Safe havens? As some nations restrict access, a look at Europe’s abortion limits

Joanna YORK

As US states and nations such as Poland move towards restricting access to abortions, parts of Europe are seen as something of a safe haven for those looking to terminate pregnancies. However, a look at legislation across the continent shows vast discrepancies and how – even if the procedure is often legal – access to abortion is restricted by hurdles ranging from mandatory counselling to a lack of doctors willing to perform the procedure.

More than 95% of women in Europe live in countries that allow some access to abortion. Some 39 European countries have legalised abortion on request, albeit with some restrictions. Six countries have strict limits in place although only three (Andorra, Malta and San Marino) do not allow abortion at all.


‘These women are not victims’ – Paula Rego’s extraordinary Abortion series

The artist blazed into Portugal’s 1998 abortion
referendum with powerful images of women in backstreet clinics. But there is no
blood, no gore – just feeling. The works may have helped swing a later vote

Hettie Judah
Thu 9 Jun 2022

In 1998, the year of a Portuguese referendum debate on abortion, Paula Rego
poured her fierce, formidable passion into 10 large paintings set in backstreet
abortion clinics. These were a direct gesture of protest at the cruelty of
anti-abortion laws. Focused on individual women positioned on single beds in
improvised operating theatres, the paintings of the Abortion series are so dark
and claustrophobic that you can almost feel the heat and stickiness, and smell
the adrenal sweat.

Rego pulls the focus of the abortion debate back to the woman’s experience.
There is no blood, no gore, no biological nastiness to see here: this is all
about feeling, both physical and psychological. First-hand discussion of
abortion remains taboo even 24 years later – Rego’s works carry us into the
heart of this unseen, unspoken terrain.


Developing an Advocacy Agenda for Abortion in the 21st Century and Making Change Happen

Developing an Advocacy Agenda for Abortion in the 21st Century and Making Change Happen

Jan 21, 2019
An International Forum, 5-6-7 September 2018, Lisbon

On 5-7 September 2018, the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion hosted an International Forum in Lisbon, Portugal. The aim of the forum was to bring together thought leaders from around the world to examine synergies and discuss how to move global, regional and national work for the right to safe abortion forward.

Some 100 participants from 54 countries attended the Forum. They were abortion rights advocates, health policymakers and professionals, human rights and legal experts, youth activists, researchers, members of civil society organisations and academics. The combination of participants from the grassroots to the UN level secured a dynamic exchange of knowledge and experience.


How Europe Feels About Abortion

How Europe Feels About Abortion

Niall McCarthy
May 30, 2018

Ireland has made history by voting to repeal its ban on abortion. The Yes campaign won with 66.4 percent with all but one of the country's constituencies voting to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the constitution. The result underscores the findings of a recent Pew Research Center report which also put Irish support for abortion at 66 percent.

As can be seen from the following infographic which is based on the report's findings, Ireland's historic vote puts it in line with the rest of Western Europe on support for abortion. Net favourability is strongest in Northern Europe at 94 and 92 percent in Sweden and Denmark respectively. Portugal has the strongest level of opposition at 34 percent.

Infographic: How Europe Feels About Abortion  | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista


Portugal – The Abortion Pastels, Paula Rego

The Abortion Pastels, Paula Rego
May 21, 2018 / womensartblog

In 1998 Portuguese born artist Paula Rego created a series of work entitled Untitled. The Abortion Pastels. Rego created her work in response to a referendum to legalise abortion in Portugal, which was very narrowly defeated. Each canvas depicted the image of a woman undergoing an unsafe abortion.

Rego was born in Portugal in 1935, into what she describes as a repressive, middle-class Portuguese life in which women were highly encouraged to do nothing, while working-class women were forced to do everything. The painter recalls girlhood as a time of learning obedience to men, in addition to secretive and confused messages about puberty, sexual abstention and female propriety. Subsequently, after leaving 1950’s, then fascist Portugal, described by her father as a ‘killer society for women’, to attend London’s Slade School of Fine Art, Rego recollected an era including coerced sex leading to secretive and often tortuous back street abortions. In turn, her Abortion series would be both inspired by her own experiences and that of her fellow female students and what she had witnessed growing up around the small Portuguese villages of her formative years.


The doctor who brought abortion out of the shadows in Ireland

The doctor who brought abortion out of the shadows in Ireland
Rebecca Gomperts helps women who can’t terminate pregnancies under the law.

by Jillian Deutsch

AMSTERDAM — Abortion may be illegal in Ireland, but it is already a reality for thousands of women in the country because of packets of pills openly smuggled in by a Dutch doctor and activist called Rebecca Gomperts.

So as Ireland gets ready to hold a referendum on May 25 on whether to legalize the termination of pregnancies in one of the last European countries to ban it, there is already broad consensus among the country’s politicians that it’s time to bring abortion out of the shadows.


Refusal to Treat Patients Does Not Work in Any Country—Even If Misleadingly Labelled “Conscientious Objection”

Letter to the Editor: Refusal to Treat Patients Does Not Work in Any Country—Even If Misleadingly Labelled “Conscientious Objection”

On September 6, 2017 · In Perspectives
Christian Fiala and Joyce H. Arthur

We would like to point out some serious problems and contradictions in the study “Regulation of Conscientious Objection to Abortion: An International Comparative Multiple-Case Study,” by Wendy Chavkin, Laurel Swerdlow, and Jocelyn Fifield (Health and Human Rights Journal, vol. 19, no. 1, 2017).

The study purports to show that it is possible to accommodate health care providers’ “conscientious objection” (CO) to legal abortion while assuring that women with an unwanted pregnancy have access to health care services. The researchers examined four countries—England, Italy, Portugal, and Norway—all Western democracies with laws that allow CO for abortion. They conclude that England, Norway, and Portugal are able to permit CO by law and still provide and fund abortion care. Italy is the major exception, where access to legal abortion is seriously compromised due to a very high number of objectors.

Continued at source: Health & Human Rights Journal:

Dutch ‘abortion boat’ arrives off the coast of Mexico

Dutch 'abortion boat' arrives off the coast of Mexico
April 21, 2017

Women on Waves says it is offering free, legal, medical abortions till nine weeks of pregnancy in international waters.

Women on Waves has visited waters off Guatemala, Ireland, Morocco, Poland, Portugal and Spain [File: Reuters]

A Dutch sailing boat offering abortions has arrived in international waters off Mexico's west coast, according to the organisation which operates it.

The vessel, which operates often in defiance of some countries' laws, took up position on Friday off Guerrero state on Mexico's southern Pacific coast.

Women on Waves, a non-profit group, said in an online statement that it was offering "free legal medical abortions till nine weeks of pregnancy" to women who needed them. It said its ship "has all required permits" and would receive women until Sunday.

Continued at link: Al Jazeera:

Rebecca Gomperts: Meet the woman travelling the world delivering abortion drugs by drone

Dr. Rebecca Gomperts on her abortion ship.

Dr Gomperts has devoted the entirety of her work and life to helping women safely terminate pregnancies
by Maya Oppenheim
Tuesday 31 May 2016

Dr Rebecca Gomperts has devoted the entirety of her work and life to helping women safely terminate pregnancies in countries where it is illegal Women on Waves / Vessel Documentary

Every year, 47,000 women worldwide die from an unsafe abortion. To put this into context, every nine minutes a woman dies from a termination which is not safe.

While abortion might be one of the safest medical procedures in the world in countries where it is legal, it is harrowingly risky in nations where it is illegal. Of the estimated 20 million women who undergo illegal abortions each year, millions go on to suffer long-lasting and sometimes permanent health consequences from their termination. Infertility and chronic pain are just two of the possible symptoms.

For this very reason, Dr Rebecca Gomperts has devoted the entirety of her work and life to helping women safely terminate pregnancies in countries where it is illegal. From flying drones filled with abortions pills to sailing the seven seas to distribute safe medical abortions in international waters, the 49-year-old Dutch physician will stop at nothing to help women in need.

Since founding Women on Waves, a non-profit organisation of doctors and activists, back in 1999, Gomperts' tactics have perpetually evolved. As well as defying the law of the land by ship, she also runs Women on Web, a website and mail service which delivers abortion pills to women worldwide. Having encountered everything from constantly changing legal frameworks to poker-faced border authorities and stormy seas, Gomperts always has her wits about her.


Continued at Source: The Independent,