legal abortions in the EU.

Unsurprisingly, the EPP (centre-right) refused to sign the resolution, while ECR and ID (conservatives and far-right) groups wanted to remove the debate entirely from the agenda. The anti-choice movement has grown increasingly militant both inside and beyond the European Parliament in recent years with the threat to reproductive health care reaching new levels in Europe and around the world.

The recent leaked Supreme Court opinion that seeks to overturn landmark US abortion case Roe v Wade serves as a cautionary tale for what happens when these groups infiltrate corridors – or in this case benches – of power.

As the saying goes, when America sneezes the world catches a cold. If Roe v Wade is overturned, it will have a devastating impact both in the US and globally. Advocates fear that backsliding on abortion rights in the US will embolden anti-choice movements to pressure governments and courts globally to roll-back abortion rights and the important gains made over recent decades.

We have already seen this in the case of Poland. In Malta, abortion is banned and access to abortion is being eroded in Croatia, Hungary, Italy and Slovakia.

Banning abortion doesn’t stop abortions, it merely stops people having safe abortions. Pregnancy carries far greater risks than abortion does. It is estimated that abortion bans would lead to a 21% increase in pregnancy-related deaths. People will die if Roe v Wade is overturned – unsafe abortion is the main cause of preventable maternal deaths and disproportionality affects minorities, women of colour and women facing social and economic inequities.

The EU must respond to these attacks on women’s rights with the courage to protect choice, and the basic right of people to decide what they do with their own bodies.

As Left MEP Sandra Pereira (PCP, Portugal) says : “It is necessary to guarantee full access to sexual reproductive and health rights, including to contraception, to healthcare services, to family planning, to the interruption of pregnancy. At the same time, we need more information and awareness campaigns for women, namely for immigrants, on sexual and reproductive health rights, and continuous training of technicians in the area of family planning.

Banning is ineffective in combating abortion. It only makes it clandestine, unprotected and dangerous for the physical and psychological health and sometimes for the very lives of women, especially the poor ones.”

The debate will take place at +/- 18:00 CET on Wednesday, 8 June.
Voting will take place between 12:00-14:00 CET on Thursday, 9 June.
The debate and vote will be available to livestream here.


Photo: Flickr – Adam Fagen

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