quinta-feira, 19 de novembro de 2009

Os direitos da mulher e a regulação do aborto no Parlamento Europeu

Intervenção, em inglês, de Catherine VIERLING no Congresso Mundial Pró Vida em Saragoça, intitulada: "Los derechos de la mujer y la regulación del aborto en el Parlamento Europeo"

Good Morning !

Thank you to the organisers for this timely meeting and congratulations for your continuous efforts in Spain. Indeed, the Spanish March for Life has been most inspiring for the whole world and we will specially keep in mind the beautiful faces and shining smiles of all children who were present.

Smiling is a great attitude, which helps when facing hardcore issues. The topic I am going to speak about is one of them.

I. "Abortion is not an EU competence"

First when reading the topic of this speech, "Los derechos de la mujer y la regulación del aborto en el Parlamento Europeo" it could look nonsense as abortion in NOT an EU competence. This means that abortion is an issue dealt with at national level only.

As you know, there are some EU countries where abortion is illegal, or very restricted: Poland, Ireland and Malta. Indeed, in the context of the Lisbon treaty, Ireland clearly negotiated the "Protocol on article 40.3.3 of the constitution of Ireland" aiming at protecting life of the unborn[1].

"Abortion is not an EU competence" has been clearly repeated over and over again by all European Parliaments, by all EU Commissioners and by representatives of the EU Council, when questioned by Members of the European Parliament.[2] This looks like making the issue safe for the unborn at the EU level, doesn't it?

II. The European Parliament, a place of "democratic debate"

Nevertheless, if you should happen to pass by the European Parliament, you may incidentally drop into some European Parliament committee meeting. You may be surprised to hear a two day meeting during which at every point of the agenda, "abortion" may be raised. This happened in the EP Women's rights committee (FEMM committee) on the 30-31 August 2004, in the context of "the Refusal of Portuguese authorities to the "Women on waves" abortion ship (Borndiep) to enter into Portuguese territorial waters". On this occasion, there was no consensus on the issue among Members in the FEMM committee. Therefore, no decision was taken and no report adopted.[3]

The debate then reached the political level and Left-wing political groups tabled an oral question to the Plenary. The debate took place on the Thursday, 16 September 2004 in Strasbourg[4].

· There, it was stated that "Ample information should be made available on effective family planning methods, with high-quality access to all forms of contraception, (...) and in order to safeguard reproductive health and women’s rights, voluntary interruption of pregnancy should be legal, safe and universally accessible." (Emphasis added).

· The next speaker spoke about "a woman’s right to choose", the "right to decide in favour of a safe, lawful termination" i.e. about "the reproductive rights of women, which are not recognised in all EU countries". (Emphasis added).

· Another commented on this "NGO's campaign [...] concerned with two women’s rights which [...] are indispensable: the right to health and the right to dignity, both of which are included in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. In many Member States these rights have been defended for decades by women who fight to win governments over to their legitimate cause." (Emphasis added).

· Another Member commented "The Portuguese Government thought it was worth violating two of the European internal market’s fundamental freedoms: the right to information and the right to freedom of movement within the EU." (Emphasis added).

· Finally the Left-wing political groups were concluding that "this debate is a victory for democracy" while the so-called Right-wing concluded that this abortion boat action "really is an appalling violation of human rights, which Parliament should condemn outright". "Mr President", concluded a Right-wing Portuguese MEP, "you would have been better off, and the Conference of Presidents would have been better off, having this debate aborted." (Emphasis added).

But this is not the way the European Parliament works as "all debates should be welcomed", states a German Right-wing MEP, "even if the conclusion is wrong". "Abortion legislation is indeed a national issue, but freedom of expression of opinion is a fundamental right of all European citizens across Europe." stressed the current acting president of the parliamentary working group of reproductive health, a Liberal member of the European Parliament.

III. The abortion debate in the European Parliament: does it exist, how is it raised?

This 2004 debate reveals another phenomenon current in the European Parliament, and I would further raise the issue of terminology, i.e. which words we are using to say what. As previously said, abortion is not an EU competence, and therefore the question of abortion very seldom raises surface as during the 2004 Portuguese abortion ship debate. Indeed, this will not be the way abortion will be addressed in the EU.

