The European Parliament is stressing the importance of safe and legal access to abortion. The Parliament’s action is made with reference to the expected US Supreme Court ruling that, according to leaks from the court, could mean changing the earlier ruling Roe v Wade from 1973 that gives US a constitutional right to abortion. In a statement, the Parliament says that all EU Countries have to decriminalise abortion and that the US government should ensure access to safe and legal abortion.
“Roe v Wade landmark case must be upheld by US Supreme Court”, the statement says. “MEPs condemn the backsliding in women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide including in the US and some EU countries, calling for safe access to abortion”.
The resolution was approved by 364 votes in favour, 154 against and 37 abstentions.
MEPs urge US President Biden and his administration to ensure access to safe and legal abortion. “MEPs reiterate their call on the Government of Texas to swiftly repeal Senate Bill 8 and call on several other US states with similar laws to bring their legislation in line with internationally protected women’s human rights.”
“Bans and other restrictions on abortion disproportionately affect women in poverty”, MEPs, say, stressing that women who, due to financial or logistical barriers, cannot afford to travel to reproductive health clinics in neighbouring states or countries, are at greater risk of undergoing unsafe and life-threatening procedures.
The statement says MEPs are deeply concerned about the potential consequences worldwide should Roe v Wade be overturned and highlight that countries heavily dependent on US aid for public health programmes could reverse their commitment to abortion provision and other reproductive rights.
“The European External Action Service, the Commission and all EU countries should compensate for any possible reduction in US funding to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) globally, and strongly advocate and prioritise universal access to safe and legal abortion in their external relations. Parliament proposes that medical professionals who risk legal or other forms of harassment be offered a safe haven.”
Turning the attention to EU countries, MEPs urge member states to decriminalise abortion and remove and combat obstacles to safe and legal abortion and access to SRHR services, which should be guaranteed without discrimination.
“Medical practitioners should not deny women access to abortion care on grounds of religion or conscience, as this can endanger the patient’s life.”
“Almost all deaths stemming from unsafe abortions occur in countries where abortion is severely restricted. Were a ban to take effect, it is estimated that the annual number of maternal deaths in the US due to unsafe abortions would increase by 21% by the second year”, the Parliament’s statement says.
A compilation on abortion rights made by Moonshot.News shows worldwide, abortion is prohibited altogether in 24 countries.
When people face barriers to obtaining safe abortions, they often resort to unsafe procedures, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), and unsafe abortions are more common in countries with restrictive laws.
Across the European Union, although laws and policies on accessing abortion services, with reproductive health consequences for those using them, vary greatly, all Member States allow it under certain conditions – except one:
- Malta is the only country that denies entirely women’s access to abortion, even if their lives are at risk and women who have an abortion can face up to three years in jail.
- Poland also has very restrictive laws regarding abortions and since 2021 has made it illegal to terminate pregnancies with fetal defects, but it is anyway still possible to get an abortion on grounds of saving a woman’s life, preserving her health, or in cases of rape.
- Eleven Member States – Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Hungary, the Netherlands, Portugal and Slovakia – have a mandatory waiting period.
- Belgium, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Hungary, the Netherlands and Slovakia mandate pre-abortion counselling.
- The only countries not requiring third-party consent, for example parental consent, for abortion in underaged children, are Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal and Finland.