EU parliament passes resolution demanding right to safe abortion

European Parliament plenary session in Brussels
View of European Parliament chamber before plenary session in Brussels, Belgium November 23, 2020. Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via REUTERS

BRUSSELS, June 24 (Reuters) - European Union lawmakers on Thursday passed a resolution calling for the bloc's 27 countries to ensure the right to legal and safe abortion in a push to improve women's sexual and reproductive health.

The non-binding resolution, passed by 378 to 255 votes, said the COVID-19 pandemic had limited access to many services crucial for sexual and reproductive health and rights, illustrating how the pandemic has affected women more than men.

The vote came on the same day as a referendum in Gibraltar on whether it should ease one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe.

While most of Europe has legalised abortion, some countries impose restrictions, and deep divisions over abortion rights remain.

Rights activists say women's rights in Europe have come under pressure in recent years, especially in Poland, whose nationalist government has introduced a de-facto ban on abortion.

The parliamentary resolution calls on EU countries to step up regular health screenings, improve access to contraception and fertility treatments, and combat menstrual poverty.

It calls for laws to be passed to safeguard the rights of intersex persons and demands better sexual education for children.

The vote followed a heated debate in the chamber, where lawmakers ended up voting on more than 50 amendments to the resolution.

Supporters argued that the strengthening of sexual and reproductive health and rights was necessary to ensure equality and honour democratic human rights.

Opponents said access to abortion would not improve women's health and that the right to life was fundamental.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Giles Elgood

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