As is made clear in the above debate, one would not target abortion directly but one may use a terminology reflecting legal basis and legal competences according to EU law bolstered by invoking the universality of so-called human rights: this may be the tactic for reaching the goal. In the case of the abortion debate, one would talk about "the right to health and the right to dignity, the European internal market’s fundamental freedoms: the right to information and the right to freedom of movement within the EU, as well as freedom of expression of opinion which is a fundamental right of all European citizens across Europe." Let's emphasize that abortion would not be mentioned at all or only in a marginal way. In general, it is not possible to raise any debate in the EU if one does not play with the rules of procedure and the legal basis supporting the case.

Also it is remarkable to stress how language may be deceptive. While advancing abortion agenda, one would almost never speak about it nor use terms meaning the death of a human being. This was the case during the debate on the 7th framework programme for research when dealing with bioethical issues. Which non specialist may understand that the term "embryonic stem cells" implies production and killing of an unborn child at the embryonic stage, i.e. abortion? Also, as previously mentioned, the term "reproductive health" is of the most deceptive term when advancing abortion agenda in the developing world.

IV. The abortion climate in the European Parliament and in the EU

In fact would EU pressure third countries regarding: its national abortion policy? This question may look absurd, until evidence is made public. This was the case, as reported by the European website euro-fam.org, with Nicaraguan legislation on abortion. In October 2006, approximately 200,000 Nicaraguans marched to ask for the change in the penal code and 290,000 legal signatures were presented for the same purpose to the National Assembly of Nicaragua. Never in the history of Nicaragua has a march this large or such a large quantity of signatures asked for a change in a law. The Nicaraguan congressmen voted to favour the will of the people. On 26 October 2006, the national Parliament of Nicaragua unanimously modified its penal code to more completely restrict access to abortion in order to protect unborn children and their mothers.

Since then, all decision-makers, the members of the National Assembly of Nicaragua, the Episcopal conference and the citizens have been strongly pressured by EU donor countries (Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Finland) as well as Norway, Canada, and the United Nations agencies (UNFPA, FAO, UNICEF, WHO). But the most surprising was pressure coming from the EU itself.

· On 20 October 2006, in a letter addressed to the President of the national Parliament, the signatories, although never quoting “abortion”, unilaterally suggest that the restriction of abortion means restriction of basic human rights of the woman, which is against International Conventions.

· The “European Commission Ambassador” to Nicaragua, clarified in the Nicaraguan press that developed countries will threaten Nicaragua to block EU development aid unless the criminal codes dealing with abortion is maintained in favour of abortion.

· The day following the change of Nicaragua legislation from pro abortion to prolife, on 27 October 2006, another civil servant, working in the General Secretariat of the EU Council of Ministers, threatened by fax the Nicaraguan ambassador to the EU in Brussels: in the fax, he threats that Nicaragua, from now on, would be isolated from all international and bilateral negotiations because of the new pro-life law. "I am convinced" he wrote to the Nicaraguan Ambassador, "that this scandal will be dealt with by the European representatives to all the meetings with representatives or citizens of your country, either in a bilateral or bi-regional context." In addition, he expressed, in the name of Europe, the "enormous indignation" vis-à-vis such developments.

· The then German Federal Minister for economic co-operation and development, also at that time chairing the EU foreign affairs Councils, officially threatened Nicaragua: “The international community of the donor countries clearly expressed to President Ortega that there will be immediate consequences in terms of development cooperation, if this national piece of legislation is not repealed."

· On 5 February 2007, the civil servant responsible for Nicaragua within the European Commission RELEX - the EC general direction for foreign relations -, is quoted in the Nicaraguan press: “The European Commission regards this legislation as a step backwards. For the European Union, abortion forms an integral part of the policies implemented to fight against poverty". Following to European prolife pressure, he later commented that "there is no common position on abortion in the EU" and the “European Commission Ambassador” to Nicaragua later confirmed that EU AID is not correlated with the legalisation of abortion.

V. The European Union funds abortion

Finally, one may think these pressures are only political, they are indeed an evil propaganda, but there is no direct consequence on the life or killing of the unborn, as debates only remain on some piece of paper and news cuttings.

· But first let's keep in mind what the European Court of Justice already ruled in 1991 concerning abortion[5] that "Medical termination of pregnancy, performed in accordance with the law of the State in which it is carried out, constitutes a service within the meaning of Article 60 of the Treaty".

· The Service Directive, nevertheless states in Article 2 (2f), that the Directive shall not apply to “healthcare”.

· The Service Directive also clearly states that it “does not affect Member States’ rules of criminal law.”

