EU Ministers Seek to “Guarantee” Access to Abortion in Europe
Wednesday, October 4, 2023

The Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union held a conference in Zaragoza, Spain—The Guarantee of Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Europe— which called for the removal of laws, described as ‘barriers’, which protect the lives of children in the womb and restrict or ban abortion.

Speakers at the conference included Neil Datta, Executive Director of The European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (EPF) which is partnering with WHO to advance access to abortion globally. Datta was on a panel addressing the topic Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health which was said to be “a crucial element for gender equality and the right to health”. The panel was said it would present “perspectives on the current situation of women's and girls' control over their own bodies.”

Attendees from throughout governments in Europe were invited to sign the Joint Ministerial Declaration on the Guarantee of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the European Union. The Declaration stated, “SRHR are inherent part of the right to health but are also all women’s and girls´ human rights to make decisions about their own bodies and lives. The neglect of SRHR undermines gender equality.”

It stated that there is a “current backlash on women’s rights, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights, across the EU and beyond, is threatening hard-won progress and existing laws.”

The Declaration included:

  • Sexual and reproductive health and rights are an inherent part of gender equality and of the right to health.
  • Any threat of pushback against women's human rights and gender equality, and any initiative aimed at restricting SRHR, including attacks against women human rights defenders and SRHR defenders are strongly condemned

The signers called “on the institutions of the European Union and Member States, according to their respective competences and taking into consideration national circumstances, to”:

  • Ensure access to safe and legal abortion and to post abortion care by removing barriers that hinder its exercise. Also adopt specific measures to ensure women’s and girl’s rights to access health services, to guarantee the provision of these services by the public health system and within reasonable geographical reach and to guarantee that the due recognition of individual’s conscience clause of medical staff does not hinder women´s and girl´s exercise of these rights.
  • Ensure the right of minors to be heard and decide for themselves according to their age and maturity as manifestations of their best interest.

The Declaration concludes that the list of Member States supporting it may be extended as time goes by.

Ministers of various agencies, especially those that deal with equality, from the following countries signed the Declaration: Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Germany, Finland, France, Slovenia, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden.