On Tuesday 22nd October 2013, European MPs reviewed a resolution3 on sexual and reproductive health and rights, presented by Edite Estrela4. Adopted by the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, on 18th September 2013, the text should have been adopted without resistance. But the mobilization of European citizens, essentially French and German, has affected part of the right-wing party, what refers the text back to committee. Decoding this episode.
Estrela’s report on health and sexual and reproductive rights5
Estrela’s report, which includes the motion of resolution, the explanatory statement, the opinions, and the results of the vote in committee, is the fruit of feminist demands. Based on the fundamental right to health, the motion for a resolution requests the full recognition and promotion of sexual and reproductive rights (SRHR).
The resolution invites particularly the Member States to “allow […] single and lesbian women to benefit from fertility treatments and medically assisted procreation services”, to better “take into consideration the specific groups” such as transgender or LGBTI people, to implement a specific budget for a SRHR strategy, and to make sure that the European Union (EU) exercises “its competence for developing strategies and initiatives” in matter of SRHR.
Dealing with pregnancies and abortion, the resolution wants a fundamental right to abortion recognized. It recommends to Member States its effectiveness by opening “quality abortion services [which] are legal, safe, and accessible to all women”, and denounces the abusive resort to conscientious objection which limits abortion. It requests to remove the conscientious objection in religious clinics or hospitals, and to decriminalize any abortion act performed by health professionals.
Dealing with sexual education of young people, the resolution invites the Member States to ensure that “the teaching of sexual education is mandatory for all the students of primary and secondary schools” by addressing the question of gender equality, to make available sexual and reproductive health and right (SRHR) services to adolescents without parents’ agreement, to inculcate a positive image of LGBTI people.
Decoding Estrela’s resolution
Two experts from the European parliament have decoded the purpose and the content of the Estrela’s resolution.
Anna Zaborska6, perceived this resolution as a move to face the European citizens’ initiative ONE OF US7, which has a real success since its inception, closed nationally on 31st October 20138. She made a “minority opinion” to the resolution by denouncing that such conduct is contrary to the EU treaty. No binding international treaty can be invoked to develop a right to abortion, she explained. She reminds that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) confirmed that any human embryo must be protected9 and that the Declaration of the Rights of the Child of United Nations imposes a legal protection appropriated to the child, before and after her/his birth.
According to Grégor Puppinck10 “this text is astonishingly extremist: a medley of abortion and LGBT lobbies […]. [It aims] at promoting abortion for all and the freedom of conscience for nobody […]. [It promotes] the ideology of gender and [agrees] with the lesbian demand of a “right to sperm”. But “right to abortion and “right to sperm” he concludes, are a same “feminist demand of a pretended “self-control” by the exclusion of the child and the man”.
The mobilization against Estrela’s report
The signatories of the initiative One of us, with their 1,500,000 signatures, questioned massively and in record time the European politicians.
Finally, thanks to this reactivity of the European citizens, a referral back to committee has been obtained after several attempts of the ECR11 group, tells Tobias Teuscher12: “after 10 minutes of lively debate, the request for referral back to committee is adopted with 351 votes against 319 and 18 abstentions. This was a relief but at this stage not a surprise as the debates pointed out the implausible ideological magma the text represents”.
The referral back to committee does not bury the text. This one will be able to come back during the next conference of the competent committee, on 25th November 2013. However Grégor Puppinck raised doubts due to the future end of the legislature (April 2014). Nevertheless he invites to be vigilant.
1. Reproductive: “relative to the reproductive sexual function” which includes contraception, abortion…;
2. LGBTI means “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex”;
3. “the Council and the European Parliament, adopt non-binding motions, […], suggesting a political will to act in a certain field. These instruments allow European institutions to adopt guidelines for the coordination of legislations or national administrative practices non-bindingly, in other words without legal obligations for the recipients – Member States and/or citizens” (www.europedia.moussis.eu). ;
4. Portuguese deputy and member of the group of progressive alliance between socialists and democrats at the European Parliament;
5. Report (2013/2040 (INI)) ;
6. Slovak deputy and member of the European democrat party;
7. Initiative which requests for the cutting off of funding by the EU of programs aiming at destroying the embryo;
8. To learn more: www.undenous.fr or www.oneofus.eu;
9. Decision CJUE C-34/10 – the expression of the Court is as follows: “is a “human embryo” any human oocyte from the stage of fertilization.… “;
10. director of ECLJ;
11. Europe of Conservators and Reformers;
12. Secretary of the European Parliament’s Family, Protection of Childhood and Solidarity between the Generations Intergroup, parliamentary assistant of Anna Zaborska.