25 February 1993

Doc. 6781

1403-22/2/93-3-E

Report

on equality between women and men:

the right to free choice of maternity

(Rapporteur: Mrs Halonen,

Finland, Social Democrat)


      The Assembly is invited to recognise that choice of the interruption or continuation of a pregnancy must in the last analysis be the right of the woman, subject to national laws and in the light of medical diagnosis. It is argued that this right is implicit in Articles 8, 12 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, interpreted in the light of contemporary social conditions and medical understanding. Member states of the Council of Europe are under an obligation to make provision for the exercise of this right in good conditions.

I. Draft recommendation

1.       The Council of Europe is fully committed to improving the position of women in society, as shown by the declaration of the Committee of Ministers on equality between women and men (16 November l988).

2.       Legislative proposals, judicial rulings and frontier regulations in, respectively, Poland, Ireland and Germany have caused the question of interruptions of unwanted pregnancies to be placed at the forefront of public political discussion - as in, for instance, the Council of Europe's Poznan Conference (31 March - 2 April 1992).

3.       The motion for a recommendation from which the present report originates (Doc. 6436) has been followed by written declarations on either side of the question (Docs. 6626 and 6634), to the effect that plenary debate risks becoming confrontational. But in this area more than any other, we need ethical principles based on consensus, and this requires a spirit of compromise and respect for the diversity of beliefs.

4.       In this area it is also difficult to separate clearly values, facts and concepts. The values of the Council of Europe are self-evidently not those of any particular church or religion. They are set forth in the Statute and, more explicitly, in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as also in the Organisation's Social Charter.

5.       The Assembly, having regard to its own recent recommendations on related issues, sets forth the following considerations, as a basis for proposals for further action by the Committee of Ministers.

6.       It is a social and psychological fact that an unwanted pregnancy corresponds to a situation of personal distress. Skilled and timely counselling can alleviate this distress, and may even turn an unwanted pregnancy into one that is accepted. In some member countries, substantial numbers of unwanted pregnancies occur for lack of relevant family support, and especially for lack of elementary education, information and access to contraception.

7.       It is a social fact that where it is illegal to have recourse to the interruption of an unwanted pregnancy, substantial numbers of women are driven to seek this possibility either abroad or secretly in their own countries in deplorable conditions. All experience shows that legalisation and provision of the necessary medical services in hospitals and clinics lead to decline in maternal and infantile mortality and even in the number of abortions.

8.       It follows clearly from the principles of the Committee of Ministers' declaration of 16 November 1988 that the adaptation of national laws to advances in medical science and technology (fertility; contraception; fertilisation; monitoring, diagnosis and even therapeutic intervention on the embryo or foetus) must not diminish the rights and freedoms of women, relative to the much greater freedoms of men. Else de facto discrimination on grounds of gender - and inequalities - are enhanced.

9.       Choice of the interruption or continuation of a pregnancy must in the last analysis be the right of the woman, according to national laws and in the light of medical diagnosis.

10.       The Assembly takes the view that under the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights and its case-law, member States of the Council of Europe are under an obligation to recognise every woman's fundamental right, within the law, to her own personal decision and to personal physical integrity (including the period of pregnancy) and to found or not to found a family as she may ultimately wish. This right is implicit in Articles 8, 12 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, interpreted in the light of contemporary social conditions and medical understanding.

l1.       Moreover, recognition of a woman's fundamental right in the last analysis and within the law to interrupt an unwanted pregnancy lays an obligation on member states of the Council of Europe to make provision for the exercise of this right in good conditions - proper medical facilities and professional counselling.

12.       The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

      i.       instruct its Steering Committee for Human Rights, in consultation with its Steering Committee for Equality, to consider whether adequate protection is provided under the existing provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights against any absolute prohibition of contraception or on the interruption of unwanted pregnancies; and if not, to develop proposals to this effect;

      ii.       instruct its Committee on the Social Charter, in the course of the renewal and revision process launched following the Ministerial Conference in Turin (20-21 October 1991), to make provision for the rights of women to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of pregnancies;

      iii.       invite all member states to ratify and implement without reservation the Convention of the United Nations on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women;

      iv.       update its declaration on equality of November l988;

      v.       press for the introduction of comprehensive family policies covering the full range of social services and benefits for children, adolescents, mothers, fathers and families;

      vi.       review measures of support for young mothers and single parents in all member countries, in accordance with the terms and principles of Assembly Recommendations 1168 and 1196;

      vii.       review and improve where necessary the provision of education and information and access to contraception in all member countries;

      viii.       review and improve where necessary the provision of medical services and prior professional counselling for the free choice of maternity in all member countries.

