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BHA signs open letter to European Union in support of abortion rights

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has signed an open letter to the European Union (EU), and to the four countries within the EU where the right to abortion is not acknowledged, namely Cyprus, Ireland, Malta and Poland. The letter was organised by the European Women’s Lobby, the largest umbrella organisation of women’s associations in the EU, and has been supported by over 200 organisations and individuals from across the EU.

Naomi Phillips, BHA Head of Public Affairs, said, ‘We were very keen to support this important letter, which highlights the serious health risks that are created when access to abortion is severely prohibited. The ability of a woman to have control of her own body is a basic human right. It is the BHA’s position that all women should have the choice to access safe, legal and free abortion, should they want one.’

Open letter addressed to European states which do not recognize the right for women to abort and to the European Union

‘On 3 April 1990, Belgium amended its abortion law, allowing at long last every woman residing on its territory to have a termination of pregnancy performed legally. This new law, whose twentieth anniversary is being celebrated this year, addressed a very serious problem of public health and social inequality.

We, the signatories of this letter, are deeply concerned by the fact that in certain European countries, namely, Cyprus, Ireland, Malta and Poland, the right to abort is not acknowledged; this worsens the distress of women living there who have decided to have their pregnancy terminated.

When utterly distraught women are compelled to choose between the continuation or the termination of their pregnancy, and the latter appears to be the only way out, most of them will resort to abortion even if the law forbids it and in spite of the risks for their health, or even their life, clandestine abortion entails.

Prohibiting abortion does not prevent women from aborting but has for them consequences that are often catastrophic. Moreover, such an interdict creates an inequality with regard to the right to health as the access to an abortion carried out in good conditions is easier for women who are able to pay for it.

We cannot disregard the fact that worldwide eighty thousand women die yearly as a result of clandestine abortion, which corresponds with one woman every six minutes! This situation is all the more intolerable since maintaining voluntary termination of pregnancy outside the law hardly reduces the number of abortions. Its decriminalisation and the free, easy and informed access to abortion carried out in good circumstances are essential requirements with regard to the respect of fundamental rights: that of women to own and control their body as well as the right to health and health care that each nation must ensure to all women, without distinction.

It is unacceptable that in 2010 the aforementioned rights should still not be established in the European Union, which was built on the values of the basic human rights. Article 36 of the Resolution on the equality between women and men voted in plenary session by the European Parliament in February of this year underlines this unambiguously. This is why we lay great stress on the need for – the governments of Cyprus, Ireland, Malta and Poland to amend their law and to inform women and men living on their territory about the change; – all EU authorities to take measures falling within their competence to ensure that all women living in Europe may equally enjoy their sexual and reproductive rights.

Let us join forces and build together a social and emancipatory Europe!’


Read more about the letter and action on abortion rights in the EU.

Read more information about the BHA’s position on abortion.

For further information, please contact Naomi Phillips on 020 7079 3585.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity representing and supporting the interests of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.

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