Preamble to the Declaration of Brussels

Having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948, which affirms the principle of non-discrimination and proclaims that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and that “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as sex”;

Having regard to the provisions set out by the legal instruments of the United Nations in the domain of human rights, in particular those concerning the rights of women, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 16 December 1966, Article 3 of which indicates that “The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights set forth in the present Covenant”;

Having regard to the UN Human Rights Committee’s 29 March 2000 General Comment No. 28 on Article 3 of the International Covenant pertaining to civil and political rights, which states that “When reporting on the right to life protected by article 6, States parties should provide data on birth rates and on pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths of women. Gender-disaggregated data should be provided on infant mortality rates. States parties should give information on any measures taken by the State to help women prevent unwanted pregnancies, and to ensure that they do not have to undergo life-threatening clandestine abortions”;

Having regard to Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 16 December 1966, which stipulates “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”;

Having regard to General Comment No. 14 of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 11 August 2000, which recalls that the right to health is directly linked to other human rights such as the right to a private life and that, among the freedoms that make up the right to health is the right to bodily autonomy, especially with regard to sexuality and reproduction;

Having regard to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women of 18 December 1979 that requires States to “ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, the same rights to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights”;

Having regard to the 1992 declarations of the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and in particular recommendation No. 24 (m) which stipulates that “States parties should ensure that measures are taken to prevent coercion in regard to fertility and reproduction, and to ensure that women are not forced to seek unsafe medical procedures such as illegal abortion because of lack of appropriate services in regard to fertility control”;

Having regard to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted by the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in September 1995, which indicates that women’s rights include “the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health [and to] make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence, as expressed in human rights documents”;

Having regard to the multiple recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the subject of abortion, and its technical directives for States’ health systems, which define procreation and reproductive health rights as rights which “rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children … . It also includes their right to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence” and which reiterated, in 2013, that abortion and family planning are part of the general right to health.

Having regard to the 24 October 2011 recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur, Anand Grover, on the right to health, in which he advocates the de-penalisation of abortion and specifies that “Laws and legal restrictions that reduce or deny access to family planning goods and services, including emergency contraception, violate the right to health and reflect discriminatory notions of women’s’ roles in the family and society”, and that criminalization of sexual and reproductive health generates and perpetuates stigma.

Having regard to the fact that the UN Special Rapporteur also specified that “Criminal laws penalizing and restricting induced abortion provide examples of State interference with women’s right to health” and that such  laws restrict women’s control over their bodies, undermine their dignity and infringe on their autonomy.

Having regard to Resolution 1607 (16 April 2008) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on access to safe and legal abortion in Europe, which states:

Para 2.: “in many of these states, numerous conditions are imposed and restrict the effective access to safe, affordable, acceptable and appropriate abortion services. These restrictions have discriminatory effects, since women who are well informed and possess adequate financial means can often obtain legal and safe abortions more easily”.

Para 4: “That abortion should not be banned within reasonable gestational limits. A ban on abortions does not result in fewer abortions but mainly leads to clandestine abortions, which are more traumatic and increase maternal mortality and/or lead to abortion “tourism” which is costly, and delays the timing of an abortion and results in social inequities. The lawfulness of abortion does not have an effect on a woman’s need for an abortion, but only on her access to a safe abortion”.

Para. 6: “ … the ultimate decision on whether or not to have an abortion should be a matter for the woman concerned, who should have the means of exercising this right in an effective way”.

And which invites the member states of the Council of Europe, among other things, “to decriminalise abortion within reasonable gestational limits, if they have not already done so; guarantee women’s effective exercise of their right of access to a safe and legal abortion”;

Having regard to the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention of 21 May 2011, which recommends that Parties take legislative or other necessary measures to criminalise instances of an abortion intentionally being carried out without the woman’s prior and informed consent;

Having regard to Article 35 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union of 7 December 2000, which states that “Everyone has the right of access to preventive health care and the right to benefit from medical treatment under the conditions established by national laws and practices. A high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Union policies and activities”;

Having regard to the European Parliament resolution of 3 July 2002 on health and sexual and reproductive health and rights, Paragraph 12 of which recommends that “in order to safeguard women’s reproductive health and rights, abortion should be made legal, safe and accessible to all”;

Having regard to the European Parliament resolution of 10 February 2010 on equality between men and women which emphasises that women “must have control over their sexual and reproductive rights, notably through easy access to contraception and abortion”;

Having regard to the new European Consensus on Development “Our world, Our dignity, Our Future” adopted by the Member States on June 7, 2017, which explicitly states that sexual and reproductive rights must be protected by the Union’s development policy;

Having regard to the European Parliament resolution of 12 September 2017 on the EU’s  accession to the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, which “strongly affirms that the denial of sexual and reproductive health and rights services, including safe and legal abortion, is a form of violence against women and girls”, which insists on the fact that  women and girls must have control over their bodies and sexualities” and which invites all the Member States “to guarantee comprehensive sexuality education, ready access for women to family planning, and the full range of reproductive and sexual health services, including modern contraceptive methods and safe and legal abortion“;

Considering that from one continent to another, from one state to another, in Europe and beyond, the right to abortion is still not considered a vested right for women;

Considering that abortions must still too often be carried out in secret or under the weight of penalisation and a sense of shame inflicted on women;

Considering that every day, many of the aforementioned international and European organisations and institutions, from the UN to the WHO, from the Council of Europe to the European Parliament, tirelessly draw attention to the democratic and human issue that is the right of women to bodily autonomy and to access abortion in safe and legal conditions;

Read the declaration of Brussels