II. Explanatory memorandum

by Mrs HALONEN

A. Preamble

1.       This report was initiated on the basis of the motion for a recommendation contained in Document 6436 [see Appendix VI]. The committee held discussions in Biasca (Switzerland) 23 June and in Paris 16 December 1992, on the basis of a first and then a revised preliminary draft recommendation. The text taken as a basis for discussion in Strasbourg, 4 February 1993, was further slightly adjusted to take account of observations in Paris.

2.       The explanatory memorandum, however, which formed the basis of both sets of discussions in Biasca and Paris, has not been changed except for the adjunction of this preamble. This is because it gives expression to the views which the Rapporteur continues to hold personally in the light of her participation in the Conference on Equality between Women and Men in a Changing Europe - Poznan, 31 March to 2 April 1992. Mr Beix, co-Rapporteur for the Social Charter of the Council of Europe, also took part in this conference - as well as being a signatory of the motion.

3.       This preamble simply aims to explain why the draft recommendation sets forth a slightly different position from that of the memorandum:

3.1       following closer study of the case-law (and its evolution) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), it is proposed that before recommending new article(s) to the Convention, the claim should first be tested whether adequate protection is not already provided under existing provisions against any total prohibition on voluntary interruptions of pregnancy [see Appendices II, III, IV and V which permit comparison of reasoning by and within the European Commission l976-1992, notably in respect of the balance of rights according to gender];

3.2       a synopsis of national legislations is presented in Appendix I. Most legislations appear to recognise the rights of women as a derogation from the major principle of protecting the embryo, foetus or unborn child. The time has come, in our arguments for legislation or its reform, to recognise that two major principles are involved - the other being the woman's right to private decision and personal physical integrity.B. RIGHTS OF WOMEN

Equal rights, value and dignity

1.       "The question of equality between women and men should be placed at the centre of the fundamental values and principles upheld by the member states of the Council of Europe, viz pluralistic democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms1."

      The Rapporteur agrees with this statement and, as a Council of Europe parliamentarian, wishes to draw attention to the proposal that has been made on several occasions that a specific provision on equality between men and women be included in the European Convention on Human Rights, so as to surround this principle with the guarantees, including the right of individual petition, secured by that legal instrument which is justly a source of pride to the Council of Europe, and to provide women with a suitable means of defending those of their rights which appear to be somewhat under threat at the present time.

2.       Equal rights, equal value and dignity of human beings is an intangible requirement relating to all fields, including the private sphere: that is to say family relations, sexuality and procreation. That would imply an end to domination by one sex over the other as well as the right of women, as of men, to a free choice in sexual matters and to a free and responsible choice with regard to procreation.

Endangered rights

3.       Recent changes in central and eastern Europe and the transition to a market economy have led to economic and social consequences often detrimental to women and which appear to threaten their status and their rights: female unemployment, employment discrimination, withdrawal of social services, particularly child-minding, glorification of the housewife-mother stereotype, resurgence of patriarchal attitudes, questioning of and restrictions on divorce, etc. But it is mainly in the private sphere (sexuality and procreation) that rejection of former ideology threatens women's freedom of choice; sex education and contraception are put in question; although liberal legislation on voluntary termination of pregnancy has been enacted in many countries in the world, in some Eastern European countries former liberal abortion legislation has been subjected to restrictions, particularly because of its association with former communist power. This reaction to the near past, although to some extent understandable, should not become detrimental to women and their rights.

4.       Despite favourable legislation, the West also has anti-abortion movements2 which, in the name of the rights of the unborn child, oppose the application of the law, with activist groups sometimes even using force. Similarly, we have seen the King of Belgium refuse to sign the 1989 law legalising abortion which parliament had already approved.

In Spain in 1990, gynaecologists were tried and convicted for having carried out abortions. In 1990, the legal time-limit in the United Kingdom was finally reduced from twenty-eight to twenty-four weeks. In Italy, the "194" Act which had made abortion freely available and reimbursable is the subject of controversy. In Germany in 1991, women were arrested at the German-Dutch frontier and subjected to examinations one had thought were a thing of the past, in order to establish whether they had had abortions in Holland.

      More recently, the example of a young 14 year-old Irish girl made pregnant as a result of rape provided a cruel, extreme illustration of the denial of women's rights; in this particular case, the first thing that happened was that the girl, anxious to terminate her unwanted pregnancy, was even forbidden to leave Irish territory in order to seek an abortion in the United Kingdom. The medical council in Poland has recently adopted a code of ethics which is tantamount to a ban on voluntary termination of pregnancy.

      In July 1992, the Polish parliament passed, at a first reading by 212 votes to 106, a restrictive Act prohibiting abortion, which imposes a two-year prison sentence on a doctor who carries out an abortion. It rejected the idea of a referendum on this issue despite the fact that public opinion was divided.

