“The first real resistance to a regressive agenda”: Parliament adopts SRHR report

Predrag Fred Matić’s report on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights was adopted on Thursday, with 378 votes in favour, 255 against and 42 abstentions.
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By Lorna Hutchinson

Lorna Hutchinson is Deputy Editor of The Parliament Magazine

24 Jun 2021

Croatian S&D member and rapporteur Predrag Fred Matić welcomed the results, saying, “This vote marks a new era in the European Union and the first real resistance to a regressive agenda that has trampled on women's rights in Europe for years.”

“A majority of MEPs have made their position clear to Member States and called on them to ensure access to safe and legal abortion and a range of other sexual and reproductive health services.’’

Matić said he was proud that the majority of the European Parliament recognises that in the 21st century women must no longer be treated as second-class citizens, that their feelings and freedoms should be respected, and that all women across Europe must have access to the healthcare they deserve.

He pointed out, “Contrary to what the far right has said, I am not advocating abortion. What my report is saying is that every woman has the right to choose. The number of abortions performed is similar in countries where abortion is legal and in countries where it is not.”

“But abortions performed clandestinely are dangerous for women’s health, often leading to fatal consequences. That is why we are calling for abortion to be decriminalised in all Member States.”

Matić said that anti-choice and anti-gender movements had “spared no effort to prevent the adoption of my report.”

“They spread disinformation about it, launched a petition against it and even went so far as to send little plastic foetuses to many MEPs. But they did not intimidate us! I hope that one day they also will walk off the edge of their flat earth.”

Parliament’s Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM) said that with the vote, plenary is making clear that the right to health, in particular sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), is a fundamental pillar of women’s rights and gender equality that cannot in any way be watered down or withdrawn.

In a statement the FEMM Committee said, “Parliament declares that violations of women’s SRHR are a form of violence against women and girls and hinder progress towards gender equality.”

“This vote marks a new era in the European Union and the first real resistance to a regressive agenda that has trampled on women's rights in Europe for years” Predrag Fred Matić, rapporteur on the SRHR report

The S&D Group tweeted, “Today the European Parliament has finally stood on the side of women and showed governments that are undermining women’s rights that we no longer accept this.”

“Despite enormous mobilisation from anti-choice and anti-gender movements, and last-minute manoeuvres by the EPP, the plenary has adopted the progressive resolution recognising sexual and reproductive health and rights as fundamental human rights.”

“Drafted by S&D MEP Fred Matić, the text calls for guaranteed access to SRHRs in the EU without discrimination, including to reliable sex education, fertility treatment, modern contraceptives and safe and legal abortion. It also urges the European Commission to appoint an EU special envoy for SRHRs, to protect them at the EU level.”

Maria Noichl, S&D spokesperson on women’s rights and gender equality, said that despite numerous last-minute attempts to block this report, “not only by the far right but also the EPP”, it was adopted, adding, “We have been waiting for almost a decade to send this clear message from the European Parliament that we are putting women and their rights centre stage.”

“We are making it clear: sexual and reproductive rights, meaning access to abortion, but also sexual education, contraception, fertility treatment, health services during pregnancy and birth, and the treatment of related diseases, must remain rights in the entire EU. They cannot be withdrawn by Member States.”

French Renew Europe MEP Irène Tolleret said, “Today is a big day: the European Parliament has just voted for the Matić report on reproductive health and rights in the EU. The EU is committed to protecting the rights of all women and their health, without any ideology.”

Renew Europe colleague Chrysoula Zacharopoulou said she was “moved by the adoption of the Matić report”, adding, “Let us continue to fight tirelessly for the rights of women, for the right to abortion in the European Union and around the world. Progressivism will overcome obscurantism.”

“Today is a big day: the European Parliament has just voted for the Matić report on reproductive health and rights in the EU. The EU is committed to protecting the rights of all women and their health, without any ideology”

Irène Tolleret, Renew Europe

Parliament vice-president and Finnish Greens/EFA member Heidi Hautala described the vote outcome as a “great result,” adding that the Matić report was the “first comprehensive report on sexual and reproductive rights from the European Parliament in 8 years.”

The European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (EFP) said that while the European Parliament has repeatedly expressed concerns over the lack of full realisation of, and attacks against, women’s rights, gender equality and SRHR, this report is “the first of its kind in almost 10 years to give such a degree of political importance to SRHR at EU level.”

The EPF added, “The vote sends a strong signal that MEPs are fully committed to protect and promote SRHR in the EU at a time when human rights in sexuality and reproduction are increasingly challenged by illiberal leaders, even within the EU, and as the global community makes inspirational commitments to advance SRHR in the Generation Equality Forum.”

EPF Secretary Neil Datta said, “Today, the European Parliament assumed its leadership role in strongly upholding the fundamental rights of all Europeans despite deliberate campaigning to incite fear and block the report. Common sense, human rights and values prevailed and MEPs were able to stand up for education and health over ignorance and religious ideology.”

The International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN), which champions sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, said that it now looks to the Member States and the European Commission to take the report’s recommendations forward “and deliver on sexual and reproductive safety, care and freedom for all.”

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