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Council of Europe warns on backlash to abortion access

A backlash towards access to abortion in some EU member states up to now few years is “deeply troubling”, the Council of Europe warned on Tuesday (5 December).

In the bulk of EU nations abortions are authorized, however in some states a wave of “retrogressive restrictions” are threatening women’s health and well-being, the European human rights organisation’s report stated.

  • The Council of Europe emphasised that intercourse schooling is one of probably the most essential issues in guaranteeing women’s sexual and reproductive health. (Photo: Nina Burge)

Proposals for a near-total bans on abortion have been tabled in recent times in Lithuania, Slovakia, Spain and Poland, the report states.

Perhaps probably the most high-profile instance of the backlash is Poland, the place in 2016 a proposed invoice to utterly outlaw abortions was tabled – however later blocked within the wake of large citizen demonstrations.

Poland can also be amongst these nations the place the council has considerations about “retrogressive” courtroom selections, corresponding to that from the Polish Constitutional Tribunal which abolished a requirement that docs who refuse to carry out terminations to refer their affected person to an alternate medical supplier.

Today Poland has some of the strictest legal guidelines on abortion within the EU, alongside the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland (half of the UK, however with separate provisions on abortion) and Malta – which prohibits abortion in all conditions.

In September 2014 the Spanish authorities failed to attain consensus over a proposal making abortion unlawful, besides in instances of rape or when the mom’s health is in danger.

In Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania, the council report finds, a variety of standards that pregnant women should fulfil earlier than they will get hold of authorized abortion providers, resembling “biased counselling requirements prior to abortion” and “medically unnecessary waiting periods”, are promoted.

These preconditions have been repeatedly criticised for impinging on women’s rights, as they don’t seem to be in keeping with the suggestions of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for a protected abortion.

Most of these anti-abortion initiatives have been defeated – besides in Slovakia – following large-scale protests. But the report warns they illustrate “the extent and nature of the backlash to the advancement of women’s rights and gender equality in some parts of Europe.”

Given the “resurgent trend” looking for to roll again protections on this area – women’s sexual and reproductive rights – established solely after “a long struggle” have to be protected, stated the council’s commissioner for human rights Nils Muiznieks.

Another main challenge, the council studies, is that some states failed to undertake measures to make sure that women can access authorized abortion providers when medical professionals refuse care “on grounds of conscience or religion”.

In Italy, the place abortion has been authorized because it was permitted by means of a referendum in 1978, roughly 70 % of docs refuse to present abortions, the report states.

The European Union has lengthy supported protected and authorized abortion.

Speaking in March 2017, after US president Donald Trump’s announcement on re-introducing a ban of US improvement funds being utilized by organisations that perform abortions, EU improvement commissioner Neven Mimica stated the EU’s funds help “a wide spectrum of services allowed by the country’s legal framework, including safe abortion.”

In a February 2017’s suggestion, the European Parliament referred to as on EU member states to considerably improve “sexual and reproductive health and rights funding and launching an international fund to finance access to birth control and safe and legal abortion.”

In February 2017 some European Parliament’s teams – the Liberal Alde, the centre left S&D, and the novel left GUE/NGL) recognised the “severe conservative backlash” in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in “Hungary, Poland, UK and other countries”.

The parliament additionally stated in 2016 that sexual and reproductive health and rights have to be “respected, protected and fulfilled” by member states, and have to be free from “coercion, discrimination and violence.”


The Council of Europe emphasised that intercourse schooling is one of probably the most crucial issues in guaranteeing women’s sexual and reproductive health.

This is particularly so contemplating the “high numbers” of individuals who nonetheless don’t use condoms or different efficient strategies of contraception.

A 2016’s report on adolescent health and well-being by the Lancet revealed that sexually transmitted infections are a big drawback in Europe.

And the World Health Organization identified final week that in 2016 Europe registered 160,000 new cases of HIV, 80 % of which is in japanese European nations.

Although a number of European nations have established intercourse schooling programmes of some sort, info offered just isn’t medically “accurate, scientific and age-appropriate” in a quantity of states, or is concentrated on a “preparation for family life”, the council stated.

In addition, in Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, intercourse schooling both stays voluntary or insurance policies permit youngsters to be withdrawn from courses.

Even although it’s a competence of the member states to formulate and implement insurance policies on health and on schooling, the EU has a transparent place on the difficulty.

In a February’s report on equality between women and males within the European Union, the parliament stated that “education and information policies for teenagers, young people and adults” are crucial to make sure that EU residents profit from good sexual and reproductive health.

Member states, the parliament added, ought to “promote gender equality in their comprehensive sex and relationship education programmes, including teaching girls and boys about relationships based on consent, respect and reciprocity.”

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