As France becomes the only country to protect the right to abortion in its constitution specifically, other Europeans consider the U.S. rollback of abortion access and worry that it could happen here.

Abortion is widely allowed throughout Europe, and countries have increasingly expanded abortion rights, with few exceptions.

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Women can have abortions in around 40 European countries, ranging from Portugal to Russia, with varied restrictions on how late in the pregnancy it is permitted. Abortion is illegal or strictly regulated in Poland and a few other small nations.

FRANCE ENSHRINES ABORTION AS A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT IN WAKE OF DOBBS RULE; ACTIVISTS CLAIM ‘A VICTORY’

“It may not be a problem now in France, where the majority of people favour abortion. However, the same individuals may one day vote for a far-right administration, and what occurred in the United States may happen in Europe,” said Mathilde Philip-Gay, a law professor and expert in French and American constitutional law. 

The inscription into France’s constitution will “make it harder for future opponents of abortion to challenge these rights.”

Here is a look at current changes in abortion rights in certain European countries:

POLAND

In Poland, which is largely Catholic, abortion is illegal in virtually all situations, with the exception of when a woman’s life or health is in jeopardy or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. 

For many years, abortion was permitted in the case of fetuses with congenital abnormalities. That was overturned in 2020.

Abortion-Europe

On May 12, 2022, people protested in Zagreb, Croatia, in support of a lady who was denied an abortion despite the fact that her fetus had major health concerns. 

In heavily Catholic Croatia, prominent conservative and religious groups attempted to outlaw abortion but were unsuccessful. 

However, many doctors refuse to terminate pregnancies, requiring Croatian women to fly to neighbouring countries for the operation.

The limitations have resulted in fatalities, mainly among women who were later in their pregnancies and desired to have a child. 

Women’s rights campaigners claim that physicians in Poland are now waiting for a fetus with little chance of survival to die in the womb rather than performing an abortion. Several women in such circumstances got sepsis and died.

Abortion is a heated subject in the new government. Many of those who voted for Donald Tusk’s government want the rule to be relaxed, but conservatives in the coalition are opposed; legislators are arguing whether it should be resolved by a referendum.

BRITAIN

The 1967 Abortion Act in the United Kingdom partially legalized abortion, allowing it up to 24 weeks of pregnancy with the approval of two doctors. 

Later, abortions are permitted in certain conditions, including threats to the mother’s life.

However, in England and Wales, women who have abortions beyond 24 weeks may face prosecution under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. 

Last year, a 45-year-old woman in England was sentenced to 28 months in prison for obtaining abortion drugs online to cause a miscarriage while she was 32 to 34 weeks pregnant. Following a public uproar, her sentence was lowered.

Parliament is set to vote this month on whether to repeal the relevant provision of the 1861 statute. However, physicians who help women in terminating pregnancies with late abortions may still face charges. 

Abortion is less polarizing in the United Kingdom than it is in the United States, and the move is expected to pass with cross-party support.

Western Balkans

The former Communist-run Yugoslavia began increasing abortion rights in the 1950s, and they were enshrined in the 1974 Constitution, which stated: “A person is free to decide whether to have children. This right may be restricted exclusively for the purpose of health protection.”

After the federation broke in brutal battles in the 1990s, its former republics upheld outdated abortion restrictions.

Serbia’s 2006 Constitution provides that “everyone has the right to decide on childbirth.” There have been requests to rescind this, but solely from marginalized groups.

In heavily Catholic Croatia, prominent conservative and religious groups attempted to outlaw abortion but were unsuccessful. However, many doctors refuse to provide abortions, requiring Croatian women to fly to neighbouring countries for the surgery. In 2022, Croatia experienced protests after a lady was denied an abortion despite the fact that her baby had health concerns.

MALTA

Last year, Malta relaxed the European Union’s harshest abortion rule after an American tourist who miscarried had to be evacuated off the Mediterranean island nation for treatment.

The new Maltese legislation remains severe, requiring a woman to be at risk of death in order to seek an abortion, and only when three specialists consent. If the risk of death is imminent, just one doctor’s approval is required.

Until the new legislation, Malta had prohibited abortion for any reason, with regulations making it a criminal punishable by up to three years in jail to perform the surgery or up to four years to aid a woman in having one.

ITALY AND SAN MARINO

Italy defied Vatican pressure and provided abortion access beginning in 1978, enabling women to terminate pregnancies on their own desire within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy or later if their health or life is in danger.

The 1978 law permits medical workers in the predominantly Roman Catholic country to register as conscientious objectors, which in reality frequently restricts women’s access to the operation or causes them to travel vast distances to acquire one.

San Marino, a tiny territory bordered by Italy and one of the world’s oldest republics, was one of the last European governments to ban abortion in all circumstances until 2022 when it legalized the operation within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

RUSSIA

Although abortion is legal and readily available in Russia, officials are actively working to limit access to it as President Vladimir Putin promotes “traditional values” in an effort to unify people behind the flag and stimulate population growth.

In Russia, women can abort a pregnancy up to 12 weeks without condition, 22 weeks if raped, and at any stage for medical reasons.

The pressure on abortion rights rose with Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Since 2023, seven Russian regions have enacted legislation penalizing anybody found to “coerce” women into abortions.

In a number of locations, including Russian-occupied Crimea, private clinics have refused to perform abortions, forcing women to go to state healthcare facilities, where appointments take longer, and doctors frequently persuade women to maintain their pregnancies.

 

This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members

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