On International Safe Abortion Day, the police said that 1,150 people demonstrated outside the European institutions in Brussels. Both women and men marched from the Parc du Cinquantenaire to the Schuman Roundabout where speeches were made. Several associations were represented, amongst which were delegations from Poland and Ireland.
Marcela de la Pena Valdivia, the coordinator for the Women’s March Initiating the Demonstration says that a set back is now felt. “European countries are still prohibiting abortion, such as Malta, Ireland and Poland, except for example when the woman is in any form of danger. In Ireland, the woman must prove that she is having suicidal thoughts. Having to prove that a woman is in this form of distress is not acknowledging that a woman can consciously decide not to have a child, for any given reason or reasons.”
Abortion is permitted by law in Belgium up to 12 weeks from conception. However, Marcela de la Pena Valdivia says that abortion is still in a sense penalised in the country, which amounts to labelling women who have abortions as criminals. The doctors’ “conscience clause” poses a serious problem in Italy, where 80% of doctors refuse to practice abortion, as is their legal right. Whilst the Netherlands has proven to be an example to follow, we understand that a third of centres practising abortion in the country have had to close owing to budget cuts.”
De la Pena Valdivia argues for harmonisation from above for abortion rights, orchestrated by European directives. “Female sexuality is not laid down as a tenet of fundamental human rights at European Union level, giving each country the right to decide on abortion.” The petition intended for MEPs on the issue already has some 22,000 signatures.