      This intolerance, and this questioning of the rights of women (the right to control one's own body and the right to freedom in motherhood) have prompted some Council of Europe parliamentarians to propose that the broader issue of freedom in motherhood be referred to the Parliamentary Assembly (see motion for a recommendation. Doc. 6436, which underlies this report).

Diverse liberal legislation

5.       In most West European countries, relatively liberal legislation does exist but varies widely; different extremes exist side by side. The most liberal legislation in Europe is found in the Netherlands where only a time limit applies, while the other extreme is the isolated case of Ireland where abortion is banned (except if the mother's life is in danger) and treated as a crime punishable by imprisonment, all information on the possibilities of abortion in other countries also being banned. Between these two extremes, all remaining countries have legalised abortion under certain conditions; Sweden as early as 1938, Britain in 1967, Finland in 1970, Turkey in 1973, France in 1975, Germany (former Federal Republic) in 1976, Italy in 1978, Spain in 1985, Greece in 1987, etc., and, much more recently, Belgium in 1990. The countries of central and eastern Europe are sweeping away their old legislation and bringing in new legislation as they proceed towards democracy: in 1988 in Hungary, 1989 in Romania, 1990 in Bulgaria and so on.

6.       Legal time-limits during which voluntary termination of pregnancy is possible vary: twenty-four weeks in the United Kingdom (on medical grounds of the viability of the foetus) and the Netherlands, eighteen weeks in Sweden, twelve weeks in Italy, Spain and France etc. Under most legislations voluntary termination of pregnancy during this time-limit is in principle possible at the request of the woman. Other less liberal legislations require justification, often of a socio-economic nature. Once this time-limit has been passed, voluntary termination of pregnancy will be carried out only under certain conditions: it is possible for therapeutic reasons - if the woman's life is in danger, deformation of the foetus, rape etc. Other reasons can be required in addition to the justification: very often one (France) or two (Finland) doctors must be consulted; sometimes the doctors' consent (United Kingdom) is required. A period of reflection is often imposed on the woman (seven days in Luxembourg, five days in the Netherlands, three days in rape cases in Portugal). In Turkey the husband's consent is required. Parental permission is often (but not always) necessary for minors, but the term "minor" applies to under-14s in Austria, under-16s in the United Kingdom and under-18s in Denmark. In France, foreigners must have a residence permit.

7.       Some requirements also apply to the medical practitioners authorised to perform voluntary termination of pregnancy or the places where abortions may legally be performed (in France, public and private clinics must comply with certain standards of the Public Health Code). These often considerably restrict the number of abortions or, indeed, make voluntary termination of pregnancy impossible (for example in Turkey, where the clinics provided for in the 1973 law still do not exist). Conscience clauses also exist in all countries and in some cases thwart all attempts to obtain a voluntary termination of pregnancy. In addition to doctors, such clauses may apply to anaesthetists and chemists, thus making abortion impossible and preventing all information on abortion and all information on, and access to, contraception.

Refusal of backstreet abortion

8.       Paradoxically, the lowest rate of abortions per woman in Europe is found in the Netherlands, where the law is the most permissive; it is not in the countries where the legislation is most restrictive that the abortion rate is lowest. So there is a sort of imbalance between legislation and practice, that is to say the attitudes of the population and the position of the legislator. Repressive systems of law, over-strict time-limits or the misuse or widespread use of the "conscience clause" mean that the backstreet abortion business is unfortunately flourishing (in Ireland, Poland and Italy); alternatively, abortions are sought abroad. In 1987, the number of illegal abortions worldwide was estimated at between ten and twenty-two million. Freedom of movement within the twelve member countries of the European Community also enables women (often the least well-off, that is to say minors or illegal migrant women, etc.) to circumvent the restrictions and take advantage of the differences in the time limits applied to voluntary termination of pregnancy. Each year, for example, 15 000 Irishwomen travel to Britain to have abortions, while 2 973 French women did so in 1989 (in 1973, they numbered 35 300, in 1975, following the legalisation of abortion, their number dropped to 14 100); 7 834 German women (former FRG) and 4 581 Spanish women travelled to the Netherlands in 1986. The opening up of the Community's internal frontiers will render null and void restrictions applied at national level to voluntary termination of pregnancy - assuming that this is not already the case - and speed up the demise of restrictive legislation.

Removing abortion from the scope of criminal law

9.       It should be noted that, however liberal the relevant legislation may be, abortion remains illegal when performed outside the above-mentioned conditions and the person carrying it out and/or the woman herself are usually liable to prosecution.

