Anti-Gender Groups’ Latest Attempt to Prevent Progress on Abortion Rights in Europe
Anti-gender organisations with links to the far-right and European aristocracy have launched a campaign to prevent the approval of the Matic Report on sexual and reproductive health
A coalition of anti-LGBTIQ, anti-abortion organisations are protesting a draft report guaranteeing access to safe, legal abortion in Europe and committing to remove all barriers impeding full access to sexual and reproductive health services.
The ‘Matic Report’, authored by Croation MEP Predrag Fred Matić, was approved by the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality and calls on EU member states to “establish effective strategies and monitoring programmes that guarantee access to a full range of sexual and reproductive health rights services”, as well as comprehensive sex education.
It will be voted on by the European Parliament this month, although states would not bound by its recommendations.
In response, some of Europe’s largest anti-gender organisations have formed a campaign called ‘Stop Matic Report’. This includes the Centre for Fundamental Rights – an organisation that receives funding from Hungary’s ruling Fidesz Party via the Foundation for Civil Hungary.
The Centre’s group head, Miklós Szánthó, is chairman of the board of trustees of Kesma – a centralised group of media outlets loyal to the Hungarian Government. Despite its name, the Centre wants “to form a counter against today’s overgrown human rights-fundamentalism and political correctness” and Szánthó notoriously wrote an article using the offensive term “libtard”.
The presence of the Centre in the coalition is an example of an EU member state government actively contributing to attempts to undermine and attack women’s rights in the region.
Polish Lawyers and German Aristocrats
The administrator of the Stop Matic Report petition is Ordo Iuris – a Poland-based anti-abortion organisation that, in 2016, drafted a law to ban abortion entirely in the country. Last year, it was influential in campaigning to ban abortion in cases of foetal defect in Poland, where abortion is banned except where there is a threat to the mother’s life, in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, rape or incest. Iuris has recently launched its own university in Warsaw.
A report published last year, ‘Modern Day Crusaders in Europe‘, authored by Neil Datta, explained how Ordo Iuris is one of three groups that “appears to be the national antennae of the transnational, socially conservative, Catholic-inspired lay organisation called Tradition, Family and Property (TFP)”.
He explained how “the most recent TFP innovation has been to expand into litigation and policy development with the creation of Ordo Iuris in Poland… Ordo Iuris is the first experiment in developing legal and policy expertise which has been active in ‘law-fare’ processes before the Polish courts and European Institutions”.
Speaking to Emerging Europe last month, Ordo Iuris’ Tymoteusz Zych said that “it is not ‘inspired’ by the TFP movement, neither it is part of it”.
TFP is “an active European network with positions against sexual and reproductive rights (SRR) among its priorities”. Its “representative to the EU” is a scion of European aristocracy, Duke Paul of Oldenburg, who has repeated the far-right ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory, which posits that migration from the Global South risks turning Europe into an Islamic state.
His cousin Beatrix von Storch is deputy leader of the far-right, anti-abortion Alternative for Germany party. She was accused of being part of Demo Fur Alle – another member of the Stop Matic Report coalition – but Demo Fur Alle denied the claims. Her maternal grandfather was the finance minister during Hitler’s regime.
Ordo Iuris is also linked to the anti-gender network Agenda Europe, and hosted its 2016 summit in Warsaw. This connects it to another of the organisations involved in the Stop Matic Report coalition: ‘One Of Us’, a transnational anti-abortion organisation.
One Of Us
One Of Us started life as a citizens’ initiative organised by CitizenGO, a Madrid-based organisation that launches global petitions and is linked to Spain’s far-right Vox Party. It sought to “greatly advance the protection of human life from conception in Europe” by ending “the financing of activities which presuppose the destruction of human embryos, in particular in the areas of research, development aid and public health”.
CitizenGO is running its own petition in protest at the Matic report.
Agenda Europe cited the One Of Us initiative in its leaked manifesto document ‘Restoring the Natural Order’. Listing possible strategies to achieve its aim of banning abortion globally, the authors wrote: “Follow-up on One Of Us: reiterate the demands of the successful petition at every occasion, until the EU takes action”.
It explains how “in the aftermath of the European Citizens’ Initiative One Of Us, there is now a momentum towards a European federation of pro-life organisations”.
Today, One Of Us has a presence in 24 EU countries in which it campaigns against women’s reproductive freedoms. Its UK members are anti-abortion groups 40 Days For Life and Right To Life – the latter currently provides the secretariat for the Pro-Life All-Party Parliamentary Group. Right To Life’s patrons include MPs Jacob Rees-Mogg, Fiona Bruce, Maria Caulfied, Sir Edward Leigh and numerous other politicians.
Meanwhile, 40 Days For Life is a branch of a US anti-abortion organisation which, throughout Lent, protests outside reproductive health clinics. Its director of international campaigns is a board member for the Centre for Bio-Ethical Research, which in 2019 posted a graphic billboard outside Labour MP Stella Creasy’s office.
Marriage, Sex and Culture
The UK representative in the Stop Matic Report coalition is the Marriage, Sex and Culture group, linked to Anglican Mainstream International. A January event organised by the group featured speakers with links to Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP – vice-chair of the Pro-Life All-Party Parliamentary Group. Speakers also shared conspiracy theories about Donald Trump’s electoral defeat, claiming that the 6 January storming of the US Capitol was organised by “Antifa”, as well as pro-conversion therapy content.
The group campaigns against so-called “cultural Marxism” – a term increasingly used by the far-right in response to issues as diverse as sex education to footballers taking the knee in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. The term has been criticised by Jewish organisations as being anti-Semitic.
Some of the organisations listed in the coalition are linked to CitizenGO and HazetOir, as well as other transnational anti-rights movements such as the US-organised World Congress of Families, via the Women of the World platform. The platform rails against radical feminism and what the religious and far-right call “gender ideology” – sexual and reproductive rights. Shared members include Pro Vita Bucharest, Pro Vita & Famiglia, Femina Europe.
Slovakia’s anti-abortion MP Anna Záborská has also attacked the Matic Report, submitting a proposal calling on Slovakia’s Parliament to remind the European Parliament that health policies, including on reproductive health, fall under the competences of nation states. Two organisations from Slovakia are in the coalition.
The report will be voted on by the European Parliament before the end of the month.
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