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Development and women’s rights groups welcome European Commission’s rejection of “One of Us”

[Joint press release, Brussels, 28 May 2014] The undersigned civil society organisations welcome the European Commission’s decision announced today to take no further action on the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “One of Us”.

The “One of Us” initiative could have had catastrophic consequences for maternal and global health in low- and middle income countries. In standing firmly against it, the Commission has reaffirmed its support for, and international commitments to, maternal health, family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) more broadly.

“While recognising the importance of the newly-created ECI tool in bringing ordinary citizens closer to the EU institutions, the Commission’s response has taken into account the devastating impact that “One of Us” could have had on the EU’s development objectives,” commented Neil Datta, Secretary of the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development. “I am glad the Commission has listened to the global consensus supporting the 222 million women in developing countries who want and need voluntary family planning simply to exercise the human right to have the size of family they would like, rather than to the religious zealots who organised “One of Us,” Mr Datta continued.

The “One of Us” campaign, spearheaded by ultra-conservative, anti-choice movements, demanded that the Commission cut off all funding for research on human embryonic stem cells and funding for any organisations that are involved in the provision of indirect or direct abortion or “abortion-related” services in low and middle-income countries. This would have had devastating consequences for women’s health and lives and forced women to seek unsafe abortion services. Already an estimated 47,000 women die each year from complications related to unsafe abortion. Nearly all of these unsafe abortions occur in low- and middle-income countries.

“We saw in the European elections this month a rise in support for socially conservative and anti-choice political groups who wish to roll back the progress made on gender empowerment and women’s rights. With its statement today, the Commission has set an important benchmark for EU support to family planning and SRHR,” said Vicky Claeys of IPPFEN. “This confirms 100% the Commission’s longstanding commitment to the ongoing international talks on a post-2015 development framework to replace the Millennium Development Goals,” she added.

In the field of R&D, Pierre Galand, President of the European Humanist Federation said: “By rejecting “One of Us”, the Commission also clearly renewed its support for human embryonic stem cells research which remains one of the most promising fields for regenerative medicine, reproductive health and genetic disease research.”


For more information about One of Us and EHF mobilisation, see here.

Note to the editor

Signatories: Centre for Reproductive Rights (CRR), DSW (Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung), European Humanist Federation (EHF), European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (EPF), European Women’s Lobby (EWL), and International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN)

The European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI) was created by the Lisbon Treaty in 2010, and acts a mechanism by which European citizens can create a petition and bring it to the European Commission. A citizens’ initiative has to be backed by at least one million EU citizens, coming from at least 7 out of the 28 member states.

The One of Us ECI requests the following:

  • Juridical protection of the dignity, the right to life and of the integrity of every human being from conception in the areas of EU competence in which such protection is of particular importance
  • A ban on and cessation of financing for activities which presuppose the destruction of human embryos, in particular in the areas of research, development aid and public health; this includes a ban on funding for abortion, directly or indirectly, through the funding of organizations that encourage or promote abortion

Approximately 120 million USD in EU development aid is currently spent each year to protect maternal and reproductive health. The ECI calls these funds into question.

The EU’s position is clear – EU development funds to maternal health only goes to fund safe abortion services in countries where abortion is legal. This position has been restated by Development Commissioner Piebalgs on numerous occasions, reflecting aims and objectives of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the “Muskoka Initiative” on improving maternal, newborn and child health and other international initiatives.

Media Contacts

Eoghan Walsh - Mobile: +32 (0)485 399 443 - Email: eoghan.walsh@dsw.org

Ruairi Talbot - Phone: +32 (0)2 500 86 51 - Email: ruairi@epfweb.org

Anna Michalowicz - Mobile: +32 (0)496 734 164 - Email: AMichalowicz@ippfen.org

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