      Among the Romans women who had abortions were banished to an island. In France abortion was classified as homicide in 1556 under Henri II and was punishable by death. Reclassified as a lesser indictable offence, however, it was during the second world war again classified as a crime and used to justify application of the death penalty to a woman, guillotined on these grounds, in 1943. Such excesses, fortunately, are things of the past; today, there is talk in a great many countries (including Germany and Switzerland) of taking abortion out of the criminal sphere. In no event should the woman be classed by society as an offender: abortion is always the product of a situation of distress. It is to be regretted that recently (1992), in its reform of the criminal code, the French parliament retained, contrary to all expectations, the classifications of self-induced abortion as a criminal offence punishable by two months imprisonment and a fine of 25 000 FF, while the legislation recently adopted by the Polish parliament does not impose a penalty on women seeking an abortion or carrying out an abortion on themselves.

The necessity of European and secular ethical standards

10.       In our democratic, multicultural societies, the secular nature of the decision to give birth to a child is both a necessity and a right that should be defended. Tolerance and respect for differing beliefs and opinions make this essential. In this matter, we need to identify a minimum set of moral standards shared by the mass of the population, over and above partisan religious stances, and without embarking on the insoluble, sterile debate as to when life begins.

      Indeed, not all the positions taken by the various religions are identical; for example, the Catholic church condemns abortion in all cases without exception, even in the event of rape. It defends the rights of the unborn child from the moment of fertilisation, even though the thorny question of deciding whether the fertilised ovum has a soul of its own has not been resolved. The Jewish belief is that the soul enters the embryo on the 40th day after fertilisation, but the Bible does not accord the foetus the status of full human life. From the 40th day onwards it is regarded as a potential human being, but not a full human being. The principle of therapeutic abortion is therefore acceptable up until birth if the pregnancy entails risks for the mother, or if the foetus is malformed. According to the Koran, the spirit enters the embryo on the 120th day, prior to which the Sharia does not recognise it as a human being.

11.       As a relatively new discipline, bioethics covers all the moral, legal and social questions arising from progress in biomedical science. Research and experiments conducted on embryos and foetuses raise the question of the legal protection which should be granted to them. In its Recommendation 1046, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe held that "human embryos and foetuses must be treated in all circumstances with the respect due to human dignity".

12.       Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights refers to "everyone's right to life" without further definition, the term "everyone" not having been the subject of any particular discussion during drafting of the convention. The organs instituted under the convention have made few rulings on the question of abortion.

      The European Commission of Human Rights has held that the term everyone could only be applied after birth. With regard to the term life and the question as to whether this includes the life of the unborn child, it has held that the foetus has no absolute right to life. In view of the necessary protection for the life of the mother, which cannot be dissociated from that of the unborn child, the life of the latter cannot be considered to be of greater value than that of the pregnant woman.

The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

13.       This convention, to which 104 states (including almost all members of the Council of Europe) are now party, gives extensive consideration to women's rights with regard to maternity and its preamble states that "procreation should not be a basis for discrimination". While underlining the need for "proper understanding of maternity as a social function" (Article 5) and including provisions on the protection of maternity and the education of children, it also grants women a right to choose with regard to motherhood and is the only international treaty on human rights to mention family planning. Governments are instructed to include advice on family planning in educational curricula and to draft family codes guaranteeing women's rights to "decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights" (Article 16 (e)).

Reinforcing the work of the Council of Europe:

14.       The Committee of Ministers adopted two texts (in 1975 and 1978) concerning freedom of choice in connection with procreation, viz Resolution 29 (1975) on legislation relating to fertility and family planning and Resolution 10 (1978) on family planning programmes. In the first text member governments were called on "to enable all persons who so desire to have the information and means to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children". Various approaches were listed, ie family planning services, education, sterilisation, abortion and economic and social assistance to families.

      In the case of abortion, this text recommended reducing the need to resort to it and ensuring that "all legal abortions are carried out under the best possible medical conditions", adding that it should be "available as a medical service to all women regardless of their economic or social position". Finally, it called for all necessary steps to be taken "to eliminate the practice of illegal abortion with its attendant dangers". The second text adopted in 1978 repeats the previous recommendation on the right to individuals "to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of children" and lays down the essential elements of family planning programmes.

15.       In 1992, with the relaunch of the European Social Charter by the Council of Europe, in which the Parliamentary Assembly is currently involved, we have an opportunity to update the text in order to cater for present-day social concerns. We must go beyond the earlier Committee of Ministers texts. The inclusion of free choice as to motherhood among the social rights secured by an instrument such as the Charter is a means of providing a legal guarantee for the lives, dignity and rights of women and should thwart any attempt or temptation to put the clock back. The Rapporteur proposes the inclusion in Article 8 (which should aim to protect women in general, not simply working women) of the following text: "to guarantee women the right to decide freely and wholly responsibly on the number and spacing of their children".