· But the Charter of Fundamental rights'[6] Article 67.3 states that the Union shall endeavor to ensure a high level of security (...) through the mutual recognition of judgments in criminal matters and, if necessary, through the approximation of criminal laws.

· It remains questionable how the Luxembourg Court of Justice will interpret any conflict between the right to life with the Charter of Fundamental rights.

· The most likely scenario at this stage is that the recipient moves to the country of the service provider. Since no Member States could effectively hinder any of its citizens to benefit from their rights of free movement the point under contention would be the issue of reimbursement of the costs for such services and the information on the delivery of such services in another EU Member State.

Concerning foreign policy, the debate is much simpler: Yes, EU funds abortion. Some investigations on the "Reproductive health initiative for Youth in Asia"[7], a joint programme funded by EU and by UNFPA, with the support of the pro-abortion provider Marie-Stopes International[8] has released clear evidences that abortion is funded with EU taxpayers' money in seven Asian countries. Here are some quotes:

· In the Pakistan report: "The counsellor gave the woman information on the availability of safe abortion services and referred her to the RH clinic, which provided safe abortion services."[9] Individual medical consultation & treatment were given to youth for issues such as GBV, abortion,”[10]

· In Cambodia: "Owing to [the curriculum], [the trainers] increased the spread of related information and services such as where to access free consultations, counselling, medicine, safe abortion." "The number of youth receiving [services] increased: They included counselling, consultation / treatment, [...] referral to partners for safe abortion [...].(RHAC, Marie Stopes...) All services were free of charge and opening hours were adapted to the target group needs. A total of 121,000 youth aged 10-24 accessed medical services."[11]

· In Nepal: "ASRH policies, programs & laws were introduced at national level, abortion was legalized [...] owing to the project.”[12] In another Nepalese region, "“A total of 22,037 adolescents and youths were served through static and mobile clinics for counselling and services on family planning, safe motherhood, safe abortion[13].

· Quotes and evidences are going on and on in some targeted Asian countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam..., under the benediction of the European Commission.

· Indeed other regions in the world in African, Caribbean and pacific countries are also under target.

Dear friends,

I hope that one day I will be invited to deal with the following topic: "Los derechos de la mujer y la regulación de la ayuda a la Maternidad en el Parlamento Europeo".

As we all know, Europe is ageing and dying, because it has no babies. But let me question: who is really proactive in helping a woman in distress when getting pregnant? Recently I personally witnessed a single young woman with no family support, getting fired in Paris, when her boss discovered that she was early pregnant. What choice did she have? What are the supports granted to women? What are supports granted to mothers and fathers trying to properly give birth and raise their children? Financial crisis and professional instability are not helping couples to decide having children, even if they so desire. Indeed governments must support motherhood and childhood, and they committed 60 years ago to do so when signing the Universal Declaration on Human Rights[14] . But this does not mean that we should remain passive.

This time is a time of great and exciting challenge:

Vigilance, friendship and solidarity are more than never demanded.

Heroes must arise from amongst us.

As I see you all, I know that this is coming true, here, right now.

Thank you.

[1] THE HIGH CONTRACTING PARTIES HAVE AGREED upon the following provision, which shall be annexed to the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe and to the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community:

Sole article

Nothing in the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe or in the Treaties or Acts modifying or supplementing it shall affect the application in Ireland of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution of Ireland.



Parliamentary questions, 6 November 2007,, E-5376/07, WRITTEN QUESTION by Edite Estrela (PSE) to the Commission E-5376/2007 - Subject: Total criminalisation of abortion in Nicaragua - Answer given by Mrs Ferrero-Waldner on behalf of the Commission "there isn't any EU common position, the Commission's avenues for intervention are rather limited and demarches can only be carried out by individual Member States.

Parliamentary questions, 2 March 2007, P-1116/07 WRITTEN QUESTION by Konrad Szymański (UEN) to the Commission

Réponse donnée par Mme Ferrero-Waldner au nom de la Commission "La Commission ne prend pas position pour ou contre l'avortement puisqu'il n'y a pas de législations communautaire sur ce sujet."

Parliamentary questions, 27 September 2007, E-4666/07 WRITTEN QUESTION by Robert Kilroy-Silk (NI) to the Commission E-4666/2007 - Answer given by Mr Frattini on behalf of the Commission - "However, this matter and regulations related thereto are under exclusive control of the Member States." 2. The Commission has no competence to intervene in matters related to abortion which are under the exclusive competence of the Member States.

