The recent report on the Progress on equality between women and men in the European Union in 2013 underlines the priority for Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights in EU policy-making. It has been adopted this 20th of January 2015 in the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality by 27 members against 7. This report drafted by Marc Tarabella from the Belgium socialist party is a new attempt to put abortion on the agenda of the European Union and a step forward in the exclusion of the family from the main focus of EU.
Debates about women’s rights and gender equality usually raise the problem of family policy, but most of the time it is focused on controversial issues where member states and political group do not agree on the definition of the family. The European Union has no direct competency on family policy but they have still the possibility to promote good practices and to push for a more family-friendly socio-economic environment in the members states. In fact, family policy anda family friendly society are key elements to fight against discrimination of women that persists in our society. One of the main causes of the discrimination of women in the labor market or in the society in general is that women are more vulnerable because they are, or could be, mothers. In order to better integrate women in society and labor market we should work to tackle this discrimination made against mothers.
With Tarabella report, the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality committee of the European Parliament decided to follow a different direction on family policy. Some Members of the European Parliament from different political groups including Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz (EPP), Arne Gericke (ECR), Anna Zaborska (EPP), Iratxe García Pérez (S&D), Daniela Aiuto (EFDD), Alessandra Moretti (S&D), Beatrix von Storch (ECR) and Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz (EPP), underlined the importance of the family by proposing some amendments which set the focus on social issues like the promotion of family friendly tax systems, adequate family allowances and compensation policies. However, all of these amendments were suppressed by the votes following the indications of the Rapporteur Mr. Tarabella.
Despite strong efforts of MEPs to advocate for family friendly measures, the report only mentions a few points on family, and usually considering it as a burden for women. For example a text proposed by Vilija Blinkevičiūtė a Lithuanian socialist that was approved by the committee votes states that “ whereas, for family reasons, it is more common for women than for men to work part time or under fixed-term or temporary contracts”.
In the field of family Policy, we can at least say that the most radical proposals were suppressed. It is for example the case with the strongest proposal issued by Sophia in ‘t Veld, Izaskun Bilbao Barandica and António Marinho e Pinto calling to finish any kind of family policy in Europe because of its discriminatory nature against people who remain single.
“ …notes that the number of single person households is on the rise in most EU Member States, but most policies directly or indirectly discriminate against them and put them at an undue disadvantage; believes that people should not be rewarded or punished for the particular size and composition of the household they are part of, calls therefore for policies to be neutral with regard to household size or composition;”
These ideologically driven policies have pushed the family out of the agenda of equality policy. The only subject of this report that seems to be a priority of the European Union in order to secure equality between men and women is the right to abortion. Despite a petition calling for deletion of the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights from the report which collected over 40,000 signatures in one week, the members of the Committee decided to proceed with the version including all provisions about this.
Once again the radical wing of the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee of the European Parliament managed to push abortion to the top of European agenda (paragraph 14 and Recital M) going against the principle of subsidiarity and proportionality defined in the Article 5 of the Treaty of the European Union. This principle is supposed to be one of the most important principles leading the action of the European Union to assure that the European Union will not impose anything on member states outside of its competences.
“14. Maintains that women must have control over their sexual and reproductive health and rights, not least by having ready access to contraception and abortion…”
Unfortunately, Brussels based interest groups are not concerned about effective public or social policies (as family policy should be) but are rather interested in pushing their own agenda made of radical ideas which remain very far from the European citizens. Instead of promoting practical family friendly or equality measures, they push for more access to abortion and the change of the definition of ‘family’.
In national political debates where people are informed about the current issues, these kind of decisions would raise massive opposition. In fact in some European countries, the only possible debate on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights would push for abortion restriction and not for abortion rights. But in the European Parliament, far from its citizens, this kind of report can be adopted by 24 members against 9 with 2 abstentions.
This EU behaviour recalls the difficult period of Enlightened absolutism when totalitarian monarchs ran their countries in a very paternalistic way, following the slogan: “Everything for the people, without the people”. Is this the European Union that we want to build for tomorrow? Far from its people? Pushing adroitly unacceptable ideas against people´s opinion?