Despite it being legal in most of Europe, women face difficulties in getting access to abortion in some countries. The problem has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic which has stretched healthcare services and closed borders.
Here are some facts on abortion rights in Europe, based on data from the Centre for Reproductive Rights and the World Health Organization:
– In the European Union, abortion on request (where the decision is made by the woman alone) is legal in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
– Six European countries do not allow abortion on request or have highly restrictive laws. Malta, Andorra and San Marino do not allow abortion. Monaco and Liechtenstein allow it only when a woman’s health or life is at risk, in the case of rape or due to foetal defects. If an October court ruling in Poland goes into effect, abortion will only be permissible in the case of rape, incest or a threat to the mother’s health and life.
– Legislation in 15 European countries, including Italy and Spain, requires a mandatory time period to elapse between the date on which an abortion is requested and the date on which it takes place.
– In 12 European countries, including Hungary and Germany, women must undergo mandatory counselling or receive mandatory information from their doctors before an abortion.
– In Northern Ireland, after the British parliament voted to legalise abortion in 2019, women still face challenges, forcing some to continue to travel to England or Ireland.
– Abortion is legal in Italy during the first 90 days of pregnancy but is not always easy to obtain. According to Health Ministry data, 69% of gynaecologists and 46% of anaesthesiologists refused to carry out abortions on grounds of conscience. This has forced some women to travel considerable distances to find a place to terminate a pregnancy.
– Though abortion is legal in Germany, it is seen as a crime if not done under certain circumstances, including that it must be performed within 12 weeks of conception. It can be done later on some medical grounds and if the pregnancy results from rape or sexual abuse.
– Doctors are allowed to refuse to assist in carrying out abortions in Croatia, where some 85% of people declare themselves Catholic. (Reuters)