As we went to publication, the news was just announced that the Polish Parliament had rejected a draft legislation to allow abortion until the end of the 12th week of pregnancy and had moved on for further consideration another draft that would ban abortion except if the mother’s life was at risk. Europa United editor, Martina Brinkmann, looks at the inconsistencies that appear to be developing in Europe with regards to women’s rights and asks the question: are women losing their rights to their own bodies?

While watching the developments regarding the life of women in several European countries over the last few months, I feel really concerned.

In France some parts of the government want to tell French Muslim women, who are citizens of Europe, what to wear on the beach, and have threatened to fine them if they don’t comply. They are abusing women’s rights to fuel their own political agenda by behaving like Saudi Arabian fundamentalists themselves and that this is supposed to be in the name of western lifestyle, freedom and culture. In fact they are violating the right of women to decide for themselves what they want to wear.

In Italy the government recently staged a media campaign informing women that their “biological clock is ticking” and informing them that they should have more children, by establishing a national fertility day.

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“Beauty has no age. But fertility does”

The idea behind this campaign is backward and sexist in my opinion. It is aimed at the emotions of women who in our society are already in conflict with themselves by being forced to get a proper education, have a career and to become a mother all at the same time. Instead of providing more support by delivering adequate job models for women and day-care opportunities for children, the Italian government is trying to pressure women into old role models and to go back into to kitchen and look after the kids.

In Germany a new study showed that women are still not paid equally for the same job as men. The salary is up to 30 per cent less than the male equivalent. The chance to enter a leading position in a company is also a problem. Even in some cases, with universities at nearly 70 per cent of women in attendance today, something is still going terribly wrong here.

The most concerning news this week reached me from Poland. As I write, the Polish parliament has just made an amendment to their abortion laws by pushing ahead with a near-total ban while rejecting a proposal to liberalise the existing law. The current legislation restricts all terminations with the exception of situations of rape or incest, if the pregnancy poses a health risk to the mother or if there is a case of fatal foetal abnormalities. Poland has already one of the strictest laws in Europe, but the current government wants to restrict abortion legislation further by only allowing it if the mother’s life is at risk. They also intend to threaten practitioners with up to 5 years prison. To add insult to injury, they also propose a ban on in vitro fertilization. Latest polls released show that 75 per cent of Polish citizens are against this reform of the law, but with the Catholic Church and pro-life activists supporting the proposal, the right of Polish women to decide for themselves is in serious danger.

So what is happening in Europe?
Are we rolling back time and women’s rights to 1900?
Is this the Europe our grandmothers and mothers were fighting for?

I don’t think so and these developments need to be stopped and pointed out. European women are not second class citizens anymore. We have the right to decide for ourselves what we want to do with our lives, our bodies, how we want to dress and how we should behave.

I am calling for all European institutions and parties to firmly protect and promote women’s rights and to stop the abuse.

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