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Since the Polish Constitutional Court decided that the provision of abortion in case of foetal malformation was unconstitutional, thousands of Polish pregnant people have been forced to seek the support of national and international organizations to obtain abortion care via telemedicine or in clinics abroad. Over the past 12 months Abortion Without Borders groups have helped 34,000 people from Poland to access abortion, and 1080 of them obtained an abortion in a foreign clinic in the second trimester:  

https://www.asn.org.uk/abortion-without-borders-helps-more-than-34000-people-in-poland-access-abortions/ 

As our study shows, women and pregnant people travel cross-country to seek abortion care also from countries where abortion is legal on broad grounds in the first trimester. Traveling abroad implies serious challenges and burdens for them, deepening existing social and gender inequalities, and the support of national and international organizations supporting abortion rights is crucial. 

See our publications in the “Studies and Findings- Our Findings” section.  

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20210621IPR06637/eu-countries-should-ensure-universal-access-to-sexual-and-reproductive-health 

With 378 votes in favour, 255 against and 42 abstentions, plenary states that the right to health, in particular sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), is a fundamental pillar of women’s rights and gender equality that cannot in any way be watered down or withdrawn. It thus calls on EU countries to ensure women are offered high quality, comprehensive and accessible SRHR, and to remove all barriers impeding them from using these services. 

Access to abortion, contraception and sexuality education 

MEPs stress that some member states still have highly restrictive laws prohibiting abortion except in strictly defined circumstances, forcing women to seek clandestine abortions or carry their pregnancy to term against their will, which is a violation of their human rights. They urge all member states to ensure universal access to safe and legal abortion, and guarantee that abortion on request is legal in early pregnancy, and beyond if the pregnant person’s health is in danger. 

MEPs regret that some member states allow medical practitioners, and even entire medical institutions, refuse the provision of health services because of a so-called conscience clause. This leads to the denial of abortion care on the grounds of religion or conscience and puts women’s lives in danger. 

Furthermore, MEPs regret that access to abortion continues to be limited during the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the effects the pandemic has had on the supply and access to contraceptives. 

 

The Institute of Political and Social Sciences of the Autonomous University of Barcelona organized a three days’ workshop June (7th-9th) to discuss whether abortion is a right and what