21 JANUARY 2019, STRASBOURG, FRANCE – Last Wednesday afternoon, 16th January, the Plenary Assembly of the European Parliament adopted the Report on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union in 2017 (2018/2103(INI)).
The document aims at assessing the current situation of essential human rights within the 28 Member States of the Union, and provides indications for what should be further done to ensure the protection of each European citizen. However, the text adopted by the Plenary is not in line with the current international standards on abortion and comprehensive sexual education.
World Youth Alliance Europe monitored all discussions regarding the report, reminding that abortion should not be used as an instrument for family planning in any policy of the EU. The EU regulation in this field stresses that EU development funding for reproductive health should be in accordance with Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD Programme of Action). The ICPD calls on governments to take “appropriate steps to help women avoid abortion, which in no case should be promoted as a method of family planning” and well as “to reduce the recourse to abortion through expanded and improved family-planning services.” It also recognizes that policy on abortion can only be decided at the national level (ICPD ¶ 8.25)
Furthermore, paragraph 23 of the Report “calls on the Member States to guarantee comprehensive sexuality education.” The term “comprehensive” is a misnomer: “comprehensive” programs do not give a complete picture of human sexuality. Rather, comprehensive sex education is a pedagogy that emphasizes sexual fulfilment and pleasure, advocates access to abortion, and seeks to empower children and teenagers to explore their sexuality. This type of education does not promote a holistic understanding of the human person in relation to sexuality; it is not age-appropriate or culturally sensitive and includes content many would find inappropriate.
This is also evident in terms of international law. There is no right to sexual or reproductive health in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), nor in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) affirms a woman’s right to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of her children and to have access to information, education, and means to do so, and does not require any particular type of sex education to be taught in schools. Finally, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) requires States to ensure that parents and children are informed and have access to education about child health, including family planning education services. It allows States to determine what is appropriate in the context of national policies, cultures, and values.
WYAE examined the draft and amendments and collaborated with like-minded deputies and partner organizations to ensure respect for international standards on human dignity. This included offering voting recommendations for all the Members of the European Parliament in order to improve the content of the report.
The World Youth Alliance regrets the adoption of the ambiguous parts of the report; nevertheless, it will continue collaborating with its partners and with European Deputies to ensure respect for human dignity in all future reports of the European Union.
To learn more about these topics, read WYA’s White Papers on Maternal Health, Sexual Education and Family Planning.