A comprehensive family policy

16.       It is worth saying time and time again that resorting to abortion is a failure for a couple, and for a woman. It is always the outcome of a woman's distress; for her it is a last resort. As such, termination of pregnancy must not be confused with contraception; but nor is it infanticide. Such abuses of language must be stopped.

      Free choice of motherhood must be part of a comprehensive family policy which includes sex education, information about contraception and free access to it, as well as the provision of benefits and social services for children and families, such as general provision of maternity leave and parental leave with reinstatement at work, various forms of assistance with obtaining family-size accommodation etc. Such a policy must allow choice and therefore give people control over motherhood and, accordingly, must allow for recourse to voluntary termination of pregnancy. There is no method of contraception which gives complete guarantees against pregnancy.

17.       The Aids epidemic, and the transmission of the virus to the foetus during pregnancy, have led in most countries to the granting of certain exemptions from the abortion laws and the possibility of late abortions, outside the legal time-limits, for HIV-positive women. Aids has given great urgency to the question of effective sex education, of its content, particularly issues of sexual orientation, avoiding the need for abortion, but also the question of continuing education, and especially of information on contraception and access, particularly in financial terms, to contraceptives such as condoms and the morning-after pill. The paradox about sex education is that the subject is both commonplace and at the same time taboo. Political leaders must take a bold approach if they are to give young people the necessary protection.

Rights of children

18.       Nor should we ignore the fact that the corollary of the choice of motherhood is a child that is wanted and accepted. The child has the right to be wanted; this is its primary right when we bear in mind its importance to the proper development of the child's personality. Our Assembly has recently devoted a recommendation (1121 (1990)) to the rights of children, stressing the need for a child to grow up in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding and welcoming the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which came into force in September 1990. This convention describes a child as "every human being below the age of eighteen years" unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier. It is concerned with the rights of the born or unborn child, not with the right of the mother to choose whether or not she wants the unborn child. Recognition of the former does not imply negation of the latter; besides, discussions on the rights of the unborn child have mainly focused on ante-natal care to ensure the mother's good health and on protection against experiments on the foetus. Although the convention deals with sexual abuse and exploitation of children, it does not explicitly tackle the protection of adolescents from premature pregnancy nor the question of abortion, for example in the case of rape etc.

      This convention certainly represents progress even though it includes some provisions which are debatable or inadequate given its worldwide application. In the above-mentioned recommendation, our Assembly had suggested that a European legal instrument be drawn up. Not all the member states of the Council of Europe have ratified the United Nations convention.

Protection of women's life, health and dignity

19.       Quite apart from the question of the lawfulness of abortion, there is the issue of whether it is safe and what threats it poses to the lives and health of women. Of the 500 000 women who die each year worldwide as a result of pregnancy, 200 000 deaths are claimed to be the result of illegal abortions (see The World's Women 1970-90; Trends and Statistics; United Nations 1991).

      In all the countries with liberal legislation, the number of both legal and illegal abortions is declining at the same rate as mortality. In 1987, the rate of legal abortions in the Netherlands was five per 1 000. In the developed countries, the mortality rate in cases of a voluntary termination of pregnancy is on average 0,6 per 100 000 cases. According to surveys in England and Wales there is a marked decline in the number of deaths resulting from illegal abortions: thirty-seven deaths in the period 1970-72, one death in the period 1979-81 and none during 1982-84.

      Terminating a pregnancy is never a routine matter for a woman. It is a serious medical act. For any woman, it is a difficult and traumatic decision to take, and is always accompanied by distress; it must be free of violence and pain. Surgery is to be avoided wherever possible: preference should be given to drug-induced abortion, which should be promoted wherever possible. It must be accompanied by respect for the life, dignity and rights of the woman.

National machinery to promote equality

20.       In this field as in others, women - the principal category involved - must be associated at every level of discussion and decision-making. The equality aspect must be omnipresent, and to that end encouragement must be given to the establishment and strengthening of what is called national machinery for the promotion of equality, operating at a high level and possessing the requisite powers and resources, so that the interests of women are taken into account when any policy approach is being defined. This machinery will include similar structures at regional and local level. They already exist in a great many member states, but not all; and not all of them have sufficient means and powers to make their views heard. The best way to achieve this would definitely be adequate representation of women in national parliaments (also desirable in our Assembly!) but the sensitive issue of quotas or of parity thresholds goes beyond the aims of this report.

A P P E N D I X I

APPENDIX I

Synopsis of some national legislations 3

APPENDIX II

Decision of the European Commission of Human Rights

H v Norway (19 May 1992)

Application No. 17004/90

APPENDIX III

Decision of the European Commission of Human Rights

P v the United Kingdom (13 May 1980)

Application No. 8416/78

APPENDIX IV

Decision of the European Commission of Human Rights

Brüggemann and Scheuten v Federal Republic of Germany (19 May 1976)

Application No. 6959/75

APPENDIX V

Opinion of the European Commission of Human Rights

Brüggemann and Scheuten v Federal Republic of Germany (12 July 1977)

Application No. 6959/75

APPENDIX VI

Motion for a recommendation on motherhood in women's free choice

(Doc. 6436)

COUNTRY

LEGISLATION

GROUNDS

TIME LIMIT

(in weeks of pregnancy)

CONDITIONS

REIMBURSED?

