Measures are urgently needed to safeguard women's access to abortion care in Europe
The coronavirus pandemic is affecting people all across the globe for different reasons. For many women and girls in Europe, accessing safe abortion care is proving extremely difficult, as there are significant restrictions in safely accessing essential sexual and reproductive health services and emergency contraception.
Nongovernmental organisations are calling on European governments to urgently guarantee safe and timely access to abortion care for women and girls in the region during the COVID-19 pandemic. Why now? Well, Poland’s parliament is currently preparing to debate a new law that would make its restrictive abortion laws significantly more stringent.
In the European Union, almost every country has legalised abortion on request or on broad social grounds – except Poland and Malta. They are the only EU member states that maintain highly restrictive laws on women’s abortion rights.
And instead of European governments implementing measures to ensure safe and timely access to essential sexual and reproductive health services, supplies or information during the pandemic, many hospitals and clinics have reduced reproductive health services to a bare minimum, or closed altogether due to staff shortages and reassignments.
Worse, such abortion rights restrictions disproportionately impact women belonging to marginalised groups, including those living in poverty, women with disabilities, adolescents and survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
Caroline Hickson, International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN) Regional Director, told Marie Claire, ‘While the pandemic is impacting every aspect of our lives, it should not be used as an excuse to undermine women’s rights to make decisions regarding their reproductive and health rights.’
Governments should absolutely recognise abortion as essential health care and should take measures to ensure that women and girls can safely access abortion care during these unprecedented times.