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FACTBOX - Abortion rights across Europe

by Reuters
Thursday, 22 October 2020 17:02 GMT

People protest against imposing further restrictions on abortion law in Warsaw, Poland October 22, 2020. Jedrzej Nowicki/Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS

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Despite it being legal in most of the region, women still face difficulties in getting access to abortion. Here are some key facts on abortion rights in Europe

Oct 22 (Reuters) - Poland's Constitutional Tribunal ruled on Thursday that abortion due to foetal defects was unconstitutional, distancing the predominantly Catholic country further from most of Europe, where legal and safe abortion services are widely available.

Despite it being legal in most of the region, women nevertheless still face difficulties in getting access to abortion in some countries.

Here are some key facts on abortion rights in Europe, based on data from the Centre for Reproductive Rights and World Health Organisation:

- In the European Union, abortion on request (where the decision is made by the woman alone) is legal in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

- Six European countries do not allow abortion on request or have highly restrictive laws. Andorra, Malta and San Marino do not allow abortion at all. Monaco and Liechtenstein allow it only when a woman's health or life is at risk, in the case of rape or due to foetal defects, as Poland had done before Thursday's ruling.

- After the ruling in Poland goes into effect, abortion will be only be permissible there in the case of rape, incest or a threat to the mother's health and life but not if it involves a foetal anomaly.

- Legislation in 15 European countries, including Italy and Spain, still requires a mandatory time period to elapse between the date on which an abortion is first requested and the date on which it takes place.

- In 12 European countries, including Hungary and Germany, women must undergo mandatory counselling or receive mandatory information from their doctors before the abortion.

- In Northern Ireland, almost a year after the British parliament voted to legalise abortion, women still faced challenges, forcing some to continue to travel to England or Ireland. - Abortion is legal in Italy during the first 90 days of pregnancy but it is not always easy to obtain. According to Health Ministry data, 69% of gynaecologists and 46% of anaesthesiologists refused to carry out abortions on grounds of conscience. This has forced some women to travel considerable distances to find a place to terminate a pregnancy.

- Though abortion is legal in Germany, it is still seen as a crime under law if not done under certain circumstances, including that it must be performed within 12 weeks of conception. It can be done later on some medical grounds and if the pregnancy results from rape or sexual abuse.

- Doctors are allowed to refuse to assist in carrying out abortions in Croatia, where some 85% of people declare themselves to be Catholics. (Reporting by Catarina Demony; Additional reporting by Maria Sheahan and Crispian Balmer; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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