Religious and conservative MEPs block vote on reproductive health and rights

Posted: Thu, 24 Oct 2013

Religious and conservative MEPs block vote on reproductive health and rights

Members of the European Parliament have blocked a vote on a progressive report that sought to promote the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of EU citizens and beyond.

As previously reported, MEPs were due to vote this week on the report, authored by Edite Estrela MEP, a Portuguese MEP from the Socialist and Democrat Group, which called for universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights throughout Europe. However, due to the intense lobbying of right-wing religious and political conservatives, the report was instead returned to the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality, which had, in September, voted by a clear majority in favour of it.

The non-binding report called for, amongst other things, comprehensive sexuality education, safe and legal abortion services, teaching about negative LGBTI stereotypes, and the prevention and treatment of sexually-transmitted diseases.

It also contained a number of recommendations in favour of LGBTI people, such as against the mandatory sterilisation of transgender persons and the right to access non-discriminatory information about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Religious and political conservatives had lobbied intensely against the report, repeatedly misrepresenting its contents. For example, they wrongly claimed that the report would force EU Member States to change abortion rules, or include mandatory teaching about masturbation to 0-4 year-olds.

During a tense debate, which saw the author of the report heckled, MEPs voted in favour of a motion to send the report back to the Committee by 351 (with 319 voting against).

There were also reports of right-wing MEPs walking out and boycotting the debate altogether. Several Members described the boycott as another clear attempt by conservatives to impede any progressive move related to women's SRHR.

An alternative resolution authored by conservative MEPs, which sought to defend a dignified vision of maternal health, to extend conscientious objection and to promote "healthy" sexual education for children, was rejected.

NSS Honorary Associate Michael Cashman MEP commented that the Parliament's actions have "achieved nothing but send an excellent text back to the Committee on Women's Rights. The majorities will be the same, our support even stronger, and we will see this report adopted before the end of our mandate. Shame to those who voted against women' and LGBTI rights."

Ulrike Lunacek MEP, Co-President of the LGBT Intergroup and spokesperson for the Green group, said that: "It was shameful. Right-wing bigots from the EFD, ECR and EPP groups argued against this report, and women's right to a safe and healthy reproductive and sexual life."

She added that: "They bullied the chamber into taking a vote which shouldn't have taken place, and then booed the Rapporteur when she took the floor."

Tags: Gender Equality