European Parliament confirms its stance on Sexual and Reproductive Rights on Human Rights Day – Joint NGOs’ statement

11 December 2013

Differences on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) between the respective political groups of the European Parliament (EP) proved irreconcilable on Human Rights Day yesterday during the vote on the landmark SRHR Report. The report, authored by Portuguese MEP Edite Estrela of the Socialists and Democrats Group, offered MEPs an opportunity to mark the occasion by advancing the EP’s supportive position on sexual and reproductive rights, including access to accurate information about contraceptive methods.

However, after a well-funded and deliberately misleading defamatory campaign, the opportunity was narrowly missed by a margin of just seven votes. But MEPs also conclusively rejected an opposing motion tabled by the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group, which proposed greater restrictions on access to safe abortion and other retrograde anti-choice measures, by an overwhelming 548 to 95 votes.

The amendment which won by a majority of seven votes – and thereby denied MEPs the opportunity to vote on the more progressive proposal – was tabled by the European People’s Party and European Conservatives and Reformist Group. It reaffirms the existing legal framework by underlining that the competence to develop policies on SRHR and sexuality education rests with the EU member states.

Organizations supportive of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) agenda express disappointment that the European Parliament found itself unable to agree on a clear position supporting SRHR at a time when sexual and reproductive rights are under threat, both within Europe countries and in many others around the world.

Nevertheless, we celebrate the clear rejection of the anti-choice initiative on Human Rights Day and underline that this outcome has strengthened collective resolve, both within the parliament and beyond, to increase European support for SRHR in 2014, a year of elections for the EP and a crucial year for the ICPD internationally as it celebrates the 20th year of its Programme of Action.