Guest Column

European Union: Denial of abortion should be criminalized

Doctors for Life, European Union, European Parliament, EU

(C-FAM, Washington, DC) The European Parliament has voted in favor of “gender-based violence” being treated as a crime in the EU, alongside terrorism and human trafficking. Among the behaviors it seeks to criminalize is “the denial of safe and legal abortion care.”

The document condemns violence against women and girls “in all their diversity” as well as “violence against LGBTIQ+ persons on the grounds of gender, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics,” and specifies that it refers to “acts of online and offline violence.”

The report calls for the creation of uniform standards and minimum criminal penalties across the European Union by amending the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It was adopted by a vote of 427-119, with 140 abstentions.

Several members of the parliament referred to the high rates of physical and sexual violence perpetrated against European women and girls, arguing that to oppose this report would be to ignore their plight.

“In our report, we state that in order to combat gender-based violence, we must have the right to decide over our bodies and our sexuality. We must have access to free abortion and contraception,” said Malin Björk of Sweden, one of the parliamentarians presenting the report.

Others took a different view. “The fight against violence against women cannot become a tool of ideological struggle, and this is, unfortunately, an ideological project,” said Polish member Jadwiga Wiśniewska. “Please note that the concept of gender is not a treaty concept, nor are terms such as patriarchy or LGBT.”

Poland’s abortion restrictions were specifically denounced in the report.

Cindy Franssen of Belgium warned that the report “goes beyond national competences” and noted that adding “gender-based violence” to the treaty would require unanimity in the Council of the European Union. “That will not come if we simultaneously demand that refusing an abortion be labeled as gender-based violence.”

READ: European Parliament to decide Tuesday if abortion is a human right

Helena Dalli, the current European Commissioner for Equality, described the report as an attempt to achieve the goals of the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe treaty on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. The convention came into force in 2014, but earlier this year, Turkey withdrew from it, declaring that what was “originally intended to promote women’s rights was hijacked by a group of people attempting to normalize homosexuality.”

The recently-adopted report makes explicit what was implicit in the Istanbul Convention by expressly including “LGBTIQ+”-identified persons as “also victims of gender-based violence because of their gender, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics.”

Dalli said that her goal was to expand the definition of “Euro-crimes” to include both gender-based violence and hate crimes and hate speech, “on grounds of sexual orientation, amongst other grounds.”

As a Maltese politician as well as in her work at the EU, Dalli has been a champion for pro-LGBT laws and policies. However, her country remains one of the very few in Europe with strong pro-life laws, and if the EU criminalizes the denial of abortion as a form of “gender-based violence,” Malta will be among its chief targets.

“We look forward to the swift implementation of this policy including in Malta,” said the group Doctors for Choice Malta on its Facebook page, calling it “criminal of the state” to deny women abortions.

Editor’s Note: Rebecca Oas, PhD writes for C-Fam. This article first appeared in the Friday Fax, an internet report published weekly by C-Fam (Center for Family & Human Rights), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute ( This article appears with permission.

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