AUSTRIA

Federal Act of 23 January 1974, effective January 1975

On demand

Therapeutic grounds:

- threat to the physical or mental health of the woman or the foetus

- risk of disability

12 weeks

)

)

) 4th-6th month

)

)

)

)

)

Doctor to be consulted

Consent of parents for minors <14

Not reimbursed

BELGIUM

4 April 1990

On demand

12 weeks

If the doctor decides that the woman is in a "distressed state"

-

BULGARIA

February 1990

On demand

Medical grounds

12 weeks

22 weeks

No time limit in the event of serious grounds

Obligation laid on the doctor to provide anaesthesia and information on contraception

Free for women under 18 and over 35 (on medical grounds

COUNTRY

LEGISLATION

GROUNDS

TIME LIMIT

(in weeks of pregnancy)

CONDITIONS

REIMBURSED?

CYPRUS

Act 59 of 1974

Act 186 of 1986

- Threat to the woman's physical or mental health

- Threat to the foetus' health or risk of disability

- Sexual offences

- Social-medical or socio-economic risks

No limit

Certificate issued by the competent police authority accompanied by a medical certificate

Opinion in good faith of two doctors

Free

DENMARK

Act 350 of 13 June 1973

On demand

Therapeutic grounds:

- threat to the woman's physical or mental health

- threat to the foetus' health or risk of disability

-medico-social or socio-economic risks

12 weeks

4th-6th month

Consent of parents for minors (< 18)

Authorisation by a committee of 4 people

Reimbursed

COUNTRY

LEGISLATION

GROUNDS

TIME LIMIT

(in weeks of pregnancy)

CONDITIONS

REIMBURSED?

FINLAND

Act 239 of 1970

Act 564 of 1978

Act 572 of 1985

- Threat to the woman's mental health

- Rape

- Social, medico-social or socio-economic risks

Therapeutic grounds:

- Threat to the woman's physical health

- Threat to the foetus' health or risk of disability

)

)

)

) 12 weeks

)

)

)

)

)

) Up to 20 weeks

)

)

)

Recommendation of two doctors and authorisation of the Medical Bureau

-

COUNTRY

LEGISLATION

GROUNDS

TIME LIMIT

(in weeks of pregnancy)

CONDITIONS

REIMBURSED?

FRANCE

Act 75-17 of 1 January 1975, renewed by Act 79-1204 of 31 December 1979

On demand

Therapeutic grounds:

- threat to the woman's physical health

- threat to the foetus' health or risk of disability

10 weeks

)

)

)

) 4th-6th month

)

)

)

)

Mandatory medical consultation and social interview

Consent of parents for minors

Certificate from two doctors (court experts) including one psychiatrist

80% reimbursed

COUNTRY

LEGISLATION

GROUNDS

TIME LIMIT

(in weeks of pregnancy)

CONDITIONS

REIMBURSED?

GERMANY

(FORMER FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY)

Act 15 of 18 May 1976

- Rape

- Social, psychological risks

- Somatic, medical risks

- Socio-psychiatric medical risks

- Eugenics

)

) 12 weeks

)

)

) No limit

)

)

22 weeks

Authorisation of a doctor and decision of the doctor carrying out the abortion

Mandatory social interview

Three-day period of reflection after interview

Free for women covered by social insurance or claiming social assistance

GERMANY

(FORMER GERMAN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC)

Act of 9 March 1972

On demand

Therapeutic grounds

- eugenics

- medico-psychological risks

12 weeks

)

)

) 4th-6th month

)

)

Consent of a

medico-psychological committee

Consent of parents for minors

If previous abortion less than 6 months ago, committee of specialists

Free

COUNTRY

LEGISLATION

GROUNDS

TIME LIMIT

(in weeks of pregnancy)

CONDITIONS

REIMBURSED?

GREECE

Act 1609 of 28 June 1986

On demand

Therapeutic grounds:

- medico-psychological risk

- rape

- eugenics

12 weeks

)

)

) up to 20 weeks

)

)

24 weeks

Consent of parents for minors

Free in the public sector

In the private sector, where most abortions are done:

25,000-30,000 drachmae

HUNGARY

Act of 17 December 1992

1. Rape

2. Malformation of embryo

3. Mother's life in danger

4. Psychological crisis or social problem

12 weeks

18 weeks for health reasons

Mandatory medical interview

Grounds 1, 2, 3 reimbursed by social security

IRELAND

A Supreme Court decision in 1992 set aside the previous constitutional preclusion on abortion and allowed the right to travel abroad for a service which was legally available in another jurisdiction, with particular reference to the woman's life being at risk, including the risk of suicide.

