It’s January 2017 and looking back, I can say it was literally yesterday when I spent 28 full hours in Brussels! Though to think about this experience, I need to go back to the beginning of summer: that’s when I joined the team working on the very preliminary preparations for the Polish Abortion rights project.
This project was a partnership between CHOICE For Youth and Sexuality, ASTRA, ASTRA Youth and YouAct. The idea of joining forces for a youth-led advocacy project was a product of the growing concerns about the current state of abortion rights in Poland. Earlier this year, the Polish government made worrying moves to restrict access to abortion services for women by drafting a new bill which would impede women in Poland from accessing health care services and even facing legal action in most cases. Only a few weeks before we headed to Brussels, the Polish government announced the date for the national debate to decide whether this bill should be passed, which would make Polish abortion law the most restrictive within the European region.
Suddenly, this project and the visit to the European Parliament in mid-October was not only perfectly timed, but we also had a privileged position. We followed the news coming from Poland with uneasy and inspired eyes at the same time. Polish women and men had organised themselves acknowledging the suffering this restriction on women’s rights could be silently announcing. There they stood, wearing black as a metaphor for their grief, women of all ages, both on the streets of the most populated Polish cities, as well as in Strasbourg as they attended a debate on how could the European Parliament take a decisive role in these political tensions regarding fundamental human rights.
And there we arrived, five young women and men from Ireland, the UK, Spain, Croatia, and the Netherlands, given the opportunity to bring this issue to different actors at the European Parliament. With our own abortion circumstances, and long-lasting involvement in youth-led SRHR advocacy, we were there to raise our concerns about this worrying situation. We were there to ask the European Parliament to act upon these political tensions in Poland, as well as to keep abortion rights, and SRHRs in general on the agenda. We were there to share our knowledge, specially through a factsheet we had developed for the occasion, and to let them know that neither Polish women, nor ourselves are alone in this one: on the day of the Polish debate on the Abortion Bill we had shared a statement giving words to our concerns, which got more than 50 endorsements in less than 24 hours!
Talking about records, I can say I spend 28 hours in Brussels this year, my shortest international trip so far! But it took much longer to realize how relevant our trip was to the project. With the excitement of the moment, I could not see the timely pertinence of our hard collaborative work and the outcomes for the near future. On that side of Europe, they are looking forward to hearing back from us, to hear our concerns regarding youth SRHR. We have a lot to say when analyzing how public policy can strongly contribute to the impairment and advancement of sexual and reproductive health and rights. This project is the living proof that youth matters in SRHR and that we must be given a voice in politics. They are now only waiting for us to raise it again the European Parliament. Let’s just make sure it is even more of us next time!
Regarding the situation in Poland, the fight is not over, it has only started. I am more than sure that we, European youth SRHR advocates, will continue to be encouraged, inspired, by Polish women in their fight for their fundamental rights. We are on your side, always.
Cristina Moreno Lozano,
YouAct member from Spain
You can view photos from the advocacy visit to Brussels here.