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PES Women President’s blog

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of women have to be guaranteed and ensured everywhere in Europe!

Protest over the death of Savita Halappanavar

On 28 October in Galway, Ireland, Savita Halappanavar (31) died of septicemia after being denied an abortion which could have saved her life. Even though she was in agonizing pain and the foetus was not going to survive, the doctors refused to carry out a termination. This was based on the fact that the foetus’ still had a heartbeat.

In the most tragic circumstances, this example from Ireland illustrates that, for women, free choice over their bodies and their reproductive rights – and in this case even reproductive health - is still dependent on where they live, even within the European Union. 

It is not fair that in the 21st century women in Europe still do not enjoy the rights they should. The need to address the disparities within the EU grows ever more urgent in the light of increasing technology and research advances. Surely it is always better to prevent tragedies, such as that with occurred in Galway, than to ignore or suppress attempts to legislate. It is worrying in the extreme if religious arguments supercede scientific and medical knowledge. In the Irish case the patient in Ireland and her husband were told that Ireland is a “Catholic country”? Based on the fundamental principles of the European Union, this cannot be acceptable.

PES Women has long been campaigning under the motto “My Body, My Rights” and continues to put Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of women as one of its core priorities, especially in the framework of 2014 European Parliament election’s campaign. Improving women’s rights and enhancing gender equality, including sexual and reproductive rights are paramount. They are basic human rights and contribute towards women’s empowerment in the fields of social, economic and financial development, especially in the framework of the economic crisis. Ensuring women’s rights, choice and access to information is therefore crucial.

No matter what women’s sexual and reproductive situation and choice are, a woman should have the opportunity and access to fully carry out that choice. Her choice should not be determined by geographical location or by social status. Women should be able to receive affordable medical treatment and assistance without being subjected to any social, legal or religious pressure.

We must no longer accept that such tragedies occur in Europe. The time has come for a progressive shift towards guaranteeing free choice for all women throughout Europe. This case must be the final example of its kind. Out of this tragedy must at least come the momentum for change. The Governments of Ireland, but also of Malta, Cyprus and Poland have a responsibility to amend their legislation on abortion and to ensure that lives of women and mothers are not at risk in their countries. 

Advocates for that change we need are already making themselves heard. I want to welcome the strong and reasonable reaction of Eamon Gilmore Deputy Prime Minister from the Irish Labour Party, who has affirmed that the current Irish government will not be the 7th government to ignore the X case (A 1992 Irish Supreme Court case involving a 14 year old rape victim and the right to abortion if risk to life of the mother, including risk of suicide).

This stance shows that the Social-Democrat voice on this issue is clear and unambiguous. Women must be given their own voice and their own choice.

Read our resolution My Body, My Rights, adopted on 27 September 2012 in Brussels.

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