On May 11, the Women's Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) Committee of the European Parliament adopted a draft report and resolution presented by Predrag Fred Matić, “on the situation of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the EU, in the frame of women's health.” This report will soon be examined by the European Parliament with a view to the final adoption of the text.
The FEMM Text
The central point concerning abortion is set out in §14: Parliament “invites the Member States to review their national legal provisions on abortion and bring them in line with international human rights standards and regional best practices by ensuring that abortion at a woman’s request is legal in early pregnancy and even beyond if the woman’s health or life is in danger.”
In the commentary, the reporter adds details: “According to the Centre for Reproductive Rights, 59% of women of reproductive age live in countries that broadly allow abortion and 41% of women live under restrictive laws.”
“In the EU, only one Member State does not allow abortion under any circumstances (Malta) and one allows it only under very narrow circumstances with highly restrictive tendencies (Poland). What worries and urges a strong response from the EU is the evident backlash in women’s rights, with the right to a safe and legal abortion being one of the key targets in these attacks.”
At the same time, he violently attacks conscientious objection. Thus, “Even when legally available, there are barriers in the access to abortion.... One of the most problematic barriers is the denial of medical care based on personal beliefs.”
“National legislation often allows for health care professionals to opt out of providing goods and services to which they are morally opposed, including performing abortions… Moving forward it should be addressed as denial of medical care rather than the so-called conscientious objection.”
Such a presentation is truly aberrant. Moreover, the text is forced to recognize that “a large number of Member States (20+) provide for the right to the so-called conscientious objection, which is also recognized by UN instruments and the European Convention on Human Rights.” So where's the problem? Unless it be in the desire to radically exclude from any medical position those who are opposed to abortion.
The text continues: “Notably, this is not an absolute right and the European Court of Human Rights has held that it should not be used to block the access of the persons concerned to the services to which they are legally entitled.”
A Completely Biased Approach
In this text, the question of abortion is only considered from the angle of “women's rights”: the ethical, social, and cultural dimensions of abortion, as well as the consideration of the specific context of each Member State are eliminated.
Moreover, from a legal point of view, the resolution contradicts European law in three respects.
First, by explicitly considering abortion as an integral part of women’s health, the proposal is beyond the authority of the EU. Because, on the one hand, public health falls within the jurisdiction of the Member States, the EU having only a supporting competence. And, on the other hand, the inclusion of abortion in health care, because it is performed by health professionals, greatly exceeds such a supporting competence.
Then, to consider abortion as an integral part of “women's rights,” contradicts the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, according to which abortion cannot be linked as such to a fundamental right, within the meaning of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Finally, to assert that the right to conscientious objection does not allow “health professionals to choose not to provide the products and services to which they are morally opposed,” departs significantly from the way in which this right is interpreted by European human rights law, in particular Article 10.2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Finally, is it necessary to be reminded that abortion is not recognized as a right at the international level?