This first in-depth analysis of abortion policies across Europe finds that legislation on abortion care throughout the region is a diverse legislative and administrative patchwork - the consequence being that women’s experience of abortion care largely depends upon their postcode:
- 31 countries don’t include abortion in the national health system’s financial coverage - this penalises all women and girls, but specifically the vulnerable (e.g. low income, living in rural areas, Roma, sex workers and undocumented migrants).
- 19 countries, including several known for progressive stances, force women to endure medically unnecessary requirements before accessing abortion care (compulsory and sometimes biased counselling, forced waiting periods).
- A safe, voluntary abortion should not be treated as a crime. And yet, 16 countries in Europe regulate abortion care primarily through their criminal and/or penal code.
- 26 countries allow health workers to deny care on the basis of their personal beliefs or convenience, thus potentially placing women in serious danger.
- 18 European countries fail to provide people with clear and accurate information about abortion care.
Access to abortion care underpins women and girls’ reproductive health. And yet in Europe they are faced with obstacles that threaten their safety, dignity and freedom - with 38 countries and territories scored as doing medium to exceptionally poor. There are of course outliers such as Poland and Malta where governments force women to endure a pregnancy. But even in so-called progressive countries, women and girls continue to endure medically unnecessary procedures or denial of care by medical professionals on the basis of personal beliefs or convenience.