“Preventing a woman from having an abortion calls into question the right to health”

Politician and professor at the Free University of Brussels, Bérengère Marques-Pereira publishes with the editions of the Center for Sociopolitical Research and Information (Crisp) Abortion in the European Union. Actors, issues and speeches. A vast panorama of a controversial issue at a time when attempts at restriction highlight, as in the United States, the possible reversibility of the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy (abortion).

Debates over abortion restrictions are heated in several American countries. Is Europe also heading towards regression, as it is manifested in Poland or as it has been mentioned in Italy?

Europe, where the right of access to abortion is generally recognized, has one of the lowest abortion rates in the world. We are witnessing some timid liberalizations, but also significant regressions. In Poland, we are dealing with a virtual ban [désormais proscrit en cas de malformation grave du fœtus, l’avortement ne reste possible qu’en cas de menace pour la vie de la femme enceinte et si la grossesse est le résultat d’un viol ou d’un inceste]. In Malta, the ban is total.

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In countries with liberal laws, access to abortion is hampered by the overuse of conscientious objection on the part of physicians. This is common in Central Europe, but also in Italy, where the Ministry of Health indicates that 70% of doctors use the conscience clause. It is in a way institutionalized when department heads, for example, force their staff to refuse any post or pre-abortion care. Consequently, the right to abort is made inaccessible on 80% of Italian territory.

It is also necessary to underline the administrative and legal obstacles which, by accumulating, complicate access to abortion: limited legal deadlines, mandatory and infantilizing reflection periods. > [en France, le délai de réflexion de sept jours a été supprimé en 2016], > obligation to ensure the consent of the woman – this is important, but why more than for another medical operation?

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Finally, there are financial barriers. The legal deadline for abortion varies from one state to another (until the 12e week of pregnancy in most, but 22 in the Netherlands), women who exceed it in their country do not have all the means to finance a trip and an intervention abroad. The question of access to contraception also arises upstream. While modern contraceptives are considered “essential drugs” by the World Health Organization, many European states do not reimburse them and subject their access to minors to parental authorization.

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