BM84: Resolution on the right of students to safe and legal abortion
While there has been tremendous progress in recent years across all of Europe when
it comes to the contested topic of abortion rights, persons in certain parts of Europe
are still denied access to basic reproductive health care. This includes students.
It is crucial to ensure that students have access to free abortion services as it allows
them to exercise their reproductive rights without being hindered in their pursuit of
education. Access to free abortion for students is imperative to ensure that they can
make autonomous decisions about their reproductive health and avoid the financial
repercussions that may hinder their academic progress. Removing barriers to
reproductive healthcare can help ensure that students can realize their academic
potential and attain their educational aspirations.
In the Faroe Islands, abortion is only granted under certain exigent circumstances,
forcing some individuals to carry the pregnancy to term against their will and others
to seek an abortion elsewhere, mainly in Denmark. Paying the flight tickets and a visit
at a private hospital (if they do not have a Danish civil register number) in Denmark
adds an extra financial burden on the individual, who might be seeking an abortion.
In Malta, individuals’ access to abortion is not just denied – it’s criminalised. The
Maltese Penal Code – not meaningfully updated since 1854 – states that: “Whosoever,
by any food, drink, medicine, or by violence, or by any other means whatsoever, shall
cause the miscarriage of any woman with child, whether the woman be consenting
or not, shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term from eighteen
months to three years”.
In Poland, which had already severely restricted the right to abortion, the
constitutional tribunal effectively banned abortion in a ruling from October 2021,
restricting abortion only to cases where the pregnant person’s life is endangered or
the pregnancy is a result of a criminal act. We have seen similar tendencies in a
range of Western countries, where populist movements and political parties are
actively working to curtail the access to safe and legal abortion, most notably in the
United States, where, on the 24th of June last year, the US Supreme Court overturned
the landmark Roe v. Wade-ruling that had until then ensured a federal right to
abortion in the US.
In Northern Ireland, abortion was decriminalised in 2019, but four years later there is
still no provision of services, meaning people are forced to travel to the Republic of
Ireland or England to access safe abortion services. This is costly and inaccessible for
many of those most disadvantaged, resulting in many turning to unsafe practices.
In Scotland, England and Wales, abortion has still not been decriminalised but is
allowed to take place in certain circumstances. At clinics in Scotland and the
Republic of Ireland where abortions do take place, loud, aggressive protests do take
place to intimidate vulnerable individuals on what is often one of the toughest days
of their lives. A bill is being brought to the Scottish Parliament to establish “buffer
zones” around abortion clinics to ensure protests cannot take place outside these
vital health clinics, but progress is slow.
International bodies have repeatedly concluded that the access of individuals to
reproductive health care and safe and legal abortion is a fundamental right.
Already in 2008, the Parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe approved
resolution 1607 on ‘Access to safe and legal abortion in Europe’. In the aftermath of
the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the European parliament approved a resolution ‘on the
US Supreme Court decision to overturn abortion rights in the United States and the
need to safeguard abortion rights and women’s health in the EU’. The Royal College of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists also has a clear position on abortion, as outlined in,
e.g., the statement on decriminalising abortion, and the World Health Organisation
issued new abortion guidelines in March 2022, also affirming the importance of the
access to safe and legal abortion. A host of organisations and NGOs in the human
rights field – including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and OHCHR have
done the same.
There are clear indications pointing to increased resistance towards reproductive
rights in Europe. In fact, we are witnessing a moment of backsliding on fundamental
rights, which threatens to cascade if not dealt with decisively. Some countries only
recognised this right recently and in some countries strong political movements are
challenging it. Therefore, this is not a question only affecting students in Poland, the
Faroe Islands and Malta, but an issue that threatens to become relevant across
Therefore, the European Students’ Union:
- Affirms that access to safe and legal abortion is a fundamental and human rights
of all students
- Calls on the parliaments of the Faroe Islands, Scotland, the UK, Ireland and Malta to
bring forward appropriate legislation to enshrine the right to safe and legal abortion
- Encourages governments across all of Europe to resist any attempts to reverse the
progress made in the field of reproductive health and safeguard the right of students
to safe and legal abortion
- Calls on nations which have legalised abortion to ensure vulnerable individuals can
access abortion clinics safely, easily and without intimidation, and supports buffer
zone legislation such as that which is being proposed in Scotland
Proposers: MFS Faroe Islands; USI/AMLÉ, Ireland; NUS-UK, United Kingdom