Abortion choice by right, hard won, under attack in Europe

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Abortion choice by right, hard won, under attack in Europe

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Thousands of people who defend abortion as a matter of free individual choice by right came to Brussels from all around Europe on Wednesday, to protest against a change in the law being prepared by the government in Spain which imperils that right. This demonstrator explains the commonality of concern.

One demonstrator told us: “I’m here because we have very similar situation in Lithuania, where parliament is studying a ban on abortion.”

Another woman chanted: “Women’s rights must be written into the European Constitution!”

Abortion rights are a matter for countries to decide on their own. The European Union has 28 countries. An initiative in Portugal recently, in concert with others, to make the right to abortion a European right was unsuccessful.

Most of the EU member states are more or less liberal in their positions and legalised abortion not too long ago. Others institutionalised that right far earlier. Some only allow abortion in cases of rape, or where the mother’s health is threatened, or where the foetus is deformed. In Cyprus, it’s only possible in cases of rape. In Malta, abortion can land you in prison for 18 months.

Spain’s socialist government four years ago authorised abortion. It had taken decades to bring that about. Now that could fall. This is a significant case where an acquired, established right could be taken away.

Still other countries have barely made any headway in the debate. Ireland eased its strict position slightly last summer, after a pregnant woman who was forbidden to abort died from health complications. But in Ireland rape is still rejected as grounds for abortion.

French Catholic anti-abortion activists are the most recent to have demonstrated their position, backed by the Pope, also against same-sex marriage, under the Spanish flag, even while the French government has been considering adding flexibility to abortion legislation.