Thursday, November 21, 2013

Action Alert: Estrela Report

We reported on October 22nd that the controversial Estrela report to the European Parliament on “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” (SRHR) was referred back to the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM).

We can now report that this controversial report and is to be dealt with by the FEMM committee very swiftly. The report is scheduled to be discussed and voted on, in the Committee next Monday and Tuesday November 25th and 26th.

The report and resolution on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights presented by Portugese MEP Edite Estrela, actually represents an assault on parental rights and would undermine the Sovereignty of member states, in that it attempted to make abortion a fundamental human right, remove conscientious objection and introduce pornographic sexuality education even for young children .

The Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community, COMECE, condemned the resolution and pointed out that the EU had no competence in the matter.

The report although presented by Edite Estrella is reported to be the work of  radical NGO’s including the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) in Brussels. 
This was clearly stated by Ms Estrela herself as she thanked NGOs during discussion on the report on the evening prior to the plenary vote. The involvement of IPPF in the preparation of the report was confirmed within the FEMM Committee: IPPF Europe's representative publicly claimed having contributed to the draft report on the very same afternoon it was presented in the FEMM Committee.

The speed at which the report is coming back to the table is surprising given that there are many other reports awaiting attention. Not only has the FEMM Committee put this as the first item on its agenda for its next meeting on November 25th, but the report and its resolution has also been placed on the draft agenda for the December plenary session

We recommend that readers should in the first instance contact the members of the Femm Committee before next Tuesday and to ask them the following:

  • To promote transparency and the public parliamentary debate: the MEPs should be invited to explicitly express a request for amendments to be tabled in the Committee.

Explanation: As the agenda of the Committee stands today there is no room for amendments that could change the content of the report but the report would actually just be debated and then voted. According to the procedure of the European Parliament it is not necessary to make “cosmetic” changes when a report is referred back to its’ committee but the political contents should reflect the different political positions. 
  • To vote the alternative resolution: 
This was tabled for the plenary session and therefore cannot be ignored. MEPs should be asked to ensure that the alternative resolution is voted in the Committee.

  • Ask for a public vote in the Committee. 
The rules of the European Parliament allow for a nominal vote (roll call vote) in committee (art. 195-3 of the Rules of the European Parliament). A quarter of the voting members, i.e. in this case 9 of the 33 members must support such a request. All members of the Committee, both full members and substitutes can ask for a nominal vote. 
We will return to this issue next week to report on the outcome of the FEMM committee deliberations and with further recommendations.