French President Emmanuel Macron called on Wednesday for abortion to be added to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Speaking to members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on Jan. 19, Macron said that the rights charter, ratified in the year 2000, needed to be revised.
“Twenty years after the proclamation of our Charter of Fundamental Rights, which notably enshrined the abolition of the death penalty throughout the Union, I hope that we can update this charter, notably to be more explicit on environmental protection or the recognition of the right to abortion,” he said.
He added: “Let us open this debate freely with our fellow citizens of great European conscience to give new life to our set of rights that forges this Europe strong in its values, the only future of our common political project.”
The French news channel BFM TV reported that Macron’s reference to abortion was applauded by lawmakers.
His appeal came the day after the European Union’s law-making body elected the pro-life Maltese politician Roberta Metsola as its new president.
But Metsola — at 43, the youngest-ever president of the European Parliament — told Euronews after her election that she would respect the assembly’s majority view in favor of abortion during her renewable term of two and a half years.
“The position of the parliament is unambiguous and unequivocal, and that is also my position,” she said on Jan. 18.
“That is exactly what I will do throughout my mandate as president on this issue.”
The EU charter recognizes the right to life but does not mention abortion. It states that “Everyone has the right to life” and “No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed.”
The European Parliament voted in June 2021 in favor of a report describing abortion as “essential healthcare” and seeking to redefine conscientious objection as a “denial of medical care.”
Members of the assembly voted by 378 votes in favor, 255 against, and 42 abstentions to adopt the text, known as the Matić Report, at a plenary session in Brussels, Belgium.
The report also declared that violations of “sexual and reproductive health and rights” are “a form of violence against women and girls.”
Most of the EU’s 27 member states permit abortion on demand or broad social grounds, except Malta and Poland, which have strong pro-life laws.
On Jan. 1, France took over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, which negotiates and adopts EU laws with the European Parliament.
Macron, who is expected to run for re-election in April, met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in November 2021.