A PACE committee recommends the decriminalisation of abortion in all Council of Europe member states

Strasbourg, 18.03.2008 - In a report published today, the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) calls on member states which have not already done so to decriminalise abortion.

"Abortion on request is, in theory, available in all Council of Europe member states, except Andorra, Malta, Monaco, Ireland and Poland," explains Gisela Wurm (Austria, SOC) in her report, but "even in member states where abortion is legal, conditions are not always such as to guarantee women effective access to this right: the lack of local health care facilities, the lack of doctors willing to carry out abortions, the repeated medical consultations required, the time allowed for changing one’s mind and the waiting time for the abortion all have the potential to make access to abortion more difficult, or even impossible in practice. Women must be allowed freedom of choice and offered the conditions of a free and enlightened choice."

Approved by a large majority of the committee's members, the report invites all member states to guarantee women's effective exercise of their right to abortion and to lift restrictions which hinder access to safe abortion, de jure or de facto, by creating the appropriate conditions for health, medical and psychological care and offering suitable financial cover.

Lastly, the report states that abortion can in no circumstances be regarded as a family planning method and must be avoided as far as possible. It is therefore necessary to ensure access to contraception at a reasonable cost and to introduce compulsory sex education for young people in schools.

This first PACE report on abortion as such is due to be discussed during the plenary session from 14 to 18 April 2008.