The Brief: Commission must break abortion silence

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


Thousands of women went on strike this week in protest against new laws to ban abortion, which is still illegal in Malta. In Ireland, campaigners are calling for the repeal of laws that criminalise it and encourage dangerous backstreet abortions.

Asked if it supported the rights of women to safe and legal abortion, the European Commission today said it was not a question on which it “had a view”.

That is simply not good enough. The executive does not have the power to legislate on the issue. But it can have an opinion.

The United Nations is a supranational organisation that has to respect the laws of its member states, much as the European Commission must.

Its World Health Organisation publishes information on access to safe abortion. The UN backs the view that criminalising abortion discriminates against a woman’s human right to health.

The Commission has issued rebukes to Warsaw about threats to the rule of law in the country. The EU already works for the global abolition of the death penalty. The ban is laid down in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and European Convention on Human Rights.

There is no similar basis in EU law for access to safe and legal abortion. But we were promised a new, political Commission that would be “big on the big things”.

There are people who turn to the EU for moral leadership when they feel let down by their national governments.

MEPs will debate women’s rights in Poland tonight. The Commission should also take a position on whether access to legal and safe abortion is a human right in the EU.

*As The Brief went to press the Polish government signalled a U-turn on a total abortion ban.

This Brief is powered by FoodDrinkEurope.


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