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Europe: Failures to guarantee safe access to abortion endangers health of women, girls amid COVID-19

  • 100 groups call for urgent measures to safeguard access to abortion
  • Poland prepares to debate draconian law to further restrict abortion

European governments should urgently guarantee safe and timely access to abortion care for women and girls in the region during the COVID-19 pandemic, 100 nongovernmental organizations said today.  

Many women and girls in Europe are struggling to safely access abortion care during the pandemic as barriers caused by highly restrictive abortion laws and onerous administrative requirements to access abortion services make safe access to this essential health care extremely difficult. The call comes as Poland’s parliament prepares to debate a draconian new law that would make one of the region’s most highly restrictive abortion laws significantly more stringent.

“European governments must act urgently to guarantee safe and timely access to abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Leah Hoctor, Regional Director for Europe, Center for Reproductive Rights.

They should move swiftly to eradicate all medically unnecessary requirements that hamper access to abortion care and should authorize women to access early medical abortion from their homes.”

Governments should recognize abortion as essential health care and should take measures to ensure that women and girls can safely access abortion care. 

European governments must act urgently to guarantee safe and timely access to abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic

Leah Hoctor, Regional Director for Europe, Center for Reproductive Rights

Most governments in the region have not implemented measures to ensure safe and timely access to essential sexual and reproductive health services, supplies or information during the pandemic, including for at-home management of medical abortion.  Many hospitals and clinics have reduced reproductive health services to a bare minimum, or closed altogether due to staff shortages and reassignments, among other reasons. In many places, accessing normal clinical services has become extremely difficult.

Restrictions to reproductive health services disproportionately affect women living in poverty, women with disabilities, Roma women, undocumented migrant women, adolescents, trans and gender non-binary people, and women at risk of or who are survivors of domestic and sexual violence.  

Particular concerns arise in relation to those six European countries where abortion is still illegal or severely restricted and in countries where, due to a range of barriers such as administrative processes or doctor’s refusals of care due to their private beliefs, women are often forced to travel abroad to access abortion care or to obtain abortion medication from other countries by post.  

The harmful impact of these highly restrictive laws and barriers are compounded in the current context as it may now be impossible for women to travel to access legal abortion abroad or to obtain medication sent by post from medical providers in other countries.

“Whilst the pandemic is impacting every aspect of our lives, it should not be used as an excuse to undermine women’s rights to make decisions regarding their reproductive and health rights,” said Caroline Hickson, IPPF EN Regional Director.

For more information or to arrange an interview contact:

Amnesty International

[email protected] / +447936766445 or +44 2030365599 

Human Rights Watch: Hillary Margolis, Senior Researcher on Women’s Rights, [email protected], +44 7733486524 or +1 917 385 4107

Center for Reproductive Rights: Geraldine Henrich-Koenis, [email protected]

IPPF EN

Caroline Hickson, Regional Director, [email protected],+32 491 908767 

SIGNATORIES:

Abortion Rights Campaign, Ireland

Albanian Center for Population and Development

Amnesty International

Amrita Association, Hungary

Association des Femmes de l’Europe Meridionale

Association européenne pour la défense des droits de l’homme (AEDH)

Association for Human Rights and Civic Participation PaRiter, Croatia

Association for promotion of women’s action Tiiiit! Inc., North Macedonia

Association Mnémosyne, France

Association of Women of Southern Europe (AFEM)

Associazione italiana donne per lo sviluppo, Italy

Associazione Luca Coscioni, Italy

ASTRA Network

Austrian Family Planning Association

Bibija Roma Women Center, Serbia

British Pregnancy Advisory Service

Bureau Clara Wichmann, Foundation for strategic litigation for gender equality, Netherlands

C.G.I.L. Confederazione Italiana del Lavoro, Italy

Center for Curricular Development and Gender Studies: FILIA , Romania

Center for Reproductive Rights

CESI – Center for Education, Counselling and Research, Croatia

Citizen, democracy and Accountability, Slovakia

Clio. Femmes, Genre, Histoire, France

Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment, Ireland

Concord Research Center for Integration of International Law in Israel

Cyprus Family Planning Association

Danish Family Planning Association

Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung (DSW)

Doctors for Choice Ireland

Doctors for Choice Malta

Doctors for Choice UK

Encore féministes

Equipop

European Humanist Federation

European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights

European Roma Rights Centre

European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health (ESC)

European Women Lawyers Association

Family Planning Association of Moldova

Federación Planificación Estatal, Spain

Fédération des Centres Pluralistes de Planning Familial, Belgium

Federation for Women and Family Planning, Poland

Fédération laïque des centres de planning familial – FLCPF, Belgium

Femmes solidaires, France

Forum femmes méditerranée

Freedom of Choice / Možnosť voľby, Slovakia

Fundación para la Convivencia Aspacia, Spain

Garance, Belgium

German Women Lawyers’ Association

Helia Association, Spain

HERA – Health education and research association, North Macedonia

Human Rights Watch

Humanists UK

International Commission of Jurists

International Federation for Professionals in Abortion and Contraception (FIAPAC)

International Planned Parenthood Federation – European Network

IPAS

Irish Family Planning Association

Kosovar Gender Studies Center

L.A.I.G.A, Italy

L’ Associació de Drets Sexuals i Reproductius, Spain

La Ligue des droits de l’Homme, France

Latvian Association for Family Planning and Sexual Health

Le Planning Familial, France

London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign

Médecins du monde-France

Nane, Hungary

National platform for reproductive justice, Croatia

National Women’s Council of Ireland

Patent Association, Hungary

Planning Familial Luxembourg

Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)

pro familia Bundesverband, Germany

Rape Crisis Network Ireland

Regards de Femmes, France

Rutgers, Netherlands

Santé Sexuelle Suisse, Switzerland

Sarajevo Open Centre, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sensoa, Belgium

Serbian Association for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Sex og Politikk, Norway

Society Without Violence, Armenia

SOS Rijeka – Center for Nonviolence and Human Rights, Croatia

Swedish Association for Sexuality Education

Tajik Family Planning Association

Union des Familles Laïques – UFAL, France

Union Women Center, Georgia

Väestöliitto – The Family Federation of Finland

Vita di donna, Italy

Voice for Choice – L-għażla tagħha, Malta

Wales Assembly of Women

WAVE Network – Women Against Violence Europe

Women Center “Light Steps”, Albania

Women on Waves, Netherlands

Women on Web, Netherlands

Women’s Rights Foundation, Malta

Women’s circles, Slovakia

Women’s Resource Center Armenia

YouAct – European Youth Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

Young Feminist Europe