Women's rights under attack in Europe, say feminist parties

by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 20 May 2019 15:42 GMT

Pro-choice demonstrators protest against anti-abortion demonstrators who are taking part in the March For Life event in London, Britain, May 11, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

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Parties in the group Feminists United Network Europe demanded free, safe and legal abortions for all women in the European Union amid fears of a clampdown from a resurgent far right

By Sonia Elks

LONDON, May 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women's rights are under attack in Europe, a group of feminist political parties warned on Monday, demanding decriminalisation of abortion across the EU ahead of elections this week.

Parties from Britain, Sweden, Romania and Italy in the group Feminists United Network Europe (FUN Europe) demanded free, safe and legal abortions for all women in the European Union amid fears of a clampdown from a resurgent far right.

They said bars on access to termination in countries such as Northern Ireland should be removed, and raised concerns that moves to restrict the right to abortion in Alabama and other U.S. states could inspire similar legislation in Europe.

"In Europe, we see how women's rights are under attack by nationalist and ultra-conservative forces," said Stina Svensson, a coordinator of FUN Europe and a candidate for Feminist Initiative Sweden, in a statement.

"There is a need for a strong mobilization for defence of women's rights, democracy and open society. Feminist parties are coming together in this election to lead that change."

FUN Europe was set up in November by a group of feminist political parties and non-governmental organisations to form a common political platform for the European Union elections.

The growth of far-right groups, nationalism and populism threatened women's rights including access to abortion across the EU, its members said.

Abortion rights have become a battleground in the United States, where a number of states have passed legislation aiming to heavily limit a woman's right to end her pregnancy.

Several European countries already have strict restrictions on terminations, most notably in Northern Ireland where it is permitted only if a woman's life is in danger or there is a long-term or permanent risk to her mental or physical health.

Lithuania, Slovakia, Spain and Poland have seen proposals for near-total bans tabled in recent years.

Abortion should no longer be dealt with as a criminal matter anywhere in the EU, FUN Europe members said, and new countries should only be allowed to join the bloc if they allow free, safe and legal abortion.

EU citizens should also be able to get a termination in any country within the union, they added.

"The EU not only has to support women's reproductive rights on this continent - it should lead the resistance globally," said Catherine Mayer, a candidate from Britain's Women's Equality Party, in a statement.

"Without urgent action, Northern Ireland and Alabama will fast become the rule rather than the exception."

(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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