This Tuesday, December 10, which is interestingly enough Human Rights Day, the European Parliament once again voted on the controversial Report on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, which would classify abortion as a fundamental human right. Despite the intense lobbying of the proposed legislation’s supporters, the measure was once again rejected by Members of the European Parliament (MEP’s).
After the bill was initially tossed out, Edite Estrela, the Portuguese Socialist MEP behind the proposed legislation, which is also known as the Estrela Report, vowed that the bill would come to the floor again, this time with enough votes to pass. Despite being sent back to committee, the report remained essentially unaltered.
The report states that 20 member nations permit abortion on demand (generally with a gestational limit). Of the seven remaining nations, three have very liberal laws regarding abortion while three nations will perform abortions only under more limited circumstances. Malta is the only member of the European Union which completely prohibits abortion. In the last debate, the Maltese MEP’s stood firmly opposed to the proposed legislation and the arguments put forward by Ms. Estrela.
The measure the European Parliament once again considered contained no limits regarding gestational age – leaving open the possibility of claiming elective-abortion-until-day-of-birth as a human right. Adding insult to injury was the severe infringement proposed on conscience protections of physicians (specifically gynecologists and anesthesiologists) that the report recommended.
The Estrela Report asserted that currently, in countries where abortion is legal, it is often rendered unavailable due to physicians’ “abuse of conscientious objection or overly restrictive interpretations of existing limits.”
The proposed legislation sought to require member nations to “regulate and monitor the use of conscientious objection so as to ensure that reproductive health care is guaranteed as an individual’s right, while access to lawful services is ensured and appropriate and affordable referrals systems are in place.”
The report went on to state, “There are cases reported from Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Ireland and Italy where nearly 70 per cent of all gynecologists and 40 per cent of all anesthesiologists conscientiously object to providing abortion services.”
This measure was touted by its supporters (which include the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the Irish Family Planning Associating, and the Swedish Association for Sexual Education) as a step forward for human rights. Opponents pointed out that the measure would interfere in such areas as parental rights, sexual education, human dignity and freedom of conscience.
Proponents of the Estrela Report continue to ignore the abuse of essential human rights that this resolution would inflict. It would violate the most fundamental right, the right to life, of the child at the heart of the whole issue. It ignores mothers’ real needs and instead puts forward the assertion that a woman’s rights can only be met through the opportunity to eliminate her children. Finally, it ignores the rights of conscience of doctors, who are being compelled to participate in the ending of a human life despite their responsibility to preserve it.
Passage of the Estrela Report has once again been averted. On Human Rights Day it is encouraging that MEP’s continued to hold firm in their convictions and remained steady in protecting the human rights of society’s most vulnerable.