In the weeks leading up to Christmas MercatorNet received several alerts about a critical vote in the European Parliament on family issues. We asked Sophia Kuby of European Dignity Watch what it was all about. (In the video clip above a left-wing Swedish MEP denounces the defeat of a motion that would have pressured EU nations to recognise abortion as a human right along with explicit and gender-bending sex eduction.)

MercatorNet: What is the Estrela report that was voted down in the European Parliament before Christmas?

Sophia Kuby: The Estrela report was an “own initiative report”, a non-binding text on an area that falls outside the competence of the European Union. If approved, such a text expresses the official opinion of the EU Parliament in a certain area and is used to pressurize the European Commission, Parliament and Member States of the EU to advance policies called for in the report.

The Estrela Report on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) — named after the Portuguese socialist MEP who initiated it, Edite Estrela — was a particularly radical text which claimed a “right to abortion”, an aggressive “taboo-free” and “interactive” sex education from primary school onwards, and attacked the right to conscientious objection for medical doctors and nurses who refuse to perform abortions. 

Would the report have advanced women’s health if it had been voted in?

The report was deceiving from A to Z. It pretended to be a voice for women who need better health care, including in their sexual health, but what it offered was free and safe access to abortion on demand. This is neither health care, not support for women, but it profoundly disrespects women, their dignity as well as the dignity of children yet to be born.

What did it mean by “taboo-free” sex education?

It pretended to advance education for children and teenagers, but what it really pushed for was a separation of the children from their parents in anything regarding their sexuality, including abortion without the consent of parents. This sex education includes explicitly the promotion of all kinds of family models, the diversity of gender identities, masturbation, contraception, abortion – and all this from primary school onwards.

When we speak of sexual and reproductive health, there are theoretically also good health care measures included, but I could not find any answers in the report to women who want to keep their child and who need care and support, for instance. Neither did I find any answer to the problem of rising STDs, for example. The term SRHR is a deceptive concept and we managed to bring these problems to the attention of MEPs for the first time at this level. 

What authority or influence would it have had if passed?

As an “initiative report” the text was not a legal proposal. We are here in the realm of soft law, not hard law. The text would not have become law, but it would have been one important step to advance the agenda of the big commercial abortion providers, IPPF, Marie Stopes International and others. We know, for instance, that IPPF co-drafted the report. They also receive millions in subsidies every year from the EU. It is not surprising that they want to create from the impression that the EU Parliament thinks their work is needed and that that there is a consensus that the EU should support it.

Mrs Estrela herself thanked publicly all those lobby groups who were behind this report. It was a “Who’s who” of the international abortion, LGBT and secularist lobby. If the report had passed, it would have been used by these very well-funded organisations to put hard pressure on anyone or any institution that opposes a “right to abortion” and to push through aggressive sex education for children. 

What else did your organisation and others object to about the report?

Besides the outrageous content of the report, it was striking to see how little Mrs Estrela and her allies respected the democratic rules of procedure and the boundaries of EU competence. All mentioned areas — abortion, parental rights, sexual education, the regulation of conscientious objection — are the exclusive competence of the Member States of the EU, not of the EU. This sharing of competence is organised based on the principle of subsidiarity, which means to leave to the local and national levels what can best be dealt with there and to transfer power to the EU level where needed.

Besides the many problematic paragraphs in the report that we raised in our analysis and countless mails and letters to MEPs, we advocated for respect for the legal framework of the EU and for democracy. When the report — to the great surprise of Mrs Estrela and her allies — was referred back to committee its advocates manipulated procedure in every way they could to get it back to a plenary session as quickly as possible and to silence the opposition. For instance, they didn’t publish the text as amended in committee until the deadline to table amendments for plenary had passed. This is obviously a breach of the rules of procedure and so it was confirmed by the legal service, but the president of the Parliament didn’t call them to order, even after receiving several demands to do so. 

Are the people behind it keen to get feedback from parents and the general public on their ideas?

Those behind the Estrela report — the commercial abortion providers and related lobby groups — are interested in one thing: to get the very generous funding from the EU and to show the alleged need for their interventions and projects. Citizens who make their voice heard, who question and protest against such scandalous claims as made in this report are very annoying to them. The feedback from concerned parents is not only irrelevant to them, but it directly interferes with their strategy to separate parents and children in sexual and educational matters and to take over the sexual education of the very young generation. 

How did you counteract these tactics?

We informed our networks all over Europe of the content and the dubious proceedings and citizens all over Europe made their voice heard by sending about 120,000 emails to MEPs in which they complained about the report. Through actions at different levels — grassroots, MEPs, media and social media — we managed to get the report in front of the public.

MEPs are not used to such publicity and found they could no longer ignore the fact that many citizens were alerted and wanted to know how their MEP intended to vote. Hence, they were forced to make up their mind, read the report and be prepared to justify their voting behaviour to their constituency. Besides the pleasing result of the final vote, this is all very healthy for democracy, especially in Europe where the  lack of democracy in the European institutions is increasingly courting citizen’s resentment. 

Did the mainstream media report on this policy move and the debate about it?

Yes, there were articles in mainstream media in several countries when the report was definitely rejected through the adoption of a good alternative resolution. However, mainstream media did not really get involved in the debate in the month leading up to the final vote, nor did they write about the breaches of procedure and the dubious tactics or about the proved fact that this report was the product of lobby groups.

All these facts were quite juicy and could have made good stories, but they still seem to be afraid of tackling  the issues of abortion or sexual education despite the manifested interest of citizens all over Europe. 

Did the vote reflect the convictions of MEPs, or the strength of the pro-family, pro-life constituency in Europe?

The report was rejected by a margin of seven votes in favour of the alternative resolution. A very thin margin. There are no stable majorities in the EU institutions for the true dignity of women, for the family, for unborn life, but quite the contrary: with this vote a solid majority for SRHR was broken for the first time in many years.

There are certainly several MEPs who voted against the report out of their deep conviction, others did it because they were afraid of being publicly exposed as being against parental rights, or indifferent to the sexualisation of children etc. This is particularly worrisome for them in the lead-up to the European elections in May this year.

However, we can see that citizens in Europe who are pro-life are increasingly outspoken and pro-active. This trend has gained momentum over the last two years and I don’t expect this to have been a unique debate, but the start of a more active pro-life constituency in Europe at large. 

Sophia Kuby is Executive Director of European Dignity Watch, a international non-partisan, non-denominational NGO in Brussels. EDW advocates for the protection of fundamental freedoms, human dignity and healthy marriage, and family policies at the European level.