PES Women: sexual and reproductive health and rights must be defended and promoted by all in society

24/09/2021 - Ahead of International Safe Abortion Day (28 September), progressives call for women’s access to SRHR to be guaranteed, not weakened or withdrawn

Speakers at the PES Women Gender Equality Network meeting today

Speakers at the PES Women Gender Equality Network meeting today

Sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) are a cross-cutting issue and a fundamental pillar of women’s rights and gender equality that must be strengthened with a joint effort by all citizens, decision-makers and generations. This was the conclusion of the PES Women Gender Equality Network today.

Meeting online, PES Women members, MEPs, members of the Committee of the Regions, and civil society representatives gathered to discuss SRHR in the EU and global contexts.

From Poland to Texas, and elsewhere, conservatives are rolling back women’s rights by restricting access to abortion, contraception and inclusive sex education.

PES Women President, Zita Gurmai, said:

“As progressives and feminists, we in PES Women believe that sexual and reproductive health and rights are crucial for people’s wellbeing and are a cornerstone of gender equality. Everyone should be free to make decisions about their own body and sexuality. Everyone has a right to access scientific information about sex and consent, as well as affordable and stigma-free sexual and reproductive health care no matter their gender, sexuality, nationality, ethnicity, disability, or socioeconomic background. Everyone should have the freedom to decide if and when to reproduce, and everyone deserves to feel safe and cared for by professionals during pregnancy and childbirth.

“Yet, women across Europe still do not enjoy these opportunities and rights equally. In some cases, they are being actively rolled back by conservatives. As social democrats, we call on the EU and its Member States to take a firm stance on enforcing these fundamental, human, rights. They must be respected without exception. We fully back the conclusions of the landmark SRHR report in the European Parliament by S&D MEP Fred Matić, now it’s time to put them into action.”

Across the EU, PES Women are pushing for: better legal frameworks on SRHR and increased investments; comprehensive sexuality and consent education; obstetric and gynaecological care; affordable and accessible contraception; access to abortion rights; and an end to period poverty and stigma.

Ahead of International Safe Abortion Day (28 September), the PES Women Gender Equality Network reaffirmed this mission.

At the meeting, Socialists and Democrats MEP Predrag Fred Matić (SDP Croatia) presented his landmark European Parliament report on SRHR, which was adopted by MEPs in June. It called on Member States to guarantee access to abortion, contraception and sexuality education, and act to tackle menstrual poverty. The Network commended the report and MEP Matić for spotlighting SRHR as a progressive priority.

Network members also exchanged with Neil Datta, the Secretary of the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, and Alexia Fafara, Junior Policy and Campaigns Officer at the European Women’s Lobby, on the report. Drawing on insights from Florence Councillor Laura Sparavigna (PD Italy, PES CoR) and Marcia Banasko, Head of Influencing at Plan International, the meeting also discussed progressive SRHR champions and examples of best practice at national, regional and local level.