Updated: European Parliament rejects abortion as a `human right` – Sinn Fein & Labour support motion

The European Parliament has today voted by 351 MEPs  in favour of referring the resolution by the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality back to committee, with 319 voted against.

The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Union (which includes Irish Labour, UK Labour and the SDLP) passed a draft report last month declaring that abortion is a “human right”.  And it seems Sinn Fein also voted for the motion whilst the DUP & UUP opposed it.

The motion stressed that:

it was essential for individual, social and economic development that women have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, timing and spacing of their children, as established by international human rights law….on member states to refrain from preventing pregnant women seeking abortion to travel to other states or jurisdictions where the procedure was legal and urged them, to promote scientific research on male- and female-controlled methods of contraception, so as to facilitate the burden-sharing of contraceptive responsibility.

And it underlined that `in no case must abortion be promoted as a family planning method and said that member states should implement policies and measures aimed at preventing people from having abortions for social or economic reasons and providing support to mothers and couples in difficulties.`

The motion also seems to put the right to conscientious objection into debate where it states “regulate and monitor the use of conscientious objection so as to ensure that reproductive health care is guaranteed as an individual’s right, while access to lawful services is ensured and appropriate and affordable referrals systems are in place”.  This runs contrary to The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe which adopted Resolution 1763, which asked member states to ‘guarantee the right to conscientious objection in relation to participation in the medical procedure in question.’ The Assembly also stated that ‘in the vast majority of Council of Europe member states, the practice of conscientious objection is adequately regulated”.

A report by European Dignity Watch found in a study that Marie Stopes and Planned Parenthood are both recipients of funding from the European Union already.

Ireland is one of a number of countries singled out in the motion with regards to its `restrictive` abortion laws.

The Nolan Show has covered the Northern Irish abortion debate recently with contributions from Dawn Purvis and NI21`s Basil McCrea.

Saturday 19th Oct saw hundreds protest at Witness for Life, organised by Precious Life outside Dawn Purvis`s Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast.

All the main churches and political parties remain opposed to abortion on demand as do the Orange Order and Independent Orange Order.  The Independent Orange Order released statement last October opposing the Marie Stopes clinic stating

We, the members of the Independent Loyal Orange Institution, wish to express our opposition to the opening of the Marie Stopes abortion clinic in Belfast. Marie Stopes International is notorious for its evil and repugnant practice of murdering millions of unborn children.

As a Bible-based Christian Institution we believe that only God has the right to affirm when a human life begins; Psalm 51:5 & 139:13-16, Luke chapter 1 leaves us in no doubt that human life begins at conception.

This was re-enforced at the Independent Orange Order Twelfth demonstration in Portgelnone this year where the Grand Master stated `Another area of great concern is that of abortion. We believe in the sanctity of life and the protection of the unborn. I know this whole area is very sensitive and complex, but we must resist all efforts to introduce the 1967 Abortion Act into Northern Ireland or to change the existing law. Again, I urge our MLAs to stand firm.`

  • Charles_Gould

    The woman has the right to choose. Europe should protect that.

  • Sinn Fein`s Martina Anderson voted for the motion to make abortion a human right

  • Charles_Gould

    Though I think Martina Anderson is not an impressive person, it is good that SF supported this.

  • well technically she voted against sending it back to committee, thereby effectively supporting the motion

  • Charles_Gould

    I doubt if she knew what she was doing to be honest.

  • expat1987

    Sorry, killsally but have you even seen the voting list/results ? None of the MEPs had the chance to vote on this report! It was sent back to committee. Voting not to send it back to committee as Anderson did (crazy idea that some meps are ready to vote with their positions) is NOT the same as voting in favour of the report. Saying that ‘sinn Fein voted for the motion’ is simply not true.

    This report will have to be voted on eventually and those who voted to send it back to committee today should be better prepared next time it gets to plenary.

  • cynic2

    The OO opposing abortion is predictable., If it didn’t where would the next generation of spidey wee lodge followers with blue bags come from? Indeed I often wonder are those blue bags a genetic adoption that grow on their hands every spring or are the spides pre programmed to be attracted by bright blue as a signal to buy alcohol

    Are there any figures available for the numbers of morning after pills dispensed on the 15th to 16th July each year?

  • cynic2

    “hundreds protest”

    The flegs got far more on the streets

  • cynic2

    On the positive side though the Supreme Court of the UK gave Poots the judicial equivalent of a ‘feck off’ and kick in a sensitive part of his political anatomy today by refusing to even hear his appeal on Gay Adoption.

    Apparently it didn’t meet the criteria for an appeal ie was devoid of merit

    Who is advising this man? And is he listening to the advice?
    And who is paying for this farce?

  • carlota martinez

    Re: Cynic2 @ 7.11

    Exactly, who is advising this fool?

    For the SC to dismiss this appeal without moving to hear the evidence is nothing short of ignominious.

    If the appeal was brought on the basis of legal advice that the case had merit, then his legal advisors ought to be sacked for incompetence.

    If it was brought contrary to legal advice (more likely) then the Minister should pay all legal costs.


  • expat – think you will find the full vote is linked to in the article – Anderson along with other pro abortionists all voted not to return it to committee , meaning they were happy with the motion.

  • cynic2 – think you will find the precious life protest is largely catholic

  • dave7

    “The woman has the right to choose. Europe should protect that.”

    Liberty has a heavier weighting as a human right than life? So if I use my right to liberty and kill someone who blocks off my car, my right to liberty is more important than their right to life?

  • The Raven

    No Dave. But she has a heavier right than you to choose a termination or otherwise. She’s not asking you to have the termination.

    Nor should she have to ask your permission. Or indeed the DUP, or any religious institution which frankly should be so far separated from the executive function in this country as to not even be a consultee.

  • The Raven

    When are we going to try out some of this hate crime legislation on Precious Life, by the way…?

  • Rory Carr

    There is an aspect of this matter of abortion that I think is often missed and Dave7 and Charles Gould above both draw it to our attention and that is this question of ‘a right to choose’.

    There seems to be an assumption that this ‘right’ is somewhat of a gift which can be bestowed upon or withheld by some, invariably male, body of law makers as they deem it moral, prudent, expedient or otherwise. What is missing is the stark reality that a woman may make her choice of her own free will at any moment, from conception to birth (and indeed, after), whether or not she chooses to carry a foetus to birth (or nourishes it after giving birth). It has ever been so.

    What society may order, in wisdom and of its charity, is a health scheme for assisting an expectant mother to term, through delivery and during the upbringing of the child. The importance of having such a policy is one most halfway civilised societies already realise. If the expectant mother determines not to carry the child to full term, she may well seek assistance in aborting the foetus. If she is unable to do so in a safe, sterile, medically competent environment staffed by caring professionals who may attend to her medical, psychological and spiritual needs then, not only will the foetus be destroyed, the mother herself may also suffer great, even mortal,harm.

    So, I would argue, we as a society are not charged with making any decision on whether or not a woman ought to have this ‘right to choose’ – this is not so much a right as a function that she carries with her by virtue of her sex as indeed do we all, regardless of sex, carry with us, along with life itself – the means to end our own lives.

    In our more enlightened times we now seek to offer succour and care to those who fail in their attempt to destroy themselves where once they were liable for imprisonment (why not the death penalty,I have often mused). We surely then are charged with a duty that, when a woman makes a decision to terminate a pregnancy , the least we must do is to ensure that she has the termination under the best possible care, to assist in ensuring that at least her own life continues with the best physical, mental and spiritual tools for well-being that society has the means to provide.

    To act otherwise, I would argue, is to condemn ourselves as cold, uncaring monsters.

  • Ní Dhuibhir

    If a foetus blocks off your car, Dave, you’ve got bigger things to worry about than getting out of your parking space!

  • dave7

    “No Dave. But she has a heavier right than you to choose a termination or otherwise. She’s not asking you to have the termination.”

    But it’s not about my right, it’s about the child’s right to life. We protect the right to life in this country of convicted rapists, child killers, serial killers, the most abhorrent individuals we have going are all protected. People who used and abused their right to freedom to remove other peoples rights to freedom. So why do we handcuff ourselves in keeping these characters alive while to permit terminations of babies the liberty and right to choose card is played?

    Rory I can agree with a lot of what you have said and whilst I do think that there is a responsibility to protect life as it is a human right, if we could minimise the number of unwanted pregnancies and in particular to reduce the instances of rape occurring then this would be far, far better. However I would add that in times of famine or disaster, one human right often conflicts with another. A farmers right to property versus his neighbours right to life. Anybody would agree that the farmers right to property is less weighted than his neighbours right to life, and so the government will commandeer his food stores to save others.

    Lastly I think the majority of pro life and pro choice groups I’ve encountered are pretty distasteful at times. I know queens group and many others put up horrific photos to sway opinion and the riot recently in Australia is just pathetic. I think the problem is when people are so dug in on an issue without being able to elaborate their beliefs then the natural instinct is to be a 6 year old and start fighting. It’s sad.

  • The Raven

    “We protect the right to life in this country of convicted rapists, child killers, serial killers, the most abhorrent individuals we have going are all protected.”

    ….while all the time refusing the right of that part of the population who should have the right to decide what *they* want, under the most terrible of circumstances. I am always amazed at how the pro-life brigade and others pick these extremes…and then portray those women who have made this terrible choice as demons – or the equivalent thereof.

  • dave7

    But the question is not merely should women have the right of liberty, it’s does a child’s right to life supersede the right to choose? The point of mentioning convicted criminals is that when alive we value the right to life above others liberty consistently, if a father who’s child has been killed wants revenge, that is not ok in our society, the convicts right to life is greater than the fathers right to liberty of action. It’s not about demonising women who chose this it’s about having a sensible well informed moral debate that addresses the difficulty of having two rights conflict. In our society the father can kill the convict if he so choses but governments have a duty to make law that protects the population at large. Similarly governments have a duty to decide whether killing infants before birth is acceptable or not. This is not an argument for the streets it’s a discussion for policy makers.

  • I was actually present in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday because I was following another of the issues in that session. The behaviour of the right-wing MEPs who opposed the report was appalling, barracking the (female) chair of the session, and intimidating her into breaching the rules of procedure by moving the referral back to committee after the votes on amendments had already begun.

    The vote was a classic ‘ambush’ – taken immediately after Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech, when a lot of MEPs had wandered off for lunch, and even then carried only narrowly. I expect that when the gender equality committee (inevitably) sends the report back to plenary in much the same form, its supporters will be better prepared and will vote it through.

    The importance of the report has been exaggerated anyway. The European Parliament (and the EU) cannot legislate on these matters; this was an expression of opinion – if you read the resolution you’ll see a lot of “calls”, “urges” and “underlines”, but no action.

    Full text of resolution here, with links at the top to the debate and the votes:

  • Rory Carr

    Dave7 draws on an interesting argument citing the conflict of separate rights. In this instance he poses the woman’s right to choose over what he calls “the child’s right to life”. The trouble with that argument is that there is as yet no child to hold such a right. Prior to birth there is no child, there is no entity distinct and separate from the woman herself.

    When a woman then chooses to abort she is certainly denying the potential for a separate, individual human life to exist but then such potential is naturally denied every month when a woman menstruates, and God alone knows how many times a day when young men masturbate their way through puberty (…to infinity and beyond !).

    However it is the woman’s body alone, her choice – a matter of God-given free will and not one that it is even possible to legislate against any more than legislation against taking one’s own life can have any impact upon that terrible choice.

    If we think that a woman is mistaken in making the choice to abort we can, if approached by her for advice, use our powers of argument to dissuade her so. But remember then that that places us in a position of serious responsibility. For example, if a woman intends to abort because she fears that she cannot materially provide for a child then it is pointless, not to say hypocritical, to attempt to dissuade her unless we are prepared to materially aid her or to ensure that she will be materially provided for. Sort of “put your money where your mouth is” time.

    If we are not approached by the woman for advice but intent to put our moral oar in the water regardless, then such responsibility weighs even heavier upon us. Yet I hear no call from the anti-abortion/right-to-life campaig for a right to all sorts of necessary assistance for troubled pregnant women (untroubled pregnant women can, presumably, look after themselves). If your argument fails and the woman intends to proceed with the abortion then surely those who have argued that she will then destroy a potential for life must be at pains to ensure that this woman’s potential to bring forth human life at a future time is not impaired by the abortion process and so then be obliged to argue for the best medical, psychological and spiritual care available to her during and after the abortion process.

    They must do this, not only for the sake of the woman, or the future potential of a new life, but most especially for their own sakes – lest they stand accused of hypocrisy !

  • dave7

    I’m not going to dispute the methods of certain pro life groups, I put my own feelings on record earlier about this, I’ll just add that it has no importance to the actual dispute and pro choice groups aren’t necessarily beacons of warmth and care for mothers either but as I say it’s besides the point.

    The question of when is a baby a human, however you want to put it is a tricky one. One of the definitions I’ve read of human being is, as well being the correct species etc, having the potential for cognitive thought. As a foetus does have this potential it’s a human being. I believe it is or was a fairly accepted definition but I’m in France and the books are at home.

  • Newman

    Rory..Just trying to understand.. are you advocating the woman’s choice of having an abortion up to the moment before birth.?

  • Reader

    dave7: One of the definitions I’ve read of human being is, as well being the correct species etc, having the potential for cognitive thought. As a foetus does have this potential it’s a human being.
    A lot of people would agree with the wording but take issue with your interpretation of ‘potential’, which also applies to a fertilised egg. Possibly even to an un-fertilised egg, depending on how far you stretch the term ‘potential’! Do you oppose the morning-after pill, which prevents a fertilised egg from implanting?

  • Rory Carr

    No, Newman, of course I am not advocating that.In fact I am not at all in favour of abortion and I accept Dave7’s speculation as to the cognitive ability of the child in the womb. The abortion of such a developing human would surely be quite horrendous.

    But, I am not a woman and I recognise and accept that woman has been given free will to determine how she manages her reproductive functions. It is not for me to preach or criticise if I disagree. My only possible function in all this is to render compassion where it is needed and if that means having compassion for a woman who chooses to abort, regardless of the circumstances then there is where my duty as a human being lies.

  • Newman

    I appreciate Rory your personal aversion to the process, and as a good post modernist your elevation of the right to choice and autonomy, but at what stage, if any, does the unborn child acquire a right to be born, or again, is that something solely within the subjective realm of the mother. Does the law have any role in the process?

  • Rory Carr

    Post-modernist my arse ! I do not belong in any camp on this matter and needle-pinhead dancing over the finer points of morality or universal human rights or whatever is most decidedly not for me.

    Maybe I have not made myself clear – I would that all babies were carried stress-free to term and delivered with the utmost of care and that each and every mother need have no fears thereafter for the child’s material well-being. But the world is cruel and the monsters of power who control its material assets and, through crude and subtle propaganda and the distortion of education, make life and living a daily struggle that often defeats the most vulnerable.

    I think some here think that I am advocating the legal right of women to have abortion as they choose. This is not the case, but neither I am opposed to women having that right in law. It is their body and no child is possible without the mother (leaving aside test-tube babies). The right that I insist that women already have is beyond any man-made law – it is the God-given right of free will and any woman intent upon abortion will find a way to make it so regardless of any law. It is a simple objective reality that we would do best to accept for we cannot change it. Of course those whose morality is superior to hers, and superior to mine, will then insist that she must be punished.

    Well, to hell with that, I say. I ain’t punishing any woman for any damn reason. I am firmly of the belief that womankind is a much superior strand of the human condition to which level we brutish men may only aspire. Our duty is to help them where they need help and our hope must be that we may be fortunate enough to be recognised as a true friend. So, guys, put that in your pipe and smoke it !

  • Newman

    So, as I understand it, you don’t like abortion but it’s really none of your business.If the mother, for whatever reason, decides to terminate at whatever stage we should make sure the process is carried out with the full assistance of the medical profession without sanction or opprobrium.The law has no role and the unborn child has the same legal status as a tooth or your tonsils when in the womb.

  • Rory Carr

    Well if you want to win me over to locking up the women or hanging them, after whatever form your “opprobrium” would take ( wagging your finger and exclaiming, “You naughty hussy, you !”), then count me out.

    What would you have me do ? What would you have me say ? What is it that you say or do to such women and demand also that others say and do ? Because unless it is something kind and loving and helpful to that woman then, please, do not try to fool me that you care so much for unborn children who would not care for a woman in distress.

  • SK

    “The law has no role and the unborn child has the same legal status as a tooth or your tonsils when in the womb.”

    Folks like yourself are as frightening to me as the weirdos who stand outside abortion clinics with pictures of dead foetuses. Both of you view it as such a black-and-white issue, when it isnt.

  • Newman

    Rory/SK…the problem is we are conflating principle and the application of principle. If we are talking about the latter then of course there are hard cases and a need for compassion. In that sense once cannot be black and white. My concern is that in making the issue one of complete personal choice, one descends into the realm of the subjective. Law must have a role because we are dealing, like it or not, with the rights of a child all be it en ventre sa mere. We patronise women if we think that it is all so emotional and difficult that they cannot be asked to introduce reason to the debate.

    Part of what I have sought to highlight (unsuccessfully gauging by your replies!) is that so called freedom of choice brings all sorts of unintended consequences.Witness for example gender selective abortions which appear to be permissible under the 1967 Act or the acceptance that because a child is disabled (Downs etc) that abortion is permitted up to the moment of birth.Do we want a society which says that a normal child must be protected at the point of viability, but a disabled child with a defect (such as a hair lip) can be jettisoned up to birth..what sort of logic accepts that as a moral principle?

    .To sum up the issue is indeed complex and difficult but advocating so called reproductive rights does not leave us with a simple equation, unless like good post modernists we subscribe to the view that autonomy and personal choice are the most important virtues.