Parliamentary questions, 21 June 2007, E-3087/07, WRITTEN QUESTION by Kartika Tamara Liotard (GUE/NGL) to the Commission , E-3087/2007 - Réponse donnée par M. Frattini au nom de la Commission "La légalisation de l'avortement relève de la compétence des États membres, seuls compétents pour légiférer dans ce domaine. Par ailleurs, il importe de préciser que la Commission ne peut agir que dans les limites de sa compétence. Il n'existe pas de dispositions lui permettant d'agir en matière d'avortement. (…) 7. Ainsi qu'il ressort des considérations qui précèdent, la Commission ne peut adopter de mesures dans ce domaine, qui relève de la compétence des États membres."

Debates Thursday, 26 April 2007 - Strasbourg, Question no 86 by Frank Vanhecke (H-0239/07 ) H-0239/07 to the Commission: The Commission does not assume any positions in favour or against abortion, due to the fact that there is no community legislation in this respect.

Parliamentary questions, 26 February 2003, E-0533/03, WRITTEN QUESTION by Alexandros Alavanos (GUE/NGL) to the Commission - Answer given by Mr Verheugen on behalf of the Commission - It should be recalled in any event that Member States remain competent to decide upon their national legislation on abortion and that abortion is subject to various restrictions in current Member States.


Parliamentary questions, 13 April 2007, E-1983/07, WRITTEN QUESTION by Alessandro Battilocchio (NI) to the Council E-1983/2007, the Council does not have a position on abortion.

Parliamentary questions, 4 December 2003, H-0794/03, ORAL QUESTION for Question Time at the part-session in December 2003 pursuant to Rule 43 of the Rules of Procedure by Dana Scallon to the Council, Question No 3 by Bernd Posselt (H-0729/03): and Question No 4 by Dana Rosemary Scallon (H-0794/03): Posselt (PPE-DE). My question, therefore, is this: Does the term ‘reproductive health’ include the promotion of abortion, yes or no? Antonione, Council. – No. (…) we do not accept that abortion should form part of policies on reproductive and birth control education.

Debates Thursday, 15 March 2001 - Strasbourg - Question no 23 by Dana Rosemary Scallon (H-0189/01) , Question no 24 by Bernd Posselt (H-0196/01) , Question no 25 by José Ribeiro e Castro (H-0197/01) , Question no 26 by Rijk van Dam (H-0209/01) to the Council "With regard to the special issue of abortion, the Council would remind the honourable Members that national abortion legislation does not fall within the Community’s competence. The issue of conformity with the Community’s regulations does not therefore arise.

[3] Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality, MINUTES of the meeting of 30 August 2004, 3.00 pm - 6.30 pm, and 31 August 2004, 9.00 am - 12.30 pm BRUSSELS,




[6] The European Charter of fundamental rights http://ec.europa.eu/justice_home/unit/charte/index_en.html

[7] Reproductive Health Initiative for Youth in Asia - RHIYA http://www.asia-initiative.org/

[8] Marie Stopes International abortion services: http://www.mariestopes.org.uk/Womens_services/Abortion.aspx

[9] RHIYA EU/UNFPA Reproductive Health Initiative for Youth in Asia, In focus: PAVHNA, http://www.asia-initiative.org/pakistanfs5.php?area=2&page=5&option=5

[10] RHIYA EU/UNFPA Reproductive Health Initiative for Youth in Asia, Project: Pakistan Voluntary Health and Nutrition Association . Program for the Protection of Young Adults in Selected Areas of Pakistan


[11] RHIYA EU/UNFPA Reproductive Health Initiative for Youth in Asia, Project: Mith Samlanh / FRIENDS .Building on Experience - A RH Information & Behavior Change Project for Vulnerable Youth in Phnom Penh & Battambang


[12] RHIYA EU/UNFPA Reproductive Health Initiative for Youth in Asia. Project: Aamaa Milan Kendra . Community Actions for Improved Youth Sexual Reproductive Health


[13] EU/UNFPA PTRS. Annual Report 2004. Improving Utilization of SRH Services by Adolescents & Youths in Nepal. Reporting Period: January 1st 2004 - 31st December 2004.


[14] Universal Declaration on Human Rights

Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 16.1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family.

Article 16.3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 25: 2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance.

Article 26: 3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.