On Monday, 9 March, the members of the European Parliament examined a report on equality between women and men presented by Marc Tarabella, a Belgian MEP from the Socialist group. Adopted by the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) last 20 January, it was adopted yesterday, 10 March, by the European Parliament, by 441 vs. 205 and 52 abstentions.
The day after International Women’s Day, this report uses equality between men and women to touch on sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR). Two points in particular pose problems as they lie outside the scope of European competence:
- “Ae. Whereas sexual and reproductive rights are fundamental human rights and should be taken into account in the EU’s action programme in the field of health;”
- “45. Maintains that women must have control over their sexual and reproductive health and rights, not least by having ready access to contraception and abortion;” therefore encouraging all measures for information in this area.
At the start of the debate, Mr Tarabella stated that, “this report is not for or against abortion. It concerns equality and the right to choose, which are fundamental rights.” But the opponents were not fooled and denounced an “ideological” report aimed at imposing a fundamental right to abortion on EU member states: “the Estrela affair has become the Tarabella affair”, as Beatrix von Storch, a German MEP, put it.
The Tarabella report follows the Estrella report, presented on 10 December 2013 and sent back into commission thanks to the mobilisation of European citizens through the One of Us initiative. Instead of adopting the Estrela report, the MEPs opted for an alternative resolution stating that the EU does not have competence over the subject of sexual and reproductive rights. It said, “the formulation and implementation of policies on SRHR and on sexual education in schools is a competence of the Member States.” An on-line petition was set up to demand that the MEPs comply with the principle of subsidiarity (“Stop Tarabella relaunching Estrela”).
This report does not have the force of law, but a vote by the European Parliament can be a way of forcing changes to the national legislation in each Member State.
Mr Tarabella had already written a report on the same subject in 2010, and the majority of its proposals were adopted. He also sought to promote “women’s rights” in the EU in terms of “reproductive health”. This MEP is also committed to “carring on the fight” . He was pleased with his report’s adoption yesterday, and wants to continue the “fight against gender stereotypes, increasing awareness in the public opinion on the gender question” and giving women “the right to control their own bodies.”
This week, the European Parliament will also take up the Panzeri draft resolution, an annual report on “human rights and democracy in the world 2013 and the EU policy on the matter”. He also brings up women’s sexual and reproductive health, leading the European Parliament once again to legislate on societal issues in disregard for the Member States’ sovereignty.
The Estrela report dealt with women’s ready access to contraception and abortion, easier access to fertility treatment, sexual education at school for all children and an initiation to gender equality for women.