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European lawmakers demand that abortion be included in EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

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By Euronews
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The US Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v Wade put an end to 50 years of a constitutional right to abortion.
The US Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v Wade put an end to 50 years of a constitutional right to abortion.   -   Copyright  J. Scott Applewhite/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

The European Parliament has asked for the right to "safe and legal abortion" be added to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and stressed denying the procedure amounted to a form of violence against women and girls.

"Women’s rights are inalienable, and they cannot be removed or watered down," they wrote.

Amending the charter would require a revision of the EU treaties.

The non-binding resolution, which passes with 324 votes in favour and 155 against, was a symbolic gesture of support for the millions of American women who stand to lose access to abortion after the recent ruling of the US Supreme Court that overturned the landmark Roe v Wade case and put an end to 50 years of a constitutional right to abortion there.

Several US states have moved to outright ban or severely restrict access to the procedure.

The resolution text begins by "strongly" condemning the US Supreme Court decision, which has sparked a political storm and deepened social polarisation, and then raises the alarm about the global backsliding in sexual and reproductive health rights. 

MEPs point the finger at some EU member states that have put up significant hurdles in abortion access, such as Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Croatia.

They also name Malta, where the procedure is completely banned, as a case of concern. The small, Catholic country is under the spotlight after Andrea Prudente, an American tourist who suffered an incomplete miscarriage, was denied treatment by Maltese doctors and had to be airlifted to Spain.

In their resolution, lawmakers argue abortions bans and restrictions "disproportionality" affect women in poverty, women of colour, irregular migrants and LGBTIQ people, and say all these legal obstacles do not actually help reduce the number of terminations "but only force people to travel long distances or to resort to unsafe abortions."

MEPs also ask the European Commission and member states to increase funding for the defence of women's rights around the world in case the US decides to cut them, and to make the issue a policy priority in the EU's external relations.

Finally, the political groups express their concern about a possible surge in money for "anti-gender and anti-choice groups" in and outside Europe as a consequence of the Supreme Court ruling.

Thursday's vote took place three days after lawmakers debated the end of Roe v Wade and the implications for women all around the world.

The far-right groups filed two separate resolutions defending the right to life and questioning the classification of abortion access as a human right, but the texts failed to pass.

The two groups, together with some members from the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), including its chairman Manfred Weber, formed the opposition to the final resolution.

Maltese MEPs either abstained or voted against the text, in line with a long-standing practice.

"This debate is not about the defence of life, despite the claims of the anti-abortion movements. It is a debate about the freedom of women," said Soraya Rodríguez Ramos, a liberal MEP who co-authored the resolution.

The European Union has no competence to define health policy, which remains in the hands of member states.