While France guarantees the right to abortion, other European countries seek to expand access | Trending Viral hub

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PARIS — As France becomes the only country that explicitly guarantees the right to abortion in its constitution, other Europeans observe the decline in access to abortion in the United States and wonder: Could that happen here?

Abortion is widely legal across Europe and governments have gradually expanded abortion rights, with some exceptions. Women can access abortion in more than 40 European countries, from Portugal to Russia, with different rules about how far into pregnancy is allowed. Abortion is banned or strictly restricted in Poland and a handful of small countries.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision striking down the long-standing right to abortion was the catalyst for the French parliament’s overwhelming vote Monday to add a constitutional amendment proclaiming “the freedom of women of resort to an abortion, which is guaranteed.”

Here’s a look at recent developments regarding abortion rights in some European countries:

Predominantly Catholic Poland prohibits abortion in almost all cases, with exceptions only when a woman’s life or health is in danger or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. For years, abortion was allowed in the case of fetuses with congenital defects. That was shot down in 2020.

The restrictions have caused deaths, mainly of women who wanted to have a child in advanced stages of their pregnancy. Women’s rights activists say doctors in Poland now expect a fetus with no chance of survival to die in the womb rather than perform an abortion. Several women in such cases developed sepsis and died.

Abortion is a hot topic under the new government. Many of those who elected Donald Tusk’s government want the law to be relaxed, although there is resistance from the conservatives in the coalition; Politicians are debating whether it should be resolved by a referendum.

In Britain, abortion was partially legalized by the Abortion Act of 1967, which allows abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy if two doctors approve. Subsequent abortions are permitted in some circumstances, including danger to the mother’s life.

But women who have abortions after 24 weeks in England and Wales can be prosecuted under the Offenses Against the Person Act 1861. Last year, a 45-year-old woman in England was sentenced to 28 months in prison for ordering pills. online abortifacients to induce a miscarriage when she was 32 to 34 weeks pregnant. After a protest, she reduced his sentence.

Lawmakers in Parliament will vote this month on scrapping the relevant section of the 1861 law, although doctors who help women end pregnancies with late-term abortions could still be charged. Abortion is not as divisive an issue in the UK as it is in the US, and the change will likely gain enough cross-party support to pass.

The communist-ruled former Yugoslavia began expanding the right to abortion in the 1950s and wrote it into the 1974 Constitution, which stated: “A person is free to decide whether to have children. This right can only be limited for reasons of health protection.”

After the federation split in bloody wars in the 1990s, its former republics kept old laws on abortion, but they are seen as falling short of what France did on Thursday in detailing the guarantee.

In Serbia, for example, the 2006 Constitution states that “every person has the right to decide about childbirth.” There have been calls for this to be repealed, but only from fringe groups.

In staunchly Catholic Croatia, influential conservative and religious groups have attempted to ban abortion, but without success. However, many doctors refuse to terminate the pregnancy, forcing Croatian women to travel to neighboring countries for the procedure. In 2022, protests broke out in Croatia after a woman was denied an abortion even though her baby had health problems.

Malta relaxed the European Union’s strictest abortion law last year, acting after an American tourist who had an abortion had to be flown out of the Mediterranean island nation for treatment.

The new Maltese legislation remains strict and says that a woman must risk death to obtain an abortion, and only after the consent of three specialists. If the risk of death is imminent, only a doctor’s approval is needed.

Until the new legislation, Malta had banned abortion for any reason, and the laws criminalized it as an offense punishable by up to three years in prison for undergoing the procedure or up to four years for helping a woman undergo it.

Italy resisted pressure from the Vatican and guaranteed access to abortion starting in 1978, allowing women to terminate a pregnancy if they requested it in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, or later if their health or life was in danger.

The 1978 law allows medical staff in the largely Catholic country to register as conscientious objectors, which in practice often greatly reduces women’s access to the procedure or forces them to travel long distances to obtain it.

San Marino, a small country surrounded by Italy and one of the oldest republics in the world, had been one of the last European states to still criminalize abortion in all circumstances until 2022, when it legalized the procedure in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. .

Although abortion in Russia is legal and widely available, authorities have been actively trying to restrict access to it as President Vladimir Putin defends “traditional values” in an effort to unite people around the flag and push demographic growth.

Women in Russia can terminate a pregnancy up to 12 weeks without conditions, up to 22 weeks in case of rape, and at any stage for medical reasons.

Pressure on abortion rights increased after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Since 2023, seven Russian regions have passed laws punishing anyone who “forces” women to have abortions.

In several regions, and in Russian-occupied Crimea, private clinics have refused to perform abortions, pushing women to go to state health centers, where it takes longer to make an appointment and doctors often pressure women so that they maintain their pregnancies.

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AP writers Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland, Jill Lawless in London, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia, Dasha Litvinova in Tallinn, Estonia, and Katie Marie Davies in Manchester, England, contributed to this report.

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