Slovenian Prime Minister first serving EU leader to back 'European right to abortion'

brussels times​​​

By Maïthé Chini

    As far-right and populist parties are predicted to make large gains in the forthcoming European elections, progressive leaders from Spain to Slovenia are joining the 'My

    VoiceMyChoice' pro-choice campaign to protect women's reproductive rights.

    With populist politicians threatening to roll back the rights of women (and Flemish far-right party Vlaams Belang making headlines this week for "pushing" women to have children at a young age), several European leaders – led by Slovenia's Prime Minister Robert Golob – are backing a pan-European pro-choice campaign.

    "In Slovenia, we have the right to make free decisions about the birth of our children enshrined in the Constitution," said Golob, encouraging other leaders to also sign up to the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) for safe abortion.

    The campaign aims to secure over one million signatures over the next four weeks. When the million milestone is reached, the initiative will mark the first step towards creating a fund to assist women who for whatever reason cannot access safe abortion care within the EU. This will provide crucial financial support for women and advance reproductive rights.

  1.     A 'self-evident' right

    Slovenia was the first EU country to have the right to abortion secured at the constitutional level (the country legalised it in 1952, and the current law has been in place since 1977), and is now driving the campaign. "The State provides opportunities for the realisation of this freedom and creates conditions that allow parents to decide when and if they will have children."

    "From Slovenia's point of view, it is a self-evident right, a freedom that we do not discuss, as it is already written in the highest legal act in the country," Golob added. "This is precisely why I am convinced that we can share this with other nations and countries in the European Union in a spirit of solidarity."

    The Prime Minister noted that this could be achieved through the ECI, through which all Europeans gain the right to active participation in the formulation of EU policies and changes, as well as the co-shaping of a common Europe.

    "This should be tailored to all residents of the Union, and above all aimed at their protection," he said. "Women in the EU should not die because of the lack of access to safe artificial termination of pregnancy. Their rights should be protected and every individual should have the freedom to decide how to live their life."

    Meanwhile in Spain, pro-choice activists have put abortion on the ballot paper, fearing the rise of far-right party Vox and their strong opposition to current abortion legislation.

    With the populist People's Party (PP) in Andalusia, often aligning themselves as 'pro-life,' and allocating almost €400,000 in government funding to anti-abortion associations between 2021 and 2023, the region is already dealing with a lack of access to safe abortion.

    The presence of the far-right in regional governments, including in governing coalitions in some of Spain's major autonomous communities such as Castilla y León and Valencia, is also threatening abortion rights in the country. But former President of Spain José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and former Minister of Equality Irene Montero have now both signed up to the campaign as well.

    "It is crucial to have a European framework which ensures that – regardless of the concrete form it may take in each country – Europe is a territory that guarantees legal, safe and free abortion," said Montero, stressing the importance of promoting the widest possible regulation to protect the right to abortion.

  1.     Care, not crime

    Even in countries where abortion is legal, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, reproductive rights are on the ballot. In Belgium, a possible extension of the abortion deadline was one of the key topics complicating the formation of the Federal Government following the 2019 elections. Nearly five years later, an agreement has still not been reached.

    In the Netherlands, abortion has been legal since 1984, but progressive politicians are seeking further liberalisation of the abortion law.

    Currently, the termination of pregnancies is still included in the criminal code, but Green politicians (GroenLinks-PvdA) want to change that. For them, abortion is "care, not crime", but including it in the criminal code criminalises the doctor carrying out the procedure as well as the person who undergoes the abortion.

    "The 'MyVoiceMyChoice' campaign is super important because it is about our fundamental rights and our self-determination," stressed Dutch MEP and election Spitzenkandidat Bas Eickhout (GroenLinks), who also signed up. "This is such an important voice that must be heard. It must be in the constitution as it is in Slovenia, but also across all of Europe."

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