28 June 2022 – Following last week’s decision by the United States Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, today leading organizations, working to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights in over 28 European countries, issued a Call to Action on abortion access in Europe. The Call to Action urges European leaders to demonstrate support for reproductive rights by taking steps to protect and improve access to abortion care in European laws and policies.
The over 70 organizations call on decision makers across the continent to remove residual barriers to abortion access that remain in place in national laws and policies. Although abortion is legal in almost all European countries, a range of specific barriers and restrictions remain in place in many countries’ laws.
Welcoming European leaders’ condemnation of Friday’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Call to Action underlines that the overwhelming trend across Europe has been to move towards greater protection for abortion access and the removal of legal and policy barriers to abortion. The organizations call on leaders to galvanize further reform to remove remaining criminal laws concerning abortion, mandatory waiting periods, mandatory counselling requirements, as well as restrictions on access to medication abortion. By doing so they will move laws into line with World Health Organization guidelines and international human rights law.
On the publication of the Call to Action, Leah Hoctor, Senior Regional Director for Europe at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said:
“Last week’s decision by the US Supreme Court sent shockwaves across the world and retrogression on that scale in the sphere of abortion rights is simply unprecedented in the global arena.
This is an important moment for leaders across Europe who are committed to reproductive rights to lead by example and galvanize action in their own countries to remove legal and policy barriers on abortion that remain in place. Today we are calling on European decision makers to roll up their sleeves and take concrete steps to fully secure access to abortion care in Europe.
Many countries in the region have already taken important steps to upgrade abortion laws, but there is still room for improvement in every country. Now is the time to act to ensure access to abortion is a reality across Europe for all those who need it.”
For decades European countries have moved steadily towards the adoption of progressive abortion laws and the removal of barriers impeding access to abortion. The general trend across the region has been overwhelmingly towards the recognition of abortion care as essential healthcare and the eradication of bans and highly restrictive laws on abortion. Recently several European countries have enacted important progressive reforms and taken steps to remove harmful procedural or regulatory barriers that obstruct access to legal abortion. In the European Union Malta and Poland are the only two member states that retain bans on abortion, while in the European region more broadly, 42 out of 47 countries have legalized abortion on broad grounds.
Although almost all countries have legalized abortion procedural and regulatory barriers that impede access to abortion care in practice remain in place in a number of jurisdictions across the region.
For more information on European abortion laws and policies see the Center for Reproductive Rights Fact Sheet.
Although the general trend in Europe is squarely towards the repeal of highly restrictive laws on abortion, retrogression has occurred, most notably in Poland. In 2020 Poland became the only European Union member state in recent history to remove a ground for legal abortion from its law. The harm caused to pregnant women’s health and lives as a result of the near-total ban on abortion in Poland is ongoing. For more information see Poland: A Year On, Abortion Ruling Harms Women.