MEPs vote for abortion rights to be included in EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

Members of the European Parliament voted on Thursday in favor of a resolution calling for the right to abortion to be included in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. 

The resolution, which also condemns the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn federal abortion rights in the U.S., was adopted with 324 MEPs in favor, 155 against and 38 abstentions. 

“Today, the [European Parliament] has stood up for all women by sending a strong message that will resonate worldwide,” MEP Susana Solís Pérez (Renew Europe) said in a written statement. “Safe and legal abortion is a fundamental right and, as such, it should be included in our Charter,” which has the same value as the EU Treaties.

Abortion rights in the bloc vary from country to country, with Malta having the strictest laws making abortion illegal under any circumstances. The resolution calls on member states to decriminalize abortion and remove barriers affecting access to abortions. In addition to the situation in Malta, it also cites a de facto ban in Poland; that medical abortion in early pregnancy is not legal in Slovakia or available in Hungary; and that access to abortion is being eroded in Italy and denied in other member states, like in Croatia.

The resolution was brought forward by lawmakers on behalf of the Socialists and Democrats, Renew Europe, Greens/European Free Alliance, and The Left, as well as by MEP Arba Kokalari of the European People’s Party group, though not on their behalf.

“It is a shame, however, not surprising, to see the right wing conservatives in the Parliament voted against the resolution. For years right wing conservative forces worldwide have been manipulating women’s rights and funding anti-gender movements, including in the EU,” MEP Heléne Fritzon, who is the S&D group’s vice president responsible for gender equality, told POLITICO in a written statement after Thursday’s vote. 

The overturning of the landmark Roe v Wade decision in the U.S. has reverberated across the Atlantic. Some anti-abortion rights activists in Europe receive both support and funding from the movement in the U.S., causing some pro-abortion rights groups to be concerned the U.S. movement could gain more traction in Europe. 

“Sexual and reproductive health rights are threatened everywhere, not only in the U.S.,” Green MEP Tilly Metz said in a written statement. 

“I cannot bear that sexual health care is denied today in the Union. This is insufferable and we need to make things change,” she said. 

The MEPs expect the European Council to convene to discuss a revision of the EU Treaties — a complex process requiring unanimity — which would allow an amendment to the Charter to include that “everyone has the right to safe and legal abortion.”