In November 1992 a new referendum was put to the Irish people which confirmed the right to travel and the right to information, but rejected the proposal to exclude suicide as a threat to life.

There is now a government commitment to legislate on this matter, having regard to the findings of the Supreme Court.

COUNTRY

LEGISLATION

GROUNDS

TIME LIMIT

(in weeks of pregnancy)

CONDITIONS

REIMBURSED?

ITALY

Act 194 of 22 May 1978

- Social, medico-social or socio-economic grounds

Therapeutic grounds:

- medical risk

- eugenics

- rape

90 days

)

)

) > 90 days

)

)

Mandatory medical certificate and 7-day period of reflection

For minors consent of parents or of a judge

Mandatory social interview

Free

LUXEMBOURG

Act of 15 November 1978 amending Art. 353 of the Criminal Code

- Social and medico-social grounds

Therapeutic grounds:

- Threat to the woman's physical or mental health

- Threat to the foetus' health or risk of disability

- Rape

12 weeks

)

)

)

)

) 4th-6th month

)

)

)

)

Medical certificate and 7-day period of reflection

Reimbursed

COUNTRY

LEGISLATION

GROUNDS

TIME LIMIT

(in weeks of pregnancy)

CONDITIONS

REIMBURSED?

NETHERLANDS

Act of 1 May 1981 implementing regulations 1984

"Intolerable situation" as defined by the woman and her doctor

Up to 24 weeks

Consent of parents for minors (< 18)

5-day period of reflection

Medical certificate attesting that the decision was taken freely

Reimbursed (except non-residents)

NORWAY

Act 50 of 13 June 1975

Act 66, Sections 1-4

of 16 June 1978

On demand

Therapeutic grounds:

- Medical reasons

- Eugenics

- Rape

12 weeks

)

)

) 4th-6th month

)

)

Consultation of two doctors

Free

POLAND

Act of 7 January 1993

(draft)

- Rape or incest

- Threat to the mother's life or health

- Malformation of the foetus

12 weeks

Medical examination by two doctors

 

COUNTRY

LEGISLATION

GROUNDS

TIME LIMIT

(in weeks of pregnancy)

CONDITIONS

REIMBURSED?

PORTUGAL

Act 6, Sections 139-141, of 11 May 1984

- Threat to the woman's life or physical health

- Rape

- Eugenics

12 weeks

16 weeks

Consent of parents for minors

Two favourable doctors' opinions

3-day period of reflection (rape)

One doctor practises, another authorises

Free

SWEDEN

Act 595 of 14 June 1974

On demand

Up to 18 weeks

After 18 weeks

Medical consultation

Approval of the National Health Bureau

60 Kroner

SWITZERLAND

Criminal Code

Article 118-121

1 January 1942

- Threat to the woman's life or health

- Threat to the woman's mental health

Until viability of the foetus

Consent of a specially appointed doctor required

Agreement of a second (specially appointed) doctor

Reimbursed by sickness insurance schemes

Sometimes part-reimbursed, depending on the type of insurance

COUNTRY

LEGISLATION

GROUNDS

TIME LIMIT

(in weeks of pregnancy)

CONDITIONS

REIMBURSED?

TURKEY

Act of 24 May 1973, Sections 5-6

On demand

Therapeutic grounds:

- Threat to the woman's health

- Threat to the foetus' health or risk of disability

10 weeks

Consent of husband necessary

For minors, consent of parents, guardian or children's judge

)

)

) Report by two

) specialists

)

)

)

-

SPAIN

Act 9 of 5 July 1985

- Rape

- Threat to the woman's physical or mental health

- Eugenics

12 weeks

No limit

22 weeks

Rape must be declared

One doctor's opinion

Two doctors' opinions

Parents' consent for minors

Free in the public sector

In the private

sector (FF)

13 weeks : 1500-2000

13-15 weeks :

2000-3000

15 weeks : 3000 - 5000

COUNTRY

LEGISLATION

GROUNDS

TIME LIMIT (in weeks of pregnancy)

CONDITIONS

REIMBURSED?

