The European Parliament voted in favour of a resolution on sexual reproductive health and rights of women on Thursday (24 June), calling on member states to ensure access to abortion, contraception and sexuality education.
The resolution, spearheaded by Croatian socialist MEP Predrag Matić, covers comprehensive sexual health education, contraception, abortion, fertility treatment care, protection of rights of LGBTI+ persons and vulnerable groups.
With 378 votes in favour, 255 against and 42 abstentions, the plenary urged member states to ensure high quality, comprehensive and accessible sexual and reproductive health services for women.
Matić said during the plenary debate on Wednesday (23 June) that this far-reaching decision will have an impact on more than 250 million European women.
Abortion has to be accessible and legal
The resolution calls on member states to ensure universal access to safe and legal abortion, and guarantee that abortion on request is legal in early pregnancy, and beyond if the pregnant person’s health is in danger.
This request comes at a time when some member states still have highly restrictive laws prohibiting abortion except in strictly defined circumstances. A well-known example is last year’s decision of Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal to make abortion illegal in cases involving severe and irreversible foetal defects.
Matić highlighted that prohibiting abortion puts women health in danger. “Because of this, every year 23,000 women die. We know that abortion is a difficult choice for every woman but it has to remain a choice,” he said.
Prohibiting abortion forces women to seek clandestine abortions or carry their pregnancy to term against their will.
The medical practitioners’ denial of abortion care on the grounds of religion or conscience was also criticised. “No one prohibits doctors from denying medical services for personal reasons, but health institutions have to have a doctor who will be able to provide that service,” Matić said.