At June 24, the European Parliament adopted a report “on the situation of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the EU, in the context of women’s health”. This report is named after its rapporteur, Croatian MEP Predrag Fred Matić. The report has been the subject of fierce debate both in Parliament and in several EU Member States, notably by pro-life organizations, and not without reason.
Among other things, the report calls on all European member states to decriminalize abortion and declares that conscientious objections should not hinder access to this procedure. The report asserts that women have a right to abortion which must be respected throughout the European Union.
As the European Union has no competence over national health policies, the the adoption of the report is only symbolic, but it sends an important signal both to the European Commission and to the 27 Member States. The majority of the European Parliament clearly supports legal abortion, at least in the early stages of pregnancy, but it is up to them to decide whether member states want to listen to it.
In this article, we briefly review the good, the bad, and the ugly.
During the discussion of the Matić report, great attention was paid to the call for the decriminalization of abortion in all member states. More on that later. But the rapporteur also mentioned some issues that we evangelicals can fully support.
The report calls for the immediate elimination of harmful practices such as Female genital mutilation and child marriage, early and forced. It calls for the participation of girls and women in education.
It calls for accessible, affordable and high-quality products healthcare for all European citizens, both in urban and rural areas. Parliament calls on member states to ensure that everyone can afford menstrual products. It calls on Member States to ensure non-discriminatory access to high-quality, accessible, evidence-based and respectful maternity, pregnancy and childbirth care for all.
The rapporteur recognizes that prostitution fuels the trafficking of vulnerable women and minors. It further emphasizes the importance of screening for gender-specific cancers and bone density testing. Thus, although the European Union has no competence in these matters, most evangelicals will fully support these suggestions of the rapporteur and his colleagues in the European Parliament.
During the debate in the European Parliament, the Members of the European Parliament and the European Commissioner present, Ms Helena Dalli, recognized that the European Union has no reporting competence and, therefore, has no legal means to enforce the implementation of all recommendations made by the European Parliament. However, even though they all admit that the value of the report is only symbolic, it still sends a strong signal to all Member States.
For all the good, the Matić report presents fundamental problems. The report recognizes the emotional suffering associated with infertility and subfertility. However, the European Parliament is trying to tackle this problem by calling on Member States to ensure that all people of reproductive age have access to fertility treatment, regardless of their marital status, gender identity or sexual orientation. This proposition decouples parenthood from the traditional family of a woman and a man as a safe environment for sexual intercourse, reception and education of children.
The rapporteur urges all Member States to provide ‘accurate, evidence-based, age-appropriate scientific data, comprehensive and non-judgmental sex education and information for all primary and secondary students. One might wonder if this is a task for teachers in the first place, but also if it should be “non-judgmental”.
What exactly does this epithet mean? Of course, the Bible calls us to treat all people with dignity and respect, as created and loved by God. But based on the right to freedom of religion or belief, we also have the right to teach our children our religion or belief. This includes our opinions on sex and relationships. Would this still be allowed?
In addition, the Matić report calls for abortion as a human right. It urges all member states to decriminalize abortion, as well as to remove and combat obstacles to legal abortion. Abortion in early pregnancy should be legal across the European Union.
The report acknowledges that doctors can raise conscientious objections to abortion, but when this interferes with a woman’s right to abortion, the latter prevails. This seems to suggest that sometimes doctors and nurses can be forced to perform an abortion against his conscience.
If a member state democratically decides that abortion is a legal medical procedure or even a right, then it is up to the state to ensure access to this right, for example by securing facilities and staff willing to participate in the process. ‘act. The state cannot compel medical personnel to participate in an act that would go against their conscience. As AEE, we support those who believe that abortion is as much about a woman’s life as it is about the life of an unborn child. Both lives are precious in the sight of God.
Despite various attempts by Members of the European Parliament, most attempts to remedy the serious flaws in the report failed and the report was adopted by a majority of the European Parliament. (378 votes for, 255 against and 42 abstentions).
Given the stakes, it is not surprising that the the debate on the report aroused a lot of emotions both for those who support the report and for those who oppose it. These emotions were not confined to Parliament itself.
Christians across the continent engaged the media and politics, rallying to the report, mainly for the defense of the unborn child. As AEE, we have always encouraged Christians to take responsibility for our society and to engage in a policy based on a biblical vision of the common good.
According to the EEA Code of Conduct, our political commitment should be based on love, humility, truth, peace, courage, wisdom and hope.
From the testimony of MEP Matić and several of his colleagues, it is clear that some people protested in a way that violated this code of conduct. Matić said he and several of his colleagues received numerous hate messages. It did not convince them, on the contrary, it only strengthened them in their position.
In a political debate, or in any debate for that matter, we will not be able to convince everyone of our positions. It can be painful and frustrating at times. Nevertheless, we must not forget that we are called to be Christ’s ambassadors at all times. Hate mail or threats from political opponents, no matter how much we disagree, can never be a part of it. Instead of, treat those we disagree with with dignity and respect, praying that some of God’s love for them will be tangible in the way we engage them. It could say more than a thousand words.
Arié de Pater, Brussels Representative of the European Evangelical Alliance.