Intervenção, em inglês, de Catherine VIERLING no Congresso Mundial Pró Vida em Saragoça, intitulada: "Los derechos de la mujer y la regulación
Good Morning !
Thank you to the organisers for this timely meeting and congratulations for your continuous efforts in
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
As you know, there are some EU countries where abortion is illegal, or very restricted:
"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. 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.
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
· 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
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
· 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
· 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
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 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' 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", a joint programme funded by EU and by UNFPA, with the support of the pro-abortion provider Marie-Stopes International has released clear evidences that abortion is funded with EU taxpayers' money in seven Asian countries. Here are some quotes:
· In the
· Indeed other regions in the world in African,
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,
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.