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Morality politics in the European parliament. A qualitative insight into MEPs’ voting behaviour on abortion and human embryonic stem cell research

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Abstract

The literature on morality politics is well-documented, but has mostly taken place at the national level. Yet, morality politics increasingly appears on the European Parliament’s agenda. Abortion has been tackled through parliamentary reports on sexual and reproductive health and rights; while human embryonic stem cell research has been dealt with through the successive European research framework programmes. Using semi-structured interviews with (former) MEPs, this research examines how the central actors involved in these parliamentary debates perceive and explain their vote on these issues. The analysis particularly focuses on the role of religion and values, and uncovers its effects at several levels: national culture, political affiliation and personal believing. In that regard, respondents emphasise the great degree of freedom that the European parliamentary arena offers to its members to express their personal values and convictions – and not exclusively on morality issues.

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... The emergence of prostitution on the political agenda of the EU is not an isolated case, however, but has taken place alongside the emergence of other morality issues. The EU's largely technocratic nature, its focus on consensus-building based on knowledge and expertise, its lack of competences on the matter and its 1 3 respect for pluralism and diversity have tended to keep morality issues at bay (Mondo and Close 2018). Since the 1990s, however, the EU has been creeping competences into new policy domains, such as non-discrimination, human rights or scientific research, which often include morality issues (Foret and Littoz-Monnet 2014). ...
... Their influence is thus bound to take place in the form of a cumulative regulatory evolution. EU actors may play their part as mediators, mainly through soft law instruments which impose no legal obligation on member states but organize the circulation of best practices and connect experts and grassroots practitioners across national borders and policy sectors (Mondo and Close 2018). Prostitution offers a showcase study to assess the relevance of these specific features of EMP regarding an issue that challenges the sovereignty of member states, the usual coalitions of civil society and the balance between social rights and market. ...
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Prostitution is a standard case of morality politics (MP), defined as a particular type of politics that engages issues closely related to religious and/or moral values, giving way to strong and uncompromising value conflicts in both societal and political spheres. This kind of issues have increasingly become a European policy matter due to their transnational nature and the tensions they create between different legal principles. Our hypothesis is that this leads to the emergence of a specific type of European morality politics (EMP) reflecting the particular constraints of the policymaking of the European Union (EU). The purpose of this article is to understand to which extent the rise of prostitution on the EU agenda alters usual patterns of MP to shape a distinctive type of EMP. Our findings suggest that prostitution characterizes EMP albeit with a significant difference, namely the challenge to regulatory inertia through the successful mobilisation of European values by some policy entrepreneurs to promote a neo-abolitionist approach.
... The second group of studies examined processes of agenda setting, political attention, and policy framing (Engeli et al., 2012B;Euchner, 2019;Euchner & Preidel, 2017;Haider-Markel & Meier, 1996;Mucciaroni, 2011). A third, much smaller, group of scholars has explored legislative behavior and patterns of voting (including roll-call votes) with regard to morality policies (Baumann, Debus, & Müller, 2015;Haider-Markel, 1999;Mondo & Close, 2018;Plumb, 2015;Rapp, Traunmüller, Freitag, & Vatter, 2014). Apart from the last group of researchers, most scholars have evaluated traditional explanatory factors from the field of comparative public policy analysis to explore output decisions and politicization patterns. ...
Chapter
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Article
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Chapter
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This paper reassesses the way in which the voting behaviour of individual members of the European Parliament (EP) is influenced by their national and European party delegations. It does so within the previously used framework of one agent with two principals. First, it shows that the previous literature was unable to fully fathom the mechanisms through which the tripartite principal–agent relationship works. Second, it develops a model that looks solely at the votes contested between the European and the national group and the results of the test correct many of the findings of the previous literature. The paper also develops a new theoretical framework of vote cohesion in which the national and European groups are motivated by group norms and external incentives. Finally, the analysis of roll-call votes from the sixth EP finds that the new members from Central and Eastern Europe are more likely to stay with their European group than the members from Western Europe.
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Previous research has identified several structural and situational factors that affect party cohesion in parliamentary voting behaviour. The potential role of leadership has been neglected so far. The authors apply a latent variable approach to model leadership effects in roll call votes from the European Parliament (EP), 1979–2001. Other things being equal, their findings suggest that a small but significant 7 per cent share of the total variance in party group cohesion is due to the party group leaders. About 40 per cent of this leader component can be accounted for by their experience inside the European institutions, their career prospects, and their ideological positions.
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Most European countries face regulatory challenges in the reproduc-tion field that were triggered by feminist claims for reproductive rights and by the technological development of assisted reproductive technologies (ART). State responses to these reproductive challenges differ strongly in terms of regulatory scope and content. By reviewing the explanations offered in the literature, this paper concludes that if institutional arrangements at the national level do not tend to exert a clear systematic and direct impact on abortion and ART policy outputs, strong coherence within the medical community does explain a great deal of the variation among policies. However, it shows that physicians, confronted to strong public controversy, have been forced to accept compromise with their challengers by forging alliances either with women's movements or with pro-life actors.
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This article examines the merits of conscience voting and the historical record of parties imposing discipline when matters of individual conscience are raised in the Australian federal parliament. It examines three examples of conscience voting in which legislators were freed from their normal obligation to vote as their party requires. These involved bills to do with euthanasia, research involving embryonic stem cells, and the abortion drug RU486 — all issues posing parliamentarians with difficult questions of personal morality and highlighting the contentious intersection between religion and politics. Voting records on these bills are examined in detail as is the interaction, once party discipline was removed, between the voting decision and residual party loyalty, gender and religious affiliation. Although parties allowed legislators to vote according to their conscience, party differences remained apparent. However, gender and religious variables did challenge majority party opinion. Conscience voting remains the exception rather than the rule in the Australian parliament. Party leaders on both sides prefer predictable outcomes and to retain executive control of the legislative process.
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The institutionalization of ethics and the direct influence of politics on how ethics bodies frame their opinions have been widely recognized and explored in the last few years. Less attention has been paid to what kind of normative instrument “ethics” as an institutional phenomenon has become in the State under the rule of law, and which institutional powers it has depended on. This paper analyzes the rise of ethics in the European Union context, where ethics, constructed as an isolated set of values, has been exploited for its symbolic capacity to evoke citizenship, has become quite formalized as to certain features, and has acquired the potential to redefine the traditional divisions of powers in the State under the rule of law.
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The European Parliament has become one of the most powerful institutions in the European Union. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) can now enact legislation, amend the European Union budget, veto the nominee for the European Union Commission President, and censure the Commission. But, we know little about what determines MEPs' voting behavior. Do they vote according to their personal policy preferences? Do the EP parties force MEPs to toe the party line? And, when national party and EP party preferences conflict, which way do MEPs respond-to the principals who control their election (the national parties) or the principals who control their influence in the EP (the EP parties)? The results reported here show that national party policies are the strongest predictors of voting behavior in the EP.