When we think of Covid19, we cannot forget to talk about abortion and all the visible consequences that the beginning of this pandemic had on the mothers seeking for terminating their pregnancy. In fact, during this period, a lot changed. For instance, in Poland on the 22nd of October, the court declared unconstitutional the abortion when there is a high probability of a severe and irreversible fetal impairment. That decision has lead to several protests, as in Poland till that moment 98% of abortions were due to this reason.
But Poland isn’t the only place that increased abortion barriers during the pandemic. Due to the restrictions on movements several women couldn't be hospitalized. Some countries found out a solution, allowing them to acceed to the abortion pill or medical abortion, without attending a clinic. In others, as in Italy, patients still needed to be hospitalized for 3 days. The situation was even harsher in Malta, one of the few places in Europe, where abortion is still a crime and, at the same time, mothers couldn’t travel easily.
However, these regulations just highlighted a problem that already existed even before the pandemic, as even in those countries, where abortion is available on request, is still really hard to acceed to it. Meeting a doctor that practices the operation, in fact, is like finding a needle in a haystack, due both to the high number of conscience objectors (as in Italy) or to the advertising ban (as in Germany).
Talking about life is always a really difficult topic that generally creates a public debate worldwide. On one hand, there are some movements, called Pro-life, that argue that every fetus has the right to live. On the other hand, Pro-choice supporters declare that the mother’s right to bodily autonomy and morally accept the abortions, that is also why several states still prohibite it.
Where it is prohibited
Starting from an overview, according to the Centre for reproductiverights report estimated that worlwide 26 countries do not permit abortion under any circumstances, including when the woman's life or health is at risk. Most of them are in Africa, central America and Asia. In 39 countries it is allowed only when the woman’s life is at risk. 36 countries permit abortion on the basis of health or therapeutic grounds.Talking about numbers, that means that at least 600 milions of women could possibly face with one of these restrictions. The number of countries that concede to have abortion on request is, instead, still really low (only 67). Among them, some states located in Africa, such as Tunisia, Ethiopia, South Africa and most of the Asian countries. Malta is the only european country where abortion is illegal.
However allowing abortion does not make it easier to afford. Talking about European union states, in Poland between 80,000 and 120,000 abortions are carried out illegally or abroad. In Germany, in 2018, 1000 crossed to the Netherlands. The same happened from Croatia. A research found out that a large number of women are crossing the borders from Croatia to Slovenia or to Bosnia Herzegovina to get their abortions. Moreover, 300-400 women travel from Malta every year to get an abortion, usually to the UK.
Looking to the number, these countries are also among the ones with the lowest abortions per years. Following to the Abortion Worldwide Report, publised in june 2019, in the past years, Poland registered 1100 abortions, Croatia, instead 3200, Malta only 50.
Croatia. Cost reasons
The reasons behind this choice are different in every country. For instance, A lot of women are deciding to give abortion in Bosnia and Herzegovina because the cost is two times lower than in their home country, but also because, even though abortion is generally allowed in Croatia since 1952, the governement is still really stricht on it.
Germany. Advertising bans and long procedure
In Germany, instead, a rule called the 219a was valid until 2019. Through this law, established in the Nazi era, the german governement banned any kind abortion services advertisement so the pregnant person couldn't actually know names of doctors available abortions. Furthermore, the ones who didn't follow it, received punishment for the advertisements. Now, women can consult a list of doctors who do abortion, but it is prohibited to say how they carry it. At the same time the procedure to get abortion can be really long.
The woman has to follow a Pre-abortion consultation (legal counselling) except in case of rape and then wait for a Mandatory 3-day period between pre-abortion consultation and abortion procedure. Most of Eu countries require this 3days waiting period, except for Italy where the mothers need to wait even longer, for 7days.
Considering the procedure, Hungarian government requirements are even heavier. The pregnant woman and, in some cases, the father, has to visit the Family Protection Service twice for the consultation. The woman also needs to present a letter written by the obstetrician or gynaecologist to the Family Service. After it, one staff member of the Service should give information to the woman, but the person usually does it with the aim of making her keep the pregnancy.
Conscience clause: Italy
Another issue regards conscience clauses. Because of conscientious objection in some countries, even if abortion is legal, it is difficult for women to find non-objecting gynaecologists and so to access abortion. In Italy 71% of gynecologists are registered as conscientious objectors. In Croatia, in 2018, 58% exercised this right. By comparison, only 3% were in Slovenia.
Restrictions on travelling
The situation became even more difficult during the pandemic, as a lot of women couldn't be hospitalized and, due to the restrictions on travelling, it was really hard to go to another state. At the same time, hospitals refused patients who showed coronavirus symptoms. So, in most of the cases, the only option available was to get hold to abortion pills, but not everywhere. As we said at the beginning, in Italy, for instance, between March and July, it was still required to go to the hospital for 3 days in order to receive a medical abortion. Only in August, according to the new guidelines updated by the Higher Health Institute, women could acceed to the abortion pill staying at the clinic only one day. Uk, on the contrary, promptly granted to take both pills for early medical abortion at home, in march 2020.
To conclude, in an idealistic world, of course no one wants an abortion to take place. But this is not how life goes. People makes mistakes or can be victims of rape or assault. In those cases, being pregnant is a consequence of other people's wrong behaviours, for which victims shouldn’t be forced to take responsibility and, even in those cases where the person wasn’t assaulted, every woman should be able to make a choice about her own body, even during pandemic times. As if our life can take a break, human rights cannot.