Staunchly Catholic populations in Ireland, Malta and Poland are opposed to abortion. Photo: Mariacki church in Gdansk, Poland (Photo: EUobserver.com)

The EU has no power (competence) to legislate on allowing or not allowing abortion. However, in September 1991, the European Court of Justice decided in the case of SPUC v. Grogan that abortion could constitute a service within the meaning of Article 50 TEC. As a result, Ireland, a Member State with strict anti-abortion law, asked for a protocol to the Treaty of Maastricht to avoid the possibility of EU laws (the acquis) overriding national law.

In December 2002, Malta obtained a similar provision during its membership negotiations.

Poland is another acceding country where abortion is outlawed. It has had an individual agreement (unilateral declaration) concerning abortion and morality annexed to its accession treaty.


In July 2002, an EU Parliament resolution called for legal access to abortion in both Member States and candidate countries.