UNITED KINGDOM

Abortion Act, 17 October 1967, amended 24 April 1990

- Social, socio-medical and socio-economic grounds

- Severe threat to the woman's physical or mental health

- Threat to the woman's lifwe

- Threat to the foetus' health or risk of malformation of the foetus

Up to 24 weeks

)

)

)

)

)

) No limit

)

)

)

)

)

Consent of two doctors

For minors (< 16) consent of parents or of social worker

Free

A P P E N D I X I I

Decision of the European Commission of Human Rights

H v Norway (19 May 1992)

Application No. 17004/90

A P P E N D I X I I I

Decision of the European Commission of Human Rights

P v the United Kingdom (13 May 1980)

Application No. 8416/78

A P P E N D I X I V

Decision of the European Commission of Human Rights

Brüggemann and Scheuten v Federal Republic of Germany

(19 May 1976)

Application No. 6959/75

A P P E N D I X V

Opinion of the European Commission of Human Rights

Brüggemann and Scheuten v Federal Republic of Germany

(12 July 1977)

Application No. 6959/75

A P P E N D I X V I

MOTION FOR A RECOMMENDATION4

on motherhood - women's free choice

presented by Mr FOURRÉ and others


1.       In Poland, abortion was legalised in 1956 and today, with the advent of democracy, there is a threat that the law might be changed. In France, various attempts have been made by activist groups to prevent abortions from being carried out, although they are permitted by the law. In Germany there have been several cases of women having been obliged to undergo gynaecological examinations at the frontiers. The Assembly is particularly disturbed at the growing incidence of a certain type of intolerance in several European countries, aimed at calling in question certain acquired women's rights.

2.       Imposing a ban on abortion by no means prevents the practice. It is then merely resorted to in clandestine conditions with the well-known dramatic consequences such as serious secondary effects or even death.

3.       Fuller and freer information on contraception is the best method of ensuring that women do not resort to abortion, which itself cannot under any circumstances be regarded as a contraceptive method. Sex education for adolescents and sex information for adults should be a universally applied and accepted right, so that women are spared a choice which is always harrowing.

4.       Free access to the most up-to-date contraceptive methods should be ensured for all, including adolescents. No effort should be spared to make contraceptive methods freely available at moderate prices.

5.       Accordingly, the Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

i.       invite the governments of member states to guarantee the right to contraception and abortion, while a free choice of whether or not to give birth to a child should be regarded as a basic democratic right;

ii.       include the free disposal of one's person as a fundamental right in the European Convention on Human Rights. This fundamental right should include the right of women to choose freely whether or not to accept a pregnancy, having regard to factors of physical and mental health, together with family, social and economic considerations which women are ultimately in the best position to judge;

iii.       urge member states to implement effective policies of family planning with a view to offering guidance, information and training wherever a demand exists, in addition to protective measures for mothers and children;

iv.       improve the occupational training of medical and auxiliary staff in the field of family planning and information;

v.       promote exchanges between countries so that those which have researched and produced modern methods of contraception may provide support to countries which do not have them available.

Signed: FOURRÉ, PONTILLON, BRITO, PISTRE, BEIX, WORMS, GARRETT, BANKS, MASSERET, ROMAN, GUIDARO, BORDERAS, CUCÓ, PEDREGOSA.

Reporting committee: Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee.

Budgetary implications for the Assembly: None.

Reference to committee: Doc. 6436 and Reference No. 1739 of 28 June 1991.

Draft recommendation: Adopted by 19 votes to 2 with 1 abstention on 4 February 1993.

Members of the committee: Mr Pini (Chairman), Mrs Hĺvik, Mr Rathbone (Vice-Chairmen), Mrs Albrink, MM. Banks, Beix, Benvenuti, Bloetzer, Bowden (Alternate: Earl of Dundee), Curto, Diaz de Mera, Ferris, Mrs Fleetwood, MM. Foschi, Gerontopoulos, Gouteyron, Mrs Guourova, Mr Gusenbauer, Mrs Haarstad (Alternate: Mrs Nybakk), Mrs Halonen, MM. Hörcsik, Jurgens, Karakaş, Koehl, Liberatori, Libicki, Marques, Menzel, Meyer zu Bentrup, Ottenbourgh, Miss Özver, MM. Palacios, Pécriaux, Pottakis, Psaila Savona, Mrs Ragnarsdottir, MM. Regenwetter, Reimann, Schwimmer, Mrs Soutendijk-van Appeldoorn, MM. Ternak, Wielowieyski (Alternate: Mr Malachowski).

N.B. The names of the those members present at the meeting are printed in italics.

Secretaries of the Committee: Mr Hartland and Ms Meunier.


1 1See conclusions of the Conference held in Poznan on Equality between Women and Men in a Changing Europe.

2 2In June 1992, the United States Supreme Court had to reaffirm that the right to an abortion was one of the fundamental freedoms protected by the Constitution.

3 1Provisional data obtained inter alia from non-governmental sources, for example, Family Planning Movement - Paris, which should be checked for accuracy and fullness before use.

4 1Referred to the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee: Reference No. 1739 (Standing Committee, 28 June 1991).