The European Parliament entered the U.S. abortion debate on Thursday after EU lawmakers voted in favor of a motion criticizing America’s highest court over its draft decision to overturn the landmark Roe versus Wade case, which for the past 50 years has enshrined the legal right of American women to terminate their pregnancy.
It’s the second time in less than a year that Parliament has expressed reservations over how abortion is handled across the Atlantic. In October last year, Parliament passed a motion calling for the repeal of Texas rules that imposed a de facto ban on abortion in the state. But the motion voted on Thursday is unusual because it weighs in on a court decision decision leaked by POLITICO, and which has yet to be confirmed.
The latest motion passed with 364 votes in favor, 154 against and 37 abstentions. It was backed by political groups on the left as well as the centrist Renew Europe group. MEPs in the largest group in Parliament, the center-right European People’s Party group, were allowed to vote according to their conscience, while it was opposed by lawmakers in the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists and Identity and Democracy groups.
An acrimonious debate preceded the vote as MEPs gathered in Strasbourg on Wednesday traded barbs.
Against European Parliament rules, German MEP Terry Reintke of the Greens-European Free Alliance group spoke during the session wearing a scarf with a pro-abortion message emblazoned on it, citing a sore throat. She refused to take it off even after asked by Parliament President Roberta Metsola and had to leave the chamber after her intervention.
“The draft opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States is a shock and a nightmare” said Croatian MEP Predrag Matić of the Socialists and Democrats group.
“The USA is no longer a colony ruled from Europe. Didn’t you know that?” responded German MEP Christine Anderson of the hard right-wing Identity group, opposing the motion.
In the motion, Parliament “reminds the United States Supreme Court of the importance of upholding the landmark case of Roe v. Wade” and calls on the U.S. administration to enact federal laws to protect abortion rights at the national level.
It also draws attention to NGOs and “conservative think tanks belonging to the U.S. Christian right” funding anti-abortion groups globally, and warns of a possible new wave of funding on the back of the court’s decision.
Abortion is legal throughout most of the bloc, though the circumstances under which it is allowed vary according to the country. Malta and Poland are exceptions where it is either entirely illegal or heavily restricted.
The topic has been getting more attention from Europe’s lawmakers recently. Addressing the European Parliament in January, French President Emmanuel Macron said the right to abortion should be added to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Recently, Poland’s health ministry announced a pregnancy database which opposition politicians argue could be used to monitor women and enforce the country’s near-total abortion ban.
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