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EU Parliament Chides Poland and US Over Abortion

The EU’s latest parliament plenary session featured a hot debate on a topic entirely out the control of the parliament—the pending United States’ Supreme court decision on abortion. 

At the beginning of May, a leaked draft of the majority decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health showed that the U.S. constitutional court is about to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that had made abortion-on-demand legal throughout the country. The draft opinion wouldn’t outlaw abortion, but simply return legislative power on abortion to the individual states, many of which have ‘trigger laws’ in place that would deeply restrict and even criminalize abortion. 

Brought forward by MEPs from various left-wing parties, the resolution “On global threats to abortion rights: the possible overturning of abortion rights in the U.S. by the Supreme Court” chided the U.S. for backsliding on “sexual health and reproductive rights,” as well as women’s rights, and “reminds the United States Supreme Court of the importance of upholding the landmark case of Roe v. Wade.” It passed with 364 votes in favour, 154 against, and 37 abstentions.

During the debate, both sides exchanged barbed statements. 

“Threats to realised human rights are strongest when it comes to women’s rights, especially when some rigid right-wing clerical and well-funded interest groups that believe they can govern everything, including our bodies, are involved in the debate,” said Croatian MEP Predrag Matić of the Socialists and Democrats group, and one of the drafters of the resolution. “It is time to send a clear message to them that they have no place in this subject, and to support our partners in the United States to resist these efforts.”

The pro-life response was sharp.

“Wow, the headline of this resolution already says it all. You’re talking about a global threat. It just always has to be superlatives with you, doesn’t it?” German MEP Christine Anderson of the Identity group stated. “Promoters of this debate should read the Treaties of the European Union first. This Parliament has no competence to lecture sovereign countries on how they should govern themselves. The USA is no longer a colony ruled from Europe. Didn’t you know that?”

She continued to scold pro-abortion MEPs for their extreme stance on not protecting human life. 

“So whenever you are hyperventilating about some sort of a ‘global threat,’ what you are really fighting against is the collapse of your ridiculous utopia in which humans are a malleable mass. This is despicable and it’s dehumanising. And I am ashamed to have to say this in this House,” she concluded. 

Against EU Parliament rules, German MEP Terry Reintke of the Greens-European Free Alliance group spoke wearing a scarf with a pro-abortion message printed on it. She refused to take it off even after being asked by Parliament President Roberta Metsola, citing a sore throat. In response, a group of MEPs clapped in protest to her scarf during her speech.

Some MEPs also used the debate as an opportunity for MEPs to take shots at Poland, the EU country with the most restrictive abortion laws after Malta. Abortion is allowed only to save the life of the mother and in cases of rape. 

One MEP, including Fred Matić, referred to “internal threats” to abortion, specifically the so-called “pregnancy registry” in Poland. What he was referring to was a decision from June, where the Polish government expanded the patient information that could be legally stored on a digital database to include not only pregnancy, but also blood types and allergies.

Abortion advocates immediately raised the alarm that the Polish government was starting a “pregnancy registry” that could be used to go after women who had illegal abortions. In response, the health ministry spokesman, Wojciech Andrusiewicz, insisted that only medical professionals would have access to the data, and that the changes are being made at the recommendation of the European Union.

The new rule on patient information, he said, is meant to improve the medical treatment of patients, including if they seek treatment elsewhere in the EU. In the case of pregnant women, he said having this data stored and available digitally will help doctors immediately know which women should not get X-rays or certain medicines.

“Nobody is creating a pregnancy register in Poland,” he told the TVN24 all-news station, the Associated Press reported.

A group of conservative MEPs proposed alternative language for the resolution that reminded the parliament that abortion was not enshrined as a right in international law.

Bridget Ryder is Spain-based writer. She has written on politics, environment, and culture for American and international publications. She holds degrees in Spanish and Catholic Studies.