While we here in Colorado are having to battle a proposal to grant "personhood" to a fertilized egg — a concept that would classify all abortions as murder (and many contraceptives, as well!) — on the other side of the pond "grown-ups" are addressing the abortion issue with much more maturity.
On April 16, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) approved a major resolution urging all member states to decriminalize abortion, within reasonable gestational limits, and to guarantee women’s ability to obtain an abortion.
In addition, the resolution specifies that states should provide access to affordable contraception and family planning services and that compulsory age-appropriate, gender-sensitive sex and relationships education for young people should be developed.
The Council of Europe, which integrates nearly all the states of Europe, was founded in 1949 after Sir Winston Churchill called for its creation. One of its missions is the protection of human rights. Resolution 1607 can be read by clicking here, but here are the main points:
1. The Parliamentary Assembly reaffirms that abortion can in no circumstances be regarded as a family planning method. Abortion must, as far as possible, be avoided. All possible means compatible with women’s rights must be used to reduce the number of both unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
2. In most of the Council of Europe member states, the law permits abortion in order to save the woman’s life. Abortion is permitted in the majority of other European countries for a number of reasons including to preserve physical and mental health, rape and incest, fetal impairment, economic and social reasons, and in some countries on request. The Assembly is, however, concerned that in many of these states, numerous conditions are imposed and that they restrict the effective access to safe, affordable, acceptable and appropriate abortion services. These restrictions have discriminatory effects, since women who are well-informed and possess adequate financial means can often obtain legal and safe abortions more easily.
3. The Assembly also notes that, in member states where abortion is permitted for a number of reasons, conditions are not always such as to guarantee women effective access to this right: the lack of local health care facilities, the lack of doctors willing to carry out abortions, the repeated medical consultations required, the time allowed for changing one’s mind and the waiting time for the abortion all have the potential to make access to safe, affordable, acceptable and appropriate abortion services more difficult, or even impossible in practice.
4. The Assembly takes the view that abortion should not be banned within reasonable gestational limits. A ban on abortions does not result in fewer abortions, but mainly leads to clandestine abortions, which are more traumatic and increase maternal mortality and/or lead to abortion "tourism" which is costly and delays the timing of an abortion and results in social inequities. The lawfulness of abortion does not have an effect on a woman’s need for an abortion, but only on her access to a safe abortion.
5. At the same time, evidence shows that appropriate sexual and reproductive health and rights strategies and policies, including compulsory age-appropriate, gender-sensitive sex and relationships education for young people, results in less recourse to abortion. This education should include teaching on self-esteem, healthy relationships, the freedom to delay sexual activity, avoiding peer pressure, contraceptive advice, and considering consequences and responsibilities.
6. The Assembly affirms the right of all human beings, women included, to respect for their physical integrity and to freedom to control their own bodies. In this context, the ultimate decision on whether or not to have an abortion should be a matter for the woman concerned, and she should have the means of exercising this right in an effective way.
(The remainder of the document lists specific actions member states can take to achieve these goals.)
Now, honestly, doesn’t reading such a mature, sensible document make you feel ashamed that here in Colorado voters will likely be asked in November to consider the inane idea that the sanctity of a fertilized egg cannot be violated — no matter how much suffering it may cause to those already born?
Janet Brazill is a retired computer systems analyst, now engaged in social and political activism. She lives in Colorado Springs.