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Leaders of Religious, Women’s Rights and Human Rights Groups Call on European Parliament to Repudiate Extremist Exhibit Abusing Memory of Shoah Victims

November 28, 2005

More than 500 groups endorse call for European Parliament to act

BRUSSELS—Today, leaders of religious and women’s rights and human rights groups delivered a collective statement to Josep Borrell-Fontelles, President of the European Parliament, to protest an exhibit comparing abortion to the Shoah that appeared with the approval of the relevant authorities at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The statement called on President Borrell-Fontelles to distance himself and the Parliament from the position of the extremists’ exhibition.

Elfriede Harth, the European representative for Catholics for a Free Choice, which initiated the letter, explained, “This exhibit comes at a time when Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz has announced his intention to pursue an antiabortion agenda in the European Parliament. If this exhibit is any indicator of the style of such an effort, it seems that the Parliament will become embroiled in an ongoing and vicious debate, similar to that in the US about abortion. It is thus critical that Parliamentary authorities immediately repudiate this type of advocacy.”

A letter signed by more than 500 leaders of religious, women’s rights and human rights organizations expressed outrage at the exhibit, stating, “We deplore the fact that while Europe is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the liberation from Nazi totalitarianism, the European Parliament, founded with the aim of preventing the horrors of the 20th century from ever happening again, should become the space for abusing the memory of Shoah victims.”

The statement continued, “The EU has in reality been instrumental in advancing an international consensus on women’s human rights and in particular women’s reproductive rights creating the legal and cultural foundations for the highest standard of health and well-being for women around the world. We feel deeply concerned that the political culture in the European Parliament will be degraded if the leadership of the Parliament and the majority of MEPs do not stand up to defend the values and principles of the EU from attacks by religious extremists.”

The exhibition was removed from display once it was learned that the ultraconservative and Eurosceptic party League of Polish Families, supported by the Polish Catholic church, the Polish Association for the Protection of Human Life and some Polish MEPs, had presented misleading information to building management to get the exhibition mounted.

According to June Jacobs, honorary president of the International Council of Jewish Women, “The obscene comparisons made in this exhibition between abortion and the Shoah are an affront both to women who choose to end their pregnancies in this way and to those who died during the Shoah. The European Parliament should take steps towards distancing itself from such ugly rhetoric.”

To view a copy of the statement, please click here.