The European Parliament (EP) took shocking and disturbing action last week when it adopted a parliamentary report which charges “the denial of sexual and reproductive health and rights services, including safe and legal abortion, is a form of violence against women and girls” by a vote of 489 in favor, 114 opposed and 69 abstentions. The shocking vote by a legislative body that is supposed to respect sovereignty on abortion, and includes lawmakers from countries with pro-life policies, occurred during endorsement of the European Union’s accession to the Istanbul Convention,– the Council of Europe’s treaty to prevent and combat violence against women and girls.
The actual text of the Convention opposes “performing an abortion on a woman without her prior and informed consent”–the only mention of abortion in the treaty. This fact, however, did not prevent two committees in the European Parliament- Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) and Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM)–from issuing an appalling condemnation of laws against abortion and equating lack of legal access to abortion with violence against women and girls. Left out of the report is any recognition or condemnation of sex selection abortion–the first act of violence in the life cycle that targets unborn baby girls for elimination simply because they are female.
The INTERIM REPORT on the proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion, by the European Union, of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, issued by Rapporteurs Christine Revault D’Allonnes Bonnefoy and Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, disregards national laws against abortion. The extreme pro-abortion text states:
“4. Strongly affirms that the denial of sexual and reproductive health and rights services, including safe and legal abortion, is a form of violence against women and girls; reiterates that women and girls must have control over their bodies and sexualities; calls on all the Member States to guarantee comprehensive sexuality education, ready access for women to family planning, and the full range of reproductive and sexual health services, including modern contraceptive methods and safe and legal abortion;”
The text and its claim that “denial of safe and legal abortion” is a form of violence led MEP Steven Woolfe from the UK to rise from his seat during the discussion and to ask for the legal team behind the report to review the text again out of concern that this section of the report “could effectively make it a criminal offence for anyone who believes in the reduction of abortion” and to determine if “millions of people in the European Union as a result of this could be deemed a criminal immediately upon this vote”.
Mr Woolfe took to facebook to further express his shock posting a video and this message:
“Imagine a world where opposing abortion, for any reason, was not just a question of an opinion that others may detest or applaud, but instead constituted a criminal offence.
Imagine if simply by expressing this sentiment, that you were a criminal, guilty of committing violence against women and girls…
Now, regardless of what your view is on abortion, imagine what precedent this sets for other ideas that those in power dislike.
Soon, you won’t need to imagine this world, because this is exactly what the European Union is trying to do…”
Mr. Woolfe’s video ends with a statement of concern that the EU has reached a dangerous point that needs to be strongly challenged and that he is thankful that the UK is leaving the EU.
Political parties in the EP issued statements before and after the vote with the Socials and Democrats (S&Ds) taking credit for the abortion section:
“The Convention is the most far-reaching international treaty and the first legally binding instrument to fight violence against women and commits signatories to implement measures to protect victims, persecute perpetrators and prevent these crimes. Under the leadership of the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament, the text adopted today included a strong affirmation of the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls, including access to safe and legal abortions.”
The European Christian Political Movement warned before the vote:
“The European Union institutions are currently considering acceding to the legally binding Istanbul convention. This Council of Europe instrument is designed to combat domestic violence and violence against women. However, despite having commendable aims it is a blunt and flawed instrument containing many unwanted agendas that are damaging to the foundations of the European Union.
“It is hoped that Members of the European Parliament will oppose this report, not because of the general subject matter of combatting domestic violence but rather on the fact that it is a flawed legal instrument which gives away the powers of individual EU member states to the Council of Europe. Although ECPM supports combatting domestic violence, we do not support this particular tool.
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The European People’s Party (EPP) quoted its member Anna Maria Corazza Bildt from Sweden who oversaw the report and said:
“The accession of the EU to this text will strengthen the legal framework to prevent violence, combat impunity and protect women and girls…We need to join forces to combat stereotypes and sexism against women and girls. Religion, tradition or culture can never justify men’s violence against women.”
In a past statement Corazza Bildt spoke against President Trump’s pro-life foreign policy that denies funding to international organizations that perform or promote abortion declaring:
“‘I strongly condemn the newly reinstated ‘global gag’ rule…We are not talking about being for or against abortion, we are talking about humanitarian law. Health. Safety. Child protection. And women’s rights are human rights.’ Europe should step in and show leadership, she added, to counter Trump’s sexism.”
The press release by the FEMM committee and released by the European Parliament also included the text on abortion:
“The denial of sexual and reproductive health and rights services, including safe and legal abortion, is a form of violence against women and girls, says the text. MEPs reiterate that women and girls must have control over their bodies…The Istanbul Convention ensures that culture, custom, religion, tradition or so-called “honour” cannot be a justification of any acts of violence aainst women.”
The report urges Member States to speed up negotiations on the ratification and implementation of the Istanbul Convention. Currently all EU Member States have signed the Istanbul Convention but only 14 have ratified it.
The EU’s accession to the Convention is touted as providing “a coherent European legal framework to prevent and combat violence against women and will bring better monitoring, interpretation and implementation of EU laws, programmes, funds and better data collection”.
The European Commission is instructed “to initiate, without delay or postponement, a constructive dialogue with the Council and Member States, in cooperation with the Council of Europe, so as to address reservations, objections and concerns expressed by Member States.”
PNCI Director Marie Smith reacted to the report and the vote stating,
“I hope that Member States will strongly object. This dreadful depiction of laws that seek to protect unborn children and their mothers from the violent act of abortion as an actual form of violence is astonishing, especially for a legislative body that purports to not have any “competence” on abortion laws and supposedly allows Member States to decide abortion laws for themselves.
“The EP had an opportunity to condemn the horrific violence of sex selection abortion which has led to the ultimate act of violence–death–to hundreds of millions of baby girls around the world simply because they are female and yet the EP remains silent on this horror.
“As more countries in Europe seek new laws to protect unborn children from the violence of abortion, this report appears stuck in an antiquated pro-abortion mindset that fails to recognize that the lives of women and girls need to be valued right from the start and not just after birth.
Complete details on the Istanbul Convention and the ratification process an be found at the Council of Europe website.
LifeNews.com Note: Marie Smith is the director of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues.