MEPs condemn Poland’s near-total abortion ban – POLITICO

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MEPs on Tuesday condemned Poland’s almost total ban on abortion and called on the European Union to step up its fight against what they see as more backsliding on fundamental rights in the country.

Last month, Poland’s top constitutional court published its reasoning on a verdict that tightened the country’s already tough abortion laws. The verdict means abortions will be permitted only in cases of rape, incest and when a mother’s life is endangered. The initial court ruling, issued in October, stated that abortions for reasons of fetal abnormality violate the constitution, which effectively banned most abortions in the country.

Mass demonstrations immediately erupted but have grown smaller in recent weeks, lessening the political danger for the right-nationalist government led by the Law and Justice (PiS) party.

The EU has no authority over abortion policies, a strictly national matter, and the European Parliament can’t force Warsaw to backtrack. But MEPs said they want to put additional pressure on the Polish government, which is already subject to four EU infringement procedures and an Article 7 procedure for passing reforms that undermine judicial independence.

In a debate in Parliament on Tuesday, Dutch MEP Samira Rafaela of the liberal Renew Europe group described the ban as “a lack of respect for women’s bodies” and called the PiS an “anti-feminist and highly conservative party.”

“So Commission, what will you do?” she asked. “Will you just sit back and witness this serious infringement of women’s rights?”

Terry Reintke, a German Green, urged the commission to “act.”

“What else has to happen so that we finally see true commitment from the European Commission for European values and for the fundamental rights of European citizens?” Reintke asked.

The Article 7 procedure can ultimately lead to the suspension of a country’s voting rights in the Council of the EU, where member governments are represented. But neither the case against Poland nor the separate Article 7 procedure against Hungary has made much progress in the Council, as they require unanimity for approval.

Robert Biedroń, a Polish MEP from the center-left Socialists & Democrats, called on the Commission to “widen the scope” of Article 7 — which at present is limited to concerns over the judiciary — to women’s rights. “Women in Poland deserve to have the same rights [as] women in Belgium or elsewhere,” Biedroń said.

Helena Dalli, the EU’s equality commissioner, acknowledged the situation in Poland regarding women and reproductive rights “has not improved.” But the EU, she noted, has no competence over abortion rights, as a national matter.

“When making use of their competences, member states must respect fundamental rights which bind them by virtue of their national constitutions and commitments under international law,” Dalli added.

Meanwhile, some conservative MEPs criticized the Parliament’s debate and labeled MEPs’ concerns over the abortion ban as an ideological and unfair interference in Poland’s domestic politics.

Joachim Kuhs, from Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), defended Poland’s right to “protect the right to the family and the right to life.” The country is “fighting for some of the oldest values that make up our European identity,” he argued.

Jadwiga Wiśniewska, a PiS MEP, lamented that the EU “wants to play politics with Poland” and ” inflame the situation.”

“You want women to go out into the streets during a pandemic,” Wiśniewska added.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium policy service: Pro Health Care. From drug pricing, EMA, vaccines, pharma and more, our specialized journalists keep you on top of the topics driving the health care policy agenda. Email [email protected] for a complimentary trial.

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