Roe v. Wade: MEPs demand global right to safe and legal abortion access

Roe v. Wade: MEPs demand global right to safe and legal abortion access
Protestors in Washington D.C against a ban on Roe v. Wade. Credit: Unsplash

On Thursday, Members of the European Parliament denounced the backsliding of women’s sexual and reproductive health worldwide, including in the US and some EU countries, calling for safe access to abortion.

On Thursday, MEPs adopted a non-binding resolution by 364 votes in favour, 154 against and 37 abstentions to remind the United States Supreme Court of the urgency in upholding the landmark case of Roe v. Wade from 1973, which protects the right to abortion in the US Constitution.

“The decision of the US Supreme Court will not only directly impact millions of women and girls in the US but also encourage anti-abortion movements in the rest of the world,” said Dutch liberal MEP Samira Rafaela.

“That is why we must protect the right to abortion in the EU Treaties. Once and for all, politicians worldwide must keep their dirty policies away from our bodies,” she added.

Anti-abortion movements, however, are not only gaining ground in the US, they are also prevalent in some parts of Europe. In Poland, the right-wing populist PiS government has tightened abortion measures to the point where it is inaccessible, while in states such as Croatia, Slovakia and Lithuania, restrictive laws are being discussed. In Malta, abortion is illegal.

Focusing on EU countries, MEPs urged the Member States to decriminalise abortion and remove obstacles to safe and legal abortion.

Backlash in gender equality

The last decade has seen a drive against gender equality and women’s human rights on several continents, according to the European Parliament’s Committee for gender issues. The Gender Equality Index shows that only marginal progress has been made between 2005 and 2015 across the EU.

The United Nations has observed a backlash against women’s rights, putting many of the hard-fought rights that women now have at risk, and found that while some of the attacks on gender equality remain at a rhetorical level, they could also be enacted into policy.

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If the US Supreme Court votes to overturn the nationwide protection of abortion rights, US states could then decide to restrict or ban abortion.

Additionally, nearly all deaths from unsafe abortions come from countries where abortion is banned. If abortion is forbidden, it is estimated that the annual amount of maternal deaths in the US due to unsafe abortions would rise to 21% by the second year.


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