In recent years there have been repeated attempts to roll back legal and policy protections for gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights in parts of Europe. In a number of different countries, legislative, constitutional, and judicial processes have been used to introduce new restrictions on access to abortion, to halt recognition for LGBTQI equality and rights, and to prevent or annul the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention).
Access to abortion under threat
In 2020 lawmakers in Poland sought to invalidate provisions in Poland’s already highly restrictive abortion law in order to remove existing legal entitlements for abortion from Polish law. To this end they filed a legal challenge before the Constitutional Tribunal, which is no longer an independent court. The tribunal upheld the lawmakers’ claims and a near-total ban on abortion is now in place in Poland.
In 2018-2020 there were repeated failed attempts by lawmakers in Slovakia to introduce regressive legislative proposals to restrict abortion access and introduce new harmful barriers to delay women’s access to care.
These developments in Slovakia and Poland follow many years of efforts by lawmakers in a number of Central and Eastern European countries to restrict access to abortion and introduce new harmful barriers.
Efforts by lawmakers and governments to remove existing protections for gender equality and introduce new restrictions on SRHR violate international human rights treaties. Under international human rights law retrogressive measures that seek to restrict or remove existing legal entitlements or protections for human rights are almost never permissible and violate the principle of non-retrogression. These measures also contradict regional good practices and public health guidelines, and are out of step with the trend across Europe in favor of laws and policies that protect and advance SRHR.
We are working hand in hand with civil society and human rights defenders across the region to prevent the erosion of existing rights and entitlements, and to counter these efforts to introduce regressive restrictions on sexual and reproductive rights and to bring threats of regression to the attention of regional and international human rights and political bodies. Through advocacy, awareness raising, information provision and litigation we seek to defend gender equality protections and existing SRHR entitlement across the European region.
- Center and International Human Rights Partners Call on Poland to Reject Bills Restricting Sexual and Reproductive Rights
- Over 200 Sexual Reproductive Right’s NGOs Call for Polish Parliament to Protect Women’s Health and Rights
- Joint Civil Society Letter on Proposed Abortion Restrictions in Slovakia (English Version)
- Joint Statement issued by Center for Reproductive Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network
- A Comparative Overview of European Abortion Laws
- Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in Europe: Council of Europe Issue Paper
- Mandatory Waiting Periods and Biased Counseling Requirements in Central and Eastern Europe