Statement on the Matić Report
It is the first to describe in detail the importance of the right to sex education based on scientific evidence, the right to safe and affordable contraception, and the right to abortion on demand. It also tackles other important issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights, such as the right to medically assisted reproduction (MPO), the importance of women’s rights in pregnancy, childbirth, and midwifery (including midwifery care). It also ensures that the rights of women from rural or dislocated places, members of the LGBT community, and other minorities are equally protected.
Those who oppose this report deliberately place emphasis on those parts of the report that raise tensions, in order to provoke a reaction, while ignoring the rest of the report and its benefits. Anti-abortion opponents have also spread misinformation about the report itself, including the suggestion that it would ban ‘conscientious objection’, which is not true.
Abusing the human rights narrative and disguising themselves as “worried citizens” the neoconservative movement takes conscientious objection as an (absolute and not further discussable) human right, that should take precedence over women’s access to safe abortion. If they really cared about preventing abortions, they would be equally committed to a comprehensive, science-based, sex education in schools. But they aren’t, they promote their religious values about family life and sexuality and try to impose their particular values on all citizens.
But, religious arguments do not carry the same weight as the arguments of the natural and social sciences and the humanistic and democratic principles on which European democracies are based. The right to a free life, to one’s own choice of health care, and to a decision on deliberate parenthood is not proof of callous selfishness or a sin, but a feature of reasonable civil responsibility. All this is worthy of the protection of the European Parliament.
Therefore, as an association advocating for women’s rights to health care according to the latest advances in medicine, we ask Members of the European Parliament to accept the report.
MEPs urge member states to protect and further enhance women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in a report adopted on Thursday.
With 378 votes in favour, 255 against, and 42 abstentions, the plenary states 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.
Parliament declares that violations of women’s SRHR are a form of violence against women and girls and hinder progress towards gender equality. It thus calls on EU countries to ensure women are offered high quality, comprehensive and accessible SRHR, and to remove all barriers impeding them from using these services.
Access to abortion, contraception, and sexuality education
MEPs stress that some member states still have highly restrictive laws prohibiting abortion except in strictly defined circumstances, forcing women to seek clandestine abortions or carry their pregnancy to term against their will, which is a violation of their human rights. They urge all member states to ensure universal access to safe and legal abortion, and guarantee that abortion on request is legal in early pregnancy, and beyond if the pregnant person’s health is in danger.
MEPs regret that some member states allow medical practitioners, and even entire medical institutions, to refuse the provision of health services because of a so-called conscience clause. This leads to the denial of abortion care on the grounds of religion or conscience and puts women’s lives in danger.
Furthermore, the House demands that EU countries ensure a range of high-quality contraceptive methods and supplies, family counseling, and information on contraception are widely available.
MEPs regret that access to abortion continues to be limited during the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the effects the pandemic has had on the supply and access to contraceptives.
Parliament encourages member states to ensure sexuality education is taught comprehensively to primary and secondary school children, as SRHR education can significantly contribute to reducing sexual violence and harassment.
Menstrual products are essential basic goods
Pointing out the negative effects of the so-called tampon tax on gender equality, MEPs call on member states to make use of the flexibility introduced in the VAT Directive and apply exemptions or 0% VAT rates to these essential basic goods. They also ask EU countries to tackle menstrual poverty by providing free period products to anyone in need.
Rapporteur Predrag Matić (S&D, HR) said: ‘‘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.’’