Van Lancker Report Adopted
Despite of all efforts to lobby MEPs before today's vote on the Van Lancker report, concerted lobbying in Brussels and Strasbourg by pro-life and pro-family groups, and despite expressed concerns of EU candidate countries, Members of the European Parliament adopted the Van Lancker report in Strasbourg today.
On one hand, the European Parliament acknowledged that "the legal or regulatory policy concerning reproductive health falls within the Member States' sphere of competence and that subsidiarity applies to these areas ;it notes however that the EU can play a supportive role through the exchange of best practices."
But, on the other hand, the European Parliament refused to recognise that there must be no coercion of candidate countries on ethical issues. It also recommends the governments of the Member States and the Accession Countries to facilitate access to affordable emergency contraception (e.g. the morning-after pill).
The report was finally passed by 280 votes to 240 and 28 abstentions, even though the centre-right European People's Party, the largest bloc in the parliament, voted against the whole report.
Alongside with applicant countries, it would be useful to question Mr Pat Cox, President of the European Parliament, about the validity of the Committee on Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities, which was behind the Van Lancker report. It is intolerable that a European parliamentary committee can make recommendations which flagrantly overreach the scope of EU competencies in areas such as criminal law and public health services, and threaten the expansion of the EU by alienating the candidate countries.
The Committee on Women's Rights has sent a draft report to the full European parliament calling for the legalisation of abortion in all EU member states and accession candidate countries.
On 4th June 2002, the Committee on Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities voted by 21 to 11, with 4 abstentions, to adopt the draft Van Lancker report on sexual and reproductive health and rights, after amending it slightly.
The adopted amendments did not change the initial text very much. In some ways they both improved and worsened the text.
The spirit of the text remains founded on a set of traditional ultra-feminist premises which find echoes in the libertarian movement :
The most controversed article is paragraph 9, which originally stated : "[the European parliament] recommends that, in order to safeguard women's health, abortion should be made legal, safe and accessible to all." This was worsened even further so that abortion is now being defined as a full component of the reproductive rights. The amended paragraph reads : "[the European parliament] recommends that, in order to safeguard women's reproductive health and rights, abortion should be made legal, safe and accessible to all."
Among the few improvments to the initial text :
Paragraphe 4 stands uncorrected : "...requests the governments of the Member States and the Accession Countries to promote emergency contraception, for example over-the-counter and at affordable prices, as standard practice within sexual and reproductive health care ".
Amendement 109 by Emilia Franziska Müller - the purpose of which was to involve parents in family planning services, to affirm the existence of post-abortion syndrome and to strenghten the conscience clause for health professionals by replacing the obligation to refer to an abortion provider by a mere possibility - was rejected (6).
Among noticable bad amendments adopted :
To conclude, it is noticable that the inclusion of abortion among "health services" and "reproductive rights" was, during the last decade, the main aim of the ultra-feminist lobby at UN international conferences. Until now, this aim has been succesfully denied. The election of Mr. Bush as US president removed almost any chance of success for these lobbies in the short term at the UN level. The Van Lancker Report appears to be a typical example of a displacement of the battle from the UN to the EU. The explicit rejection of an amendment by Maria Martens, the purpose of which was to affirm that "abortion cannot be regarded as part of reproductive health" (amendment 45), and of a similar amendment by Regina Bastos ("[abortion must not be promoted as a family planning method and must not been included in Family Planing Services nor in Reproductive Health definition " - amendment 90) is a clear expression of this willingness.
European parliament reports do not have the power of law, but have only an interpretative force. Another text (in preparation) from the EU already cites the Van Lancker Report.
UN documents are full of references to "reproductive health services". Until now it was explicitly stated that abortion was not included in this definition. If the ultra-feminist lobby is successfull in pushing the Van Lancker Report, the whole EU position in international documents would be ipso-facto re-interpretated in a way to include abortion.
The pleanry session vote on the report will probably take place during July 2002.
Recital D : " Considering that all studies show that there are fewer abortions in countries which combine very liberal legislation on the termination of pregnancy with effective sexuality education, high quality family planning services and availability of a wide range of contraceptives " becomes : " Considering that studies show that there are fewer abortions in some Member States which combine very liberal legislation on the termination of pregnancy with effective sexuality education, high quality family planning services and availability of a wide range of contraceptives ; however, some Member States with similar policies still have high rates of abortion and teenage pregnancies".
New recital Dbis : " whereas attention should be devoted not only to terminating unwanted pregnancies but also, and particularly, to preventing unwanted pregnancies ".
(3) Recommendation 2 : " Recommends the governments of the Member States and the Accession Countries to ensure that women and men can give their fully informed consent on contraceptive use, as well as on fertility awareness methods".
(4) Recommendation 6 : " Calls upon the governments of the Member States and the Accession Countries to strive to reduce the incidence of circumstances leading to abortion, through the provision of family planning services, including emergency contraception, and to regard unsafe abortion as an issue of major public health concern " becomes : "Recommends the governments of the Member States and the Accession Countries to strive to implement a health and social policy which will lead to a lower incidence of abortion, in particular through the provision of family planning counseling and services, the offering of material and financial support for pregant women in difficulties, and to regard unsafe abortion as an issue of major public health concern".
(5) Recommendation 12 : " Stresses that active participation of young people (their rights, views and competence) is important in the development, implementation and evaluation of sexuality education programmes in cooperation with other players " becomes : " Stresses that active participation (...) in cooperation with other parties, particularly parents ; enhancing parenting skills and capacities also has an important part to play in this ".
(6) Amendement 109 rejeted : " Recommends that the governments of the Member States and the Accession Countries, in consultation with parents' associations, provide specialised sexual and reproductive health advisory services which include high quality and professional advice and counselling, provided by a trained, multidisciplinary staff ; underlines that advice and counselling must be confidential and non-judgmental, must include advice on the risks associated with abortion (psychological, health, post-abortion trauma), and that in case of legitimate conscientious objection of the provider, referral to other service providers must be possible ; where advice on abortion is provided, attention must be drawn to the physical and psychological health risks associated with abortion, and alternative solutions (adoption, availability of support in the event of a decision to keep the child) must be discussed - ".
Mevr. Anne E.M. VAN LANCKER
Belgium : Socialistische Partij
Bât. Altiero Spinelli
60, rue Wiertz / Wiertzstraat 60
B-1047 Bruxelles/BrusselFax : +32 (0)2 284 9494