European governments failing to make provision for safe abortions during COVID-19 crisis

100 groups call for urgent measures to safeguard access to abortion

Poland prepares to debate draconian law to further restrict abortion

Northern Ireland only part of UK where measures to take abortion pills at home not introduced  

One hundred NGOs have issued a joint statement calling on European governments to urgently guarantee safe and timely access to abortion care for women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Many women and girls in Europe are struggling to safely access safe abortions during the pandemic, as barriers caused by highly restrictive abortion laws and onerous administrative requirements to access abortion services are making safe access to this essential healthcare extremely difficult.

The call comes as the Polish parliament prepares to debate a new law that would make one of Europe’s most highly restrictive abortion laws even more draconian.

In the UK, Northern Ireland is being left behind as the only region where measures to allow women to self-manage abortions at home have not been introduced. Yesterday, Amnesty International launched an appeal to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, calling on him to allow women to take both abortion pills at home during the pandemic.

Leah Hoctor, Regional Director for Europe at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said:

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

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

Abortion in Europe

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

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 them altogether due to staff shortages and reassignments. In many places, accessing normal clinical services has become virtually impossible.

There are particular concerns in relation to six European countries - Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, Poland and San Marino - where abortion is still illegal or severely restricted, and in countries where, due to a range of barriers such as administrative processes or doctors’ refusals of care due to their private beliefs, women are often forced to travel abroad to access abortion care or to obtain abortion medication by post from other countries.  

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

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

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