Birgitta Ohlsson, chairwoman of the centre-right Liberal Party's women's movement, launched a petition last month calling for abortion to be legalised throughout the European Union. The petition, entitled 'Make Noise for Free Choice' is aimed at Ireland, Poland and Malta, all Catholic countries that ban pregnancy terminations.
"From a liberal perspective, the right to abortion is not just a Swedish or European issue, it's a global issue," Ohlsson said.
The petition calls on the European Union "to secure the right to free, safe and legal abortions and render it a human right." It calls for the issue to be reclassified across the union as a human rights issue, rather than be dealt with as a health issue as at present.
Under the Lisbon Treaty, the European Commission must consider proposing Europe-wide legislation if one million signatures can be collected calling for action on a given issue.
The decision to link the abortion question to the treaty has alarmed some pro-Lisbon Irish politicians. Fianna Fáil MEP Brian Crowley told the Irish Times that supporters of the petition "either don't know what is in the EU treaties or are engaging in publicity-seeking stupidity."
Ireland has been issued additional guarantees by the European Council that the treaty will not be used to impose abortion laws.
But speaking to The Local on Monday, Ohlsson denied she wanted Europe-wide legislation:
"We are not pushing for a European law. We're not seeking to change Irish law," she said. If the target of one million signatures was reached, "the Commission would need to raise the issue, but they cannot force countries to do anything."
The petition "is also a great opportunity to support activists in Malta, Ireland or Poland," Ohlsson added.
At the time of writing, the petition had been signed by slightly more than 4,000 people.