This report focuses on the neo-conservative groups and their political agenda of opposing the
laws and policies concerning sexual and reproductive health and rights in the European Union. In the last few years, the member states have witnessed a rise of some new, seemingly grassroots movements.
Those movements, often heavily relying on religious beliefs, are trying to entice citizens to actively participate in ultra-conservative politics regarding issues dealing with family, gender equality, sexuality and reproductive health. The neo-conservative political agenda has been establishing itself as a struggle to defend and protect "endangered" values of "life, family and religious freedom", and a term its proponents love to use as the ultimate argument is "gender ideology". This pseudo-scientific term is used as a political tool to curtail further development of sexual and reproductive health and rights.
All those movements are actually political initiatives that manipulate religious discourse and increasingly utilize public and political space, as well as instruments, to achieve their goals. Those neoconservative groups, including Vatican, have therefore transformed their strategies, initially consisting mostly of silent prayers, and are now trying to impose sexual and reproductive health choices as the center stage political debate. One of the newest features they have adopted into their activity style is a skillful manipulation with citizen participation in public and political life through the civil initiative channels, online media, petition platforms and social networking. These seemingly grassroots initiatives and citizen drafts that tactically use institutionalized power of religious hierarchies, and are often focused on youth population, work as a sort of pressure from the base.
The connection between neo-conservative groups in Europe and their like-minded counterparts in The United States of America is visible in their common political agenda, with American side acting as a "mentor" who shares experiences and active strategies. Their financial links are, however, often hidden.
Good networking and organization, increasingly professional approach, and prevailing lack of transparency in their financial background – all of it are often highlighted as main features of neo-conservative groups. Another one of their recognizable features are blurred lines between secular agents (civil initiatives, civil society organizations and political parties) and religious hierarchies. The significant influence they have started to achieve is disproportional to their real power in (small) numbers, and it is a result of a skillful use of modern communication and IT methods, as well as the civil and political instruments. They also heavily rely on manipulation and misinformation methods.
We analyze their direct political influences through the examples of the organized advocacy actions against accepting the Estrela, Lunacek and Zuber reports in the European Parliament, as well as through the example of European civil initiative called "One of Us". It is obvious that the neo-conservative agents achieve more influence than their support in numbers would imply, and that the whole movement is based on a small, marginal, but very well organized and financed group of advocates for a fundamentalist religious and political agenda. It is also obvious that the final goal of the neo-conservative efforts is gaining political power and including catholic religious values in public policy and legislature, which in itself is an attack on a democratic concept of a secular state.
The final part of the report lists some guidelines for future advocacy actions and strategic confrontations
that would limit the influence of neo-conservative interest groups regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights in the European Union. The guidelines have been grouped in three areas: Monitoring, informing and documenting; Reclaiming values and terminology in advocacy, and Networking and building alliances.