This report summarizing laws on abortion in selected European countries shows diverse approaches to the regulation of abortion in Europe. A majority of the surveyed countries allow abortion upon the woman’s request in the early weeks of pregnancy, and allow abortion under specified circumstances in later periods. Some countries impose a waiting period of a certain number of days following counseling. Some require consultation with medical personnel before an abortion may be performed. Several countries require that medical personnel certify the abortion is for a reason permitted by law. The most restrictive country surveyed here, Ireland, allows abortion only when there is a real and substantial risk to the woman’s life. Map 1 (below) visually depicts by country the availability of abortion during the initial weeks of pregnancy in the countries surveyed. Map 2 shows the time limits for abortion upon the woman’s request in the applicable countries. At the supranational level, all of the countries surveyed are members of the European Convention on Human Rights.1 The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which hears allegations of violations of the Convention, has issued some decisions on procedural aspects of abortion access. For example, in Open Door Counselling v. Ireland, the ECtHR ruled that an injunction by an Irish court prohibiting family planning clinics from informing patients of the availability of abortion in England violated the right to freedom of information and expression found in article 10 of the Convention.2 In Tysiac v. Poland, the ECtHR ruled that where doctors failed to certify the availability of an abortion to a woman whose continued pregnancy threatened her health, the government’s failure to establish a procedure for determining whether an abortion was lawful violated the right to respect for private life under article 8 of the Convention.3 Similarly, in A, B & C v. Ireland, the ECtHR ruled that Ireland’s failure to provide a mechanism for establishing whether a woman was lawfully entitled to an abortion on health grounds violated article 8 of the Convention.
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