Abortion in the EU: equal rights for all?

In Poland, the right of women to have an abortion is to be restricted, the Council of Europe complains that the right to an abortion does not exist for all women in Italy… What about the right to an abortion in Europe?

Abortion rights not the same across the EU

Abortion is permitted in most European Union states with a so-called deadline regulation. But in many places there are differences between what is laid down in the legal texts and what is actually happening.

According to the criteria established by the UN , countries can be divided into the following categories in relation to abortion.

The “Advanced”

This group includes most of the EU countries such as France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany, but also countries with a Catholic tradition such as Italy, Portugal and Spain. Here, the abortion desire by the woman is permit up to the 10th or 12th week of pregnancy, up to the 24th week of pregnancy in the Netherlands and Great Britain, in Sweden up to the 18th week.

In general, the woman may terminate the pregnancy at her own request. Luxembourg, for example, this is possible up to the 12th week, but the woman has to go through a whole series of consultations and bureaucratic hurdles. The UK and Finland, women need the doctor’s consent and must show they are in good physical and mental health.

Germany, conflict counseling for pregnant women is require by law so that abortion is permit with impunity. This counseling must not take place in the hospital where the abortion is perform. In Austria there are similar rules as in Germany. In Switzerland, the deadline regulation up to the 12th week of pregnancy has been in effect since 2002, after it was decided in a referendum.

The “Restrictive”

In Poland, abortion is only allow in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother or malformation of the foer. In the case of rape or incest, the termination of pregnancy is possible up to the 12th week, in the case of medical reasons up to the 24th week.

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Because of the restrictive regulations, there are illegal abortions. Wealthier Polish women go to Germany, Great Britain or the Netherlands to have an abortion, while fewer rich women try to trigger a miscarriage by taking massive amounts of osteoarthritis medication.

The topic is currently also being discuss controversially in Poland, and the Catholic Church is calling for a ban .

Since July 2013, Ireland has only allow abortion if the woman’s life is at risk. This risk must be confirm by a doctor.

Supporters of the ban on abortion

Abortion is completely forbidden in Europe only in Malta, where abortions can be punish with 18 months to 3 years imprisonment. Abortions are also illegal in Cyprus, but they can be perform by a doctor if there is a confirm risk to the mother or child.

Reality does not always correspond to the law

France is one of the most liberal countries when it comes to abortions. The procedure is fully reimbursed by health insurance. Nevertheless, there are obstacles here too, because not enough doctors want to carry out abortions. Medical professionals may refuse to perform abortions on ethical grounds.

According to the Council of Europe, many obstacles stand in the way of Italian women on the way to having an abortion. In Italy, too, there is a lack of medical staff in many places who could give women access to abortion.

In Spain, the existing rules are constantly being questioned .

Abortion rights are under threat in Poland. A draft law would increase the maximum sentence for illegal abortions from two to five years. In addition, abortions should only be allowe in the case of danger to the life of the mother.

A uniform European regulation?

In 2013, the European Parliament reject Portuguese MEP Edite Estrela’s call for abortion rights. The majority of MEPs from the European People’s Party oppose the socialist’s proposal. Since then, there have been hardly any attempts to establish a uniform regulation of abortion in Europe – on the contrary…

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Abortion procedure

For the abortion, you need an appointment in a doctor’s office or clinic that performs abortions. The pregnancy counseling center supports you in finding a suitable doctor. You will also find a list of medical practices and clinics that perform abortions at the German Medical Association.

How does an abortion work? During the preliminary consultation, the gynecologist will first examine you and discuss with you which abortion method will be use. Here you can also ask questions about the procedure and medical risks. You must also present the counseling slip or the medical or criminological indication.

Medical termination of pregnancy with Mifegyne®

Medical abortion is possible up to the 9th week of pregnancy (from the first day of the last menstrual period). After the examination, you will first receive the drug Mifegyne® with the active ingredient mifepristone. The active substance blocks the effect of the body’s own progesterone and initiates its termination. A day or two later, you will be a prostaglandin supplement at a second doctor’s visit. Both drugs can also be take at home. Menstrual-like bleeding then occurs, during which the pregnancy tissue is expel. The bleeding can last for several days and is sometimes very heavy. If the bleeding is significantly heavier than you are use to from your menstruation, you should have a doctor examine you to be on the safe side.

Surgical termination of pregnancy: suction or scraping

The surgical abortion is perform with a local anesthetic or a short general anaesthetic. The most common and gentlest method is suction. A thin tube is insert through the cervix, and the lining and amniotic sac are suction out. The operation takes five to ten minutes. Sometimes a scraping is necessary, in which the mucous membrane and amniotic sac are remove with surgical instruments. Abdominal pain and bleeding may occur after termination.

Risks and side effects of different abortion methods

All of the described medical abortions are very safe. Rarely, complications such as inflammation can occur, but these can be treat well. If you have severe bleeding, pain, fever or a bad-smelling discharge after an abortion, you should see a doctor.

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Many myths still circulate about the risks of abortion. Here are the facts: Abortion does not cause infertility and it does not affect the risk of breast cancer or subsequent miscarriage. They do not regularly lead to psychological problems or problems in the partnership. As a rule, women decide very carefully whether or not to have an abortion, and most of them are satisfy with the decision in the long term.

Termination of pregnancy after the 12th week

If the health of the pregnant woman would be endanger by the continuation of the pregnancy, an abortion is also possible at a later point in the pregnancy. This “medical indication” must be confirm by a doctor. Another doctor may then carry out the termination.

If the pregnancy is terminate after the 20th week of pregnancy, the fetus is inject with a solution of potassium chloride, which leads to cardiac arrest. The birth is then induce with medication.

You also have the right to free psychosocial counseling before and after a late abortion – for example at the AWO pregnancy counseling centers.

Aftercare and Feelings

Many women feel both sadness and relief after an abortion. The hormonal change can lead to strong and changing feelings. Long-term psychological complications, on the other hand, are very rare. A discussion at a counseling center will support you even after a break-up.

Regardless of the method chosen, a few days of rest and recovery are recommend. After 10-14 days, a gynecological follow-up examination is necessary.

After the abortion, if contraception is not available, it is possible to get pregnant again straight away. You can get information about sex and contraception immediately after the abortion from the gynecologist’s practice or from the pregnancy counseling center.

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