Pro-life lobbying that paid dividends

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RACHEL KIDD and DONNA NICHOLSON from SPUC SCOTLAND explain how pro-lifers scored a crucial victory for human rights

PRO-LIFE victories can often seem to be few and far between. However, some do take place from time to time and most recently that cause for celebration has come from Europe after pro-life activists managed to thwart yet another attempt to have abortion declared a ‘human right’ by the European Parliament.

Last month, SPUC put out an appeal to activists to contact their MEPs (Member of the European Parliament) to oppose the ‘Estrela Report’ on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). This move was echoed by pro-life groups and supporters in countries across Europe and the result was a major pro-life victory that saw the Parliament reject the resolution declaring abortion a fundamental ‘human right’ and sending it back to the committee.

The controversial report recommended EU nations declare abortion to be a human right and make abortion available within all public health systems of member countries. Furthermore it contained no limits regarding gestational age, which would allow abortions up until birth, in the name of human rights.

The move was seen as an effort to dictate abortion policy to individual European Union governments, despite the fact that across the EU’s 28 member states, there is no consensus on the matter.

Wendy Wright of C-Fam reported: “It was expected just to sail through because only five minutes was allowed for debate—and it was only because pro-life and pro-family activists in Europe really geared up… and to the surprise, I think, of the woman who introduced this measure, it did not pass.”

The motion also contained a serious threat to the right of medical staff to maintain a clear consciousness objection to abortion and stated members should ‘regulate and monitor the use of conscientious objection so as to ensure that reproductive health care is guaranteed as an individual’s right, while access to lawful services is ensured and appropriate and affordable referrals systems are in place.’

Further to this, the report went on to say: “There are cases reported from Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Ireland and Italy where nearly 70 per cent of all gynaecologists and 40 per cent of all anaesthesiologists conscientiously object to providing abortion services.  These barriers clearly contradict human rights standards and international medical standards.”

The ‘barriers’ that the measure refers to as contradicting human rights, are in fact the rights of people to use their conscience to object to abortion—such as the action being taken in Scotland at present by Glasgow-based midwives Connie Wood and Mary Doogan—so not only did this measure seek to disregard the rights of the unborn child in the name of ‘human rights,’ but it also went as far as to disregard the rights of people to have any objection to taking part in them, again ‘in the name of human rights.’

This kind of contradiction is extremely common in the abortion debate; that in the process of trying to claim something as a human right, the pro-abortion movement trample on the human rights of the unborn child and those in the medical profession.

The report also called on the EU to finance abortion in developing countries as part of the EU development aid programme, which it stated should have ‘a strong and explicit focus, and concrete targets on SRHR [sexual and reproductive health and rights.’

And arguing that ‘investments in reproductive health and family planning are among the most cost-effective, in terms of development, and the most effective ways to promote the sustainable development of a country.’

In the end, 351 MEPs voted in favour of referring the resolution back to committee for ‘further study,’ while 319 voted for it to be removed entirely but according to observers the debate was ‘loud and lively.’

SPUC’s Communications manager Anthony Ozimic praised the work of pro-life activists who lobbied their MEPs ahead of the vote, adding: “Forthright and intelligent lobbying by individual pro-lifers and their representative organisations can and does frustrate the designs of powerful anti-life forces.

“Although the pro-abortion lobby has many times the funding of the pro-life movement, pro-lifers can punch above our weight because we have the truth with us. There is all to play for, and the victory is won in terms of lives saved and families protected.”

The report was co-written by Vicky Claeys, regional director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network, and presented by Portuguese MEP Edite Estrela, representing the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament.

Various pro-life news services reported that pro-abortion lobbyists complained about ‘intense lobbying’ by pro-life groups and view the result as a major setback, so well done to all those SPUC supporters who made their voices heard in defense of vulnerable women and their unborn children and lobbied their MEPs prior to the October vote.

In the call to activists SPUC did state that, as ever, there were a few good sections to the report but a vast majority of the measures contained within it had to be rejected such as the threat to conscientious objection for medics.

SPUC is one of the few pro-life groups who maintain a permanent presence at the European Parliament to lobby against pro-abortion legislation.  You can keep up to date with what’s going on with pro-life issues in Europe and at the UN by signing up to SPUC’s international newsletter via the SPUC website.

SPUC also provides helpful information on how to lobby MEPs when a vote is coming up and on whom your MEP is and would urge all pro-life supporters to keep up to date and get in touch with their representatives when such threats are being faced.

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