Although the European Union is supposed to be a secular project, as enshrined in the treaty, the religious opposition to SRHR is on the rise and, as Dutch MEP, Sophie in’t Veld, President of the European Parliamentary Working Group on Reproductive Health, HIV/AIDS and Development in the European Parliament (EPWG), wrote in her recent article for The Guardian Online:  ‘increasingly religion is making its presence felt in the corridors of the European Union’. Further, the article illustrates the sheer political power religious institutions yield at the EU level, above and beyond all the Catholic Church. ‘The Conference of Catholic Bishops’ is one of the most powerful lobby groups in Brussels ’ and the EU has special diplomatic relations with the Vatican . The treaty of Lisbon includes article 17 on the dialogue of the EU institutions with churches and non-confessional organisations. This forms the basis for an annual summit of religious leaders with the leaders of the EU institutions. Secular organisations are largely ignored. The growing opposition is having adverse effects on women’s rights, gay rights and sexual reproductive health and rights and even access to certain aspects of healthcare such as contraception, abortion, condoms and IVF. Sophie int’ Veld states this is an abuse of freedoms and concludes the article by bolding stating, ‘Europe doesn’t do God,’ and suggests that ‘freedom of religion’ should be replaced by ‘freedom of beliefs of conscience’, as this is ‘an individual right than can be claimed by 500 million Europeans in all of their diversity.’ The regional news of this current issue: anti-choice community based initiatives in Poland and Bulgaria as well as legal actions in Russia and Hungary prove that opposition is on the rise both inside and outside the EU.

For Sophie in’t Veld’s article go to:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/mar/17/europe-religious-right/print