“The manner in which legislation is proposed and debated is itself a telling sign of a country’s readiness to join the European Union and ability to meet the Union’s democratic criteria,” says a letter of MEPs sent Monday to authorities in Skopje.
The letter of the six MEPs, including the European Parliament Rapporteur on Women's rights in the Balkan accession countries Marije Cornelissen MEP, comes after the parliament in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) passed on Monday a new law on the termination of pregnancy in a shortened urgent procedure.
The new law severely restricts abortion after 10 weeks by obliging women seeking to have an abortion to file requests to the health ministry and to affirm that they attended counselling, informed the partner or spouse of their intention to abort and met a gynaecologist. Media in the country report that the law further forbids women from having a second abortion within a year of the first one.
The MEPs are concerned both about the form of the debate in the Assembly as well as on the content of the law. “Termination of pregnancy is equally a public health concern and a human rights issue related specifically to a woman’s right to self-determination,” say the MEPs and express concern about the discussion on the important matter under an urgent procedure in parliament “when there would appear to be no specific urgency.”
“The form of the debate in the Assembly on such a sensitive social issue which has repercussions in areas of public health, human rights and women’s rights is a cause of concern regarding Macedonia’s commitments towards democracy and its path towards EU accession,” point out the concerned politicians.
As regards the measures proposed in the new law on abortion, the MEPs emphasise that none of them are based on women’s needs nor are they medically necessary. On the contrary, many of the measures “would contravene women’s rights to access proper healthcare, privacy, autonomy, confidentiality and dignity which are all guaranteed in the Macedonian Constitution and are essential components of the EU accession process,” stresses the letter.
“While we fully recognise that legislation in regards to public health, including in the area of termination of pregnancy, remains an area of national sovereignty, the manner in which legislation is proposed and debated is itself a telling sign of a country’s readiness to join the European Union and ability to meet the Union’s democratic criteria,” stress Cornelissen and her colleagues.