Abortion in Europe: are the laws and practices patient centred?

Abortion in Europe: are the laws and practices patient


C Fiala

Gynmed Clinic, Vienna, Austria

For most women the diagnosis of an unwanted pregnancy is

unexpected. The women are therefore unprepared, be it for carrying the pregnancy

to term or having an abortion. They need a great deal of information within a

very short space of time. In case they have taken the decision to terminate the

pregnancy, it is crucial for them to get fast access to medical facilities. It

is interesting to analyse legal requirements and regulations in European

countries, as to how far they support the women in this crisis situation in

finding a solution.Societies react differently to the needs of the women,

although the past was dominated by a rigid paternalism, coupled with beliefs

that pregnant women could not responsibly make decisions regarding their own

pregnancy. Society therefore “had” to intervene in order to ensure

that the “right” decision was taken. A huge progress has been made

over the last decades to overcome this approach and the legalisation of abortion

has been a corner stone. However there are still many remnants of the old

thinking like obligatory waiting (“cool off”) periods of an arbitrary

number of days or an obligatory counselling. So far there is no evidence that

these restrictions are of any benefit. They do, however, lead to a delay in the

provision of the treatment and have negative effects on the physical and

psychological experience of those affected. Examples and comparisons of European

countries are given in the presentation.

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