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Public Services at the forefront for women’s right to safe abortion

(Brussels, 28 September 2020) Safe abortion is still not guaranteed for women across the EU, and during the recent pandemic the situation deteriorated for many. Yesterday, on Safe Abortion Day, Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli, MEPs and unionists discussed the obstacles to safe abortion in Europe in a round table organised by EPSU and the S&D group of the European Parliament.

Abortion and Gender and Sexual Health Services are essential. As Commissioner Dalli Commented, “Everybody must have access to high-quality sexual and reproductive health services. Sexual and reproductive health and rights are fundamental rights and lie at the very core of the mental and physical wellbeing of a person – whether woman, girl, man or boy. Sexual and reproductive health and rights are also about equality – to have equal rights to access these essential services across Europe, independently from where you live, what your background is or what government you have. ”

Unfortunately however, many abortion services were closed during the pandemic as they were not considered essential, and the possibilities to access services outside the home became more difficult for women in vulnerable situations due to confinement. The lack of accessibility has dire consequences on the safety of many women.

MEP Alessandra Moretti who closed the event said, “We live in a world in which the voluntary interruption of pregnancy is not a guaranteed right, inevitably resulting in more illegal procedures. Europe must take a stand; I urge the Council to implement a mechanism that makes funding conditional on states’ respect for human rights, including sexual and reproductive rights, and to make sure women’s health is accounted for in all strategies, such as the new migration strategy which concerns thousands of women in overcrowded camps.”

To make the current situation worse, some Governments used the health crisis to tighten the rules and push anti-choice agendas. This must be prevented at all costs. Pina Picierno, another MEP from the S&D group who spoke at the beginning of the event stated: “No-one should have the right to impose a different choice than what a woman wants. We are here to defend the independence of women in choosing what is best for themselves, in Europe and in the world. It's a matter of human rights and of personal dignity. Safe access to legal abortion is one of these many choices, and if a woman decides autonomously that, no one should be able to deny it, for whatsoever reason."

There were also interventions from a number of unionists, including Maryvonne Nicolle (CFDT, France), Serena Sorrentino (FP CGIL, Italy), Adam Rogalewski (OPZZ, Poland), Carmen Lopez Lopez (FSC CCOO, Spain) and Françoise Geng, Vice President of EPSU. They emphasised, amongst other things, the need for equality of access to health and the role of public service unions in ensuring women’s rights.

Gloria Mills, Chair of the EPSU Women and Gender Equality Committee, who moderated the discussion said: “States have a responsibility to guarantee women’s rights and facilitate an environment where each and every woman has the possibility to make a decision about abortion, and follow through with this in a safe way. Once these rights are secured and such an environment has been established, Trade Unions and communities will keep fighting to ensure that there are no steps backward, no erosion of rights, and no barrier raised between law and practice”

For more information Pablo Sanchez Dit e-mailadres wordt beveiligd tegen spambots. JavaScript dient ingeschakeld te zijn om het te bekijken. 0032 (0) 474626633
EPSU is the European Federation of Public Service Unions. It is the largest federation of the ETUC and comprises 8 million public service workers from over 260 trade unions; EPSU organises workers in the energy, water and waste sectors, health and social services and local, regional and central government, in all European countries including the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood. EPSU is the recognized regional organization of Public Services International (PSI). For more information please go to: