Abortion in Europe today

, by The editorial board of Le Taurillon, Translated by Pauline Gessant

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Abortion in Europe today
“Freedom, equality, sexualities. 50 years of fight.” Campaign for the 50th anniversary of the French family planning, 2006. CC - Mouvement français pour le planning familial / French Movement for family planning

Increasingly, in France and Europe, the “Christian roots” of our old continent are evoked. Christian roots that are often shown as having culturally enriched our country, putting aside the more restrictive aspects of religion: the difficulties related to the right to abortion are more eloquent witnesses.

Indeed, there are gross inequalities in terms of accession to the abortion, often related to the weight of religion.

European map of abortion laws

Afficher Abortion laws in Europe on a bigger map

Abortion in Europe: between permissive periods and total prohibition

There is no European harmony, despite vain wishes from Brussels regarding the period allowing the abortion. Most laws in this area flourished during the 1970s in Western Europe.

Eastern Europe, except Romania, were under the Soviet regime: legal abortion up to 12 weeks of amenorrhea (absence of menstruation). Today, most European countries allow abortion based solely on the will of the woman, between 10 and 24 weeks since the last menstrual period.

Some countries resist, somehow, to what is now considered a definite step forward for women’s rights, foremost among which are Poland, Ireland and Malta. In these three countries, the impregnation of the Catholic Church is certain and may explain the ban: the Polish law implementing this prohibition is from 1989, the fall of the Soviet regime.

Malta is one of those countries that still have a state religion, Roman Catholicism. Finally, Ireland is a very Catholic country, which has even put in its Constitution in 1983 an article for the protection of the life of the embryo, except in cases of mortal danger for the mother. Moreover, Cyprus allows abortion in cases of rape or danger for the mother or embryo.

In 2005, upon accession to the European Union, Poland and Malta even tried to include in the accession treaty signed with the Fifteen a statement making unalterable the ban of abortion among them. Other countries refused.

Access to abortion still fraught with pitfalls

Despite all these laws facilitating access to abortion, the access to abortion remains difficult in practice. The sex education is often inadequate and counseling before and after abortion (which is not a trivial matter) is not common.

In France, an appointment with a psychiatrist before the abortion depends on the abortion centers and hospitals and support post-abortion often offers a service in the place of the act. The majority of caregivers agrees that there should be further support to prevent post-abortion trauma.

Furthermore, in October 2010, the Council of Europe wanted to regulate the right to conscientious objection, causing an outcry from the Christian and for the life associations in particular.

Finally, the project was abandoned. The fact remains that currently fewer caregivers are attracted to abortion services, which clearly calls into question in a concrete way, the possibility of an abortion on legal time. Indeed, if no doctor can perform the surgery or prescribe the abortion pill (up to 7 weeks of amenorrhea), abortion may become an obstacle course.

The Schengen area of abortion

Indeed, when the time limit is exceeded in her country, a woman can take advantage of open borders and get abortions abroad. Thus, about 20,000 Irish women come each year to the UK to receive an abortion.

In France it is often in Spain that will help women in distress who have exceeded the 12 weeks allowed since the amendment of the Veil Act of 2001. Spain has, since 2010, a law allowing abortion without any delay. However, it still needed to have one or more medical notices to abort when pregnancy is advanced.

The EU has no competence to legislate on harmonization around the abortion laws. Yet, in a resolution of 3 July 2002, the European Parliament recommends the legalisation to the Member States. The “Christian roots” of the European Union don’t seem to prevent the decline of legislation favorable to abortion.

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