On 10 April 2014, the European Parliament hosted a hearing on the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) “One Of Us”. This initiative, which is being piloted by ultra-conservative, anti-choice movements, seeks to ban EU funding for any activities that could involve the destruction of human embryos. It demands that the Commission cut off all funding for research on human embryonic stem cells, as well as all funding for any organisations that are involved in the provision of indirect or direct abortion or “abortion-related” services in low and middle-income countries. IPPF and a large number of other civil society organisations are extremely concerned that, if successful, “One Of Us” would have devastating consequences for maternal health in the developing world. The European Commission must comment formally on the ECI by May 28th.
The hearing in the Parliament was emotional and the debate highly polarised, with the anti-choice organisers and their conservative MEP supporters dominating proceedings through a series of lengthy interventions. Several Members of the European Parliament strongly opposed “One Of Us” and spoke out passionately in defense of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Michael Cashman, representing Parliament’s Development Committee, underlined that EU aid policy had saved the lives of millions of women in the developing world and was one of the Union’s greatest achievements. He pointed out that if this ECI were successful, it could limit the EU’s ability to meet its longstanding international commitments related to maternal and reproductive health by cutting the approximately 120 million USD in development aid that it currently spends each year in these areas. Cashman noted that almost 800 women in the developing world die every day during pregnancy and childbirth, and highlighted that “One Of Us” was based on a “tragic denial of reality”, since highly restrictive abortion regimes do not equate to lower abortion rates, but merely to increased numbers of unsafe abortions.
Other MEPs called into question the soundness of the legal base for the “One Of Us” proposal and said that it would only serve to slow down research in the EU. They also voiced strong objections to the organisers’ attempts to prevent the participation in the hearing of elected members who do not share their views. IPPF shares this procedural concern about the organisation of the event, and finds it regrettable that the format of the “One Of Us” hearing meant that SRHR civil society representatives were unable to participate directly in the debate, either as panelists or in the Q&A, while the organisers were able to make extreme and unsubstantiated claims about practices of NGOs active on SRHR, including IPPF.
See other documents relating to the hearing here:
Letter to the European Commission and José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission; Mairé Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science; Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Development.