“My body, my rights”: MEPs stand up for women’s sexual and reproductive rights

Ahead of the vote on rapporteur Predrag Fred Matić’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) report on Thursday, MEPs demonstrated in front of the European Parliament.
Photo credit: Irene Tolleret MEP

By Lorna Hutchinson

Lorna Hutchinson is Deputy Editor of The Parliament Magazine

23 Jun 2021

Holding banners with slogans such as “sexual and reproductive rights are human rights” and “protect the right to safe and legal abortions”, a cross-party crowd of MEPs stood in solidarity with the women of Europe on Wednesday.

Twenty-five years after the groundbreaking Beijing Declaration, women’s rights are under increasing pressure in Europe and elsewhere around the world, particularly in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, and hard-won advances in SRHR have already been rolled back in a number of Member States.

Against this backdrop, Croatian S&D deputy Predrag Fred Matić’s report on SRHR will be debated on Wednesday and will be put to the vote on Thursday.

In a tweet, Matić thanked all of his colleagues from the different political parties who came to support his work on the SRHR report.

He said, “It is good to see cross-party support from many MEPs and staff supporting a European Union of equality.”

The S&D Group, the second largest political grouping in the Parliament, and the group to which Matić belongs, said it stands with the women of Europe “today and always,” adding, “ahead of the vote on the SRHR report, we call on all political groups to put human rights before party politics.”

“We will not be intimidated. Our fight continues.”

“In the face of attacks by the extreme right and reactionaries, many of us have mobilised in the European Parliament to defend the rights of European women to access abortion. My body, my right, my choice” Manon Aubry, The Left

S&D Group leader Iratxe García Pérez said that sexual and reproductive health rights are human rights, which include access to sexual education and contraceptives and access to safe and legal abortion.

“It’s about health. National governments must guarantee it. We need everyone’s votes to pass Fred Matić’s report on SRHR. European women, you’re not alone.”

S&D colleague, Polish MEP Łukasz Kohut, tweeted, “Predrag Fred Matić is the author of the report on sexual and reproductive health of women in the European Union. It is a strong, uncompromising report. There is no rotten compromise when it comes to women's health, their rights.”

“We vote today. And we vote in favour. We stand on the side of women.”

Fellow Polish MEP, Greens/EFA deputy Sylwia Spurek said, “In the afternoon there is a debate on sexual and reproductive health in the European Parliament. Without taking care of women's rights in every Member State there is no full democracy, equality, and human rights - I will remind the [Parliament] President of this today.”

In late October last year, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal announced that legislation allowing women to seek an abortion on the grounds of severe foetal impairment was “incompatible” with the constitution.

The ruling, which came into effect in late January, means that the only grounds for accessing an abortion in the country is in the case of rape, incest, or if there is a threat to the mother’s life.

“It’s about health. National governments must guarantee it. We need everyone’s votes to pass Fred Matić’s report on SRHR. European women, you’re not alone” Iratxe García Pérez, S&D leader

The Left Group in the Parliament said that access to sexual and reproductive health is a human right, adding, “Under the pretext of the COVID-19 crisis, the right-wing has been attacking it in several EU countries.”

“The EU must support and promote full access to these essential services by advancing gender equality.”

Manon Aubry, co-chair of The Left, said, “In the face of attacks by the extreme right and reactionaries, many of us have mobilised in the European Parliament to defend the rights of European women to access abortion.”

 “My body, my right, my choice.”

Renew Europe leader Dacian Cioloș said, “Women, and women alone, should decide on intimate decisions like sexual health and reproduction. We need to ensure they have access to the appropriate care as a bare minimum. We will not regress on women's rights.”

French Renew Europe colleague Irène Tolleret spoke of the “massive mobilisation” of MEPs in front of the European Parliament in support of the Predrag Fred Matić report on women's rights.

“We must ensure safe access to abortion for ALL women in Europe.” she added.

Tolleret commented that she had received the plastic replica of a foetus in a box bearing the words “Loading 25%” (in a reference to a computer programme) at her European Parliament office in recent days.

The receipt of the same plastic foetus in a box was also reported by The Left’s Anne Sophie Pelletier, who said, “For the past week, conservative lobbying has been pushing to vote against the Matić report with foul methods. Here is an example of a ‘gift’ one can receive when fighting for women's rights.”

French Greens/EFA deputy Caroline Roose said that the fight for sexual and reproductive rights is “never over.”

“As we vote on the subject, we receive insulting letters from anti-choice conservative lobbies. There were dozens of us at the European Parliament to reaffirm our commitment to a feminist Europe.”

Irish Greens/EFA deputy Grace O'Sullivan said, “I joined my colleagues at the European Parliament today ahead of a vote on women's reproductive health and rights. We wanted to send out a clear message: We will protect the right to safe and legal abortions. Our bodies, our rights.”

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