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Abortion battles in Europe

Ultraconservative groups sharpen their offensive to cut women's rights. Poland and Slovakia debate hardening of pregnancy cessation laws

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Abortion battles in Europe

The ultraconservative movements around world have taken body of women for years as ir ideological battlefield. and animated by drift of United States, where since arrival to power of Donald Trump have achieved several victories, anti-rights organizations of Europe have increased ir offensive. The right to abortion is in danger in several eastern countries, such as Poland and Slovakia, where se anti-rights groups have mobilized to counteract advancement of sexual and reproductive rights. Now, following failure of ir campaign to legalize abortion in Ireland, y will fight for new law to be as strict as possible and that path of women to access benefit is complex.

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Poland is EU's country with most restrictive law, after Malta — where abortion is completely banned — and for a short time Ireland, where on Friday citizens decided to legalize it in a referendum. In eastern giant only abortion is allowed for rape, serious risk for women's health or serious fetal abnormalities. In addition, ultraconservative organizations have spearheaded a citizen initiative that now studies ultraconservative Government of Law and Justice (PiS) to prohibit this intervention in cases of fetal malformation. This in practice implies that Poland would cease to perform abortions, since 96% of se interventions are done under that assumption: about a thousand a year.

The law is so severe in Poland that women are forced to travel abroad to abort, even if y are covered by one of legal assumptions; Or to resort to a clandestine abortion, often with pills bought on Internet or on black market. A reality that has cost Poland several sentences of European Court of Human Rights. In 2015, citizen mobilization and international pressure forced Polish government to withdraw anor proposal to cut women's rights. In Spain, Mariano Rajoy's executive also had to withdraw a bill to harden current rule, which allows women to abort without justifying ir decision until week 14. After massive demonstrations of women, law not only did not come out Forward — albeit a section that cut rights of those under 16 and 17 years — but n Minister of Justice, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, resigned.

Women wearing hangers (years ago were used in clandestine abortions) at a rally in Warsaw in March. JANEK SKARZYNSKI AFP/Getty Images

In Slovakia, where law allows abortion without explanations until 12th week of gestation — a ' deadlines act ', as in most EU countries — radical right party and Nazi Kotleba have proposed in parliament to restrict this intervention Only in cases of rape, risk to woman's life, or when severe fetal abnormalities are detected. Ultrachristian organizations and some conservative deputies support initiative in east country, of 5.4 million inhabitants, where a good number of Polish people go to abort and where y practice a little more than 6,000 interruptions a year.

"The attack on fundamental rights in Europe has increased, where ultraconservative organizations have gained strength and influence because y have funds," alleges Swedish conservative deputy Ulrika Karlson, president of Union Parliamentary. Funds, on or hand, opaque and hardly quantifiable. Moreover, although se groups are not very numerous, y do have important funders and key supporters in national parliaments and in Parliament, as also noted by Neil Datta, general secretary of European Population and Development Forum and one of largest Experts in anti-rights groups in Europe, in ir analysis to restore natural order.

Prosecute debate

Entities like make yourself heard (Spain), Ordo Iuris (Poland), The Manif pour Tous (France) or in name of family (Croatia), are very well connected with each or — and have founded European Initiative one of us — and with sister organizations in United States. Its strategy on reproductive rights is similar in all countries: y try to toughen laws through citizen initiatives or prosecute debate to do so through jurisprudence, national or community.

It is this last thing y are trying to do in Norway and Sweden, where social and political landscape makes it almost impossible to reverse rights already won decades ago in Parliament. This is why se organizations use anor strategy and have denounced both countries to European Court of Human Rights. They ensure that authorities do not guarantee protection of conscientious objection by health professionals. In one of cases that has reached courts, se organizations claim that Sweden discriminateded a midwife who refused to participate in anything related to voluntary interruptions of pregnancy. In Norway, se groups require a family doctor to have right to refuse to prescribe contraceptives. In Spain, y managed to have Constitutional Court recognise a pharmacist's right not to sell next day's pill for conscientious objection.

With se maneuvers y seek to approach case of Italy, where despite law, which allows abortion, it is very difficult for women to access this benefit. There, 70% of physicians refuse to practice se interventions on grounds of conscientious objection (reaching 90% in some regions). And Italy, despite sentences of Strasbourg court, has not corrected its law to guarantee right of women to interrupt ir pregnancy.

Demonstration against ratification of Istanbul Convention in Zagreb last March. AFP/Getty Images

Abortion, moreover, is not only battle of se anti-rights groups. They also attack women's right to access medical evidence — such as ultrasound — to contraception or gender equality. In recent months, for example, y are pressing to prevent signing of Istanbul Convention for Prevention and control of macho violence in Bulgaria, Croatia and Poland, which have not yet initialled it. At moment, after mobilization, y have made Bulgarian government refuse to ratify it.

They have also achieved significant successes in Croatia and Slovenia to curb equal marriage laws and all equal rights for same-sex couples. Its objective is now Romania, where after a citizen initiative of se organizations, it will vote in referendum to change constitution so that it is explicit that marriage "is union of a man and a woman".

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