Abortion rights were highlighted at seminar in Umeå Sweden

Hamrud Namli Ljungros

Are abortion rights threatened in Europe? That headline gathered a fairly big audience at the human rights conference MR-dgarna in Umeå.

Contributors were journalist and author Annika Hamrud, Elena Namli, professor of Ethics at the Faculty of Theology, Uppsala and Kristina Ljungros, chairwoman at RFSU

Europen abortion resistance is becoming more and more visible and also strategic. The starting point of the seminar talks and conversation was its impacts and where it comes from.

Elena Namli put the issue in a broader context. She described the populistic currents spreading with clear connections to such value-laden questions as abortion.

Journalist Hamrud mentioned how nationalistic groups partly see abortion as a demographic matter. They consider risks of muslims taking over due to their fertility rate overriding other favored ethnically or religiously defined groups of people. There is also a conservative wiew of women, wishing to have a control over reproduction.

She also sees a backlash for multiculturalism and feminist values, abortion being unliked as well as other more libertarian values concerning sexuality and reproduction. She pointed to clear similarities with value-conservative Tea Party movement in USA. There is a wide-spread myth that women somehow would prefer abortion as a birth control. Marine Le Pen, party leader of French Front National is now “re-packaging” her father’s, former leader of the same party,  absolute resistance. His daughter seemingly mitigates the before harsh stance, but instead talks in terms of morality.

RFSU:s Ljungros talked about actions that are directed at stopping education and information in EU’s domains. There are also efforts at convincing key staff to refuse participating and performing abortions. In Italy ninety percent of doctors at women´s clinics refuse to take part at abortions

Elena Namli sees that opponents to abortion cooperate across borders and therefore also defenders of abortion rights sholuld do the same – reach out broadly over different movements and countries. It is important to give support, without ideological or religious blinders, to catholic and other religious groups that wish to have more liberal laws.

Some light: Kristina Ljungros was convinced that the Swedish populist SD:s female sympathizers are not prone to support the party’s line of more strict rule of abortion only at twelfth week of pregnancy. And in Spain the government, after strong protests, has had to back on a proposed more strict legislation.

Ljungros drew applause as she suggested that Polish women ought to be allowed free abortion in Sweden – a pay-back for the same opportunity formerly given to Swedish women by Poland at a time when Swedish laws were much less permissive.