Women's rights activists launch effort to expand abortion rights to EU level

 Demonstrators hold placards as they attend a march in support of the Abortion Rights group, in London, on July 9, 2022.
Demonstrators hold placards as they attend a march in support of the Abortion Rights group, in London, on July 9, 2022. Copyright Alberto Pezzali/AP Photo
Copyright Alberto Pezzali/AP Photo
By Lauren Chadwick
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European NGOs said they would launch a new initiative aimed at advancing reproductive rights.


Women's rights activists across Europe are joining forces to push for a dedicated funding mechanism in the European Union to make sure that women in the bloc have access to abortion.

The movement called "My Voice, My Choice" was launched in Slovenia on Tuesday and brought together activists from several European countries including Spain, Finland, Poland, France, Croatia, and Ireland.

"We are organising at the European level to push the abortion issue forward," Marta Lempart, one of the leaders of the Polish Women's Strike, told Euronews Health ahead of the announcement.

"We will collect signatures to have member states opting into a programme that will provide them with financing when they provide abortions and reproductive care to residents from other member states," Lempart explained about the new initiative.

The launch of the campaign came a day after French lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favour of enshrining abortion access in the Constitution.

European activists said the French vote was inspiring and a good example for women's rights movements.

France's Catholic Conference of Bishops criticised the vote however, releasing a statement that they prayed fellow citizens would "rediscover the taste for life, for giving it, for receiving it, for accompanying it, for having and raising children".

'Make sure Europe doesn't roll back abortion rights'

Activists said the purpose of the initiative was to make sure that Europe does not follow the United States in rolling back abortion rights, adding that women in Europe still face risks due to a lack of services.

"We saw what happened in the US, where millions of women were left without a safe and professional option to terminate pregnancy overnight," Nika Kovač, coordinator of the campaign and director of the 8th of March Institute, said in a statement.

"Bans do not reduce the number of abortions, but they undoubtedly increase the number of illegal and dangerous abortions," she added.

They aim to collect a million signatures in support of their proposal over the next few months.

Nearly all EU countries allow abortion access upon request but there has been pressure to limit rights in some states. A Polish court ruling in 2020 rolled back access leading to a near-total ban on the practice.

There have also been efforts by anti-abortion organisations, such as those in Italy, to change abortion laws. 

Ireland voted to repeal a ban on abortion in a referendum five years ago.

Doireann Crosson from the National Women’s Council of Ireland said in a statement that Irish people "understand the pain and stigma that comes with being denied essential reproductive health care services in their own country".

"While many women and pregnant people have been able to access abortion services in Ireland since 2019, ongoing legislative and operational barriers mean some women are still forced to travel," she added.

European lawmakers passed a non-binding resolution in 2022 that endorsed adding abortion rights to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights but this would require revising the EU treaties.

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