On Feb. 9, the European Parliament held a debate devoted condemning the Polish Constitutional Tribunal’s publication of the ruling that abortion is illegal in cases where the unborn child has a high probability of severe and irreversible disability or an incurable disease threatening its life.
Although it does not have any competencies in this matter, the European Parliament thus decided to include in its agenda a discussion on what it calls “the de facto abortion ban in Poland”. One of the objectives of such a discussion was most likely to stoke the anger of pro-abortion supporters in Poland and to once more condemn the conservative government in Poland. In addition, there were calls for the European Commission to interfere in Poland’s abortion law, with such a motion supported by a majority of MEPs. However, calls for the EU to intervene in such a manner exhibit a stunning disregard for the rule of law in Europe.
Speakers during that plenary session included Sylvie Guillaume, a French socialist and feminist activist from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group, thundered: “Let no one believe that we will surrender. After the threats to the right to abortion in that country, today we are faced with its outright ban… My message of support today is for the Polish men and women who have been demonstrating by the thousands since Oct. 22 against this revolting decision, it is for the NGOs and civil society who have been fighting for years against reactionary practices… This fight is the business of all, men and women, so that access to abortion is a right guaranteed throughout the European Union.”
Sylwia Spurek, a Polish MEP from the far-left Greens/EFA group, endeavored to make the issue purely political by questioning the legality of the ruling and of the Constitutional Tribunal itself and by encouraging the European institutions to take decisive action against Poland.
“Today, we are not discussing a judgment of an independent court, but a political decision. It was made by people who are not authorized to judge, sitting in a Constitutional Tribunal which is dependent on the ruling party… There is no more rule of law in Poland and there are no more women’s rights. This happened also because the European Commission was not effective in enforcing the rule of law in Poland… When will the Commission finally take action and use all its tools to protect women in Poland? Time is running out.”
Some dissenting voices also dissented from the European Parliament’s majority, such as that of Maximilian Krah from Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD), who while speaking on behalf of the Identity & Democracy Group, underlined the harsh reality a majority of MEPs choose to voluntarily ignore.
“The debates about Poland and the alleged violation of the rule of law are an evergreen topic in this parliament. But this debate today is itself an attack on the rule of law. It starts with the fact that we are discussing something for which the European Union has no competence, namely the abortion law of the sovereign state of Poland. It continues with the fact that MEPs think that they have to deny the legitimacy of Poland’s legitimate constitutional court because they don’t like its decisions. Yes, that’s the way it is in court. You don’t like some of its decisions. And all this [debate] is a joke, because there is no fundamental right to abortion. There is also no human right to abortion. But there is a human right to life, and that includes unborn life.”
In an emotional speech, Polish MEP Patryk Jaki from the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, who happens to be the proud father of a boy with Down’s syndrome, laid bare the level of cynical hypocrisy in the European Parliament:
“Every week you demand special rights for 200 undefined genders who already have their special rights, their special measures, their commissioners, their resolutions. And recently you even held a conference here on special measures for women sex workers. Generally, in this chamber, everyone has rights except children who are suspected of having disabilities. They, according to a large part of you, can be aborted on demand even in the eighth or ninth month of pregnancy. And yet you claim that this is a human right, and you call out all those who defend the weakest children, the most vulnerable children. And indeed, in many places children with Down’s syndrome are no longer born, and sick people can be euthanized without their consent. Only there is a key question: who gave you the right to decide which life is better and which life is worse? Many Poles do not divide life into a better and worse life. And let me tell you more: we are not ashamed of it.”
But the ECR and I&D conservative groups do not have a majority in the European Parliament.
Even if the EU is not competent in the matter of abortion, the conclusion of the “debate” was known in advance as one could read in a press release published the day before: “MEPs are set to condemn the highly restrictive law, which effectively bans abortion in Poland, as an attack on fundamental rights, the rule of law and core EU values. A woman’s right to make decisions about her own pregnancy without being prosecuted should not be deemed unconstitutional in any EU country, MEPs are likely to add.”
On Oct. 22, when the Polish Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling banning eugenic abortion was enacted, Spanish socialist Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D), chair of the committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, had said something similar.
“This decision by the tribunal shows again that the attacks on the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights in Poland is a matter of most serious concern. The right of every woman to decide on her own personal choice in such cases is no longer guaranteed in Poland, as this ruling on women’s abortion rights shows. (…) A women’s right to decide over her own body should not be unconstitutional in any country of the European Union,” said Augilar.
López Aguilar is the author of the report on the rule of law in Poland on the basis of which the European Parliament gave its green light to the sanction procedure against Poland under Article 7 last September. The Polish law on abortion, which does not fall within the competence of the EU under the European treaties, is one of the charges levied against Poland in López Aguilar’s report, which means the European Parliament is overtly calling on remaining EU institutions to violate the rule of law against Poland.