Today the Council of Europe voted by 102 votes to 69 (14 abstentions) to decriminalise abortion.
While the report is non-binding, ie. it cannot legally force any Council of Europe Member State to change it's legislation, it provides strong evidence of the level of consensus reached across Europe. Going forward this vote will be referred to in the European Court of Human Rights and by the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Council of Europe.
The Report requires a response of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, composed of the 47 national Minister in charge of health, to respond to the Parliamentary Assembly's requests to decriminalise abortion and take action on improving access to contraception. Concretely, this would mean that all of Europe's Ministers would have to discuss the possibility of a common European approach to decriminalising abortion.
It should be remembered that it is exactly via this Council of Europe mechanism, that the first steps towards the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation were raised back in the 1970s and 1980s and are now a basic condition of membership in the Council of Europe and the European Union.
Similarly, it is via conditions agreed within the Council of Europe that all European countries have now abolished the death penalty.
In sum, this is the first ever an official text agreed by an European Institution explicitly calls for a de-criminalisation of abortion across Europe on the basis of women’s rights. It is a significant victory for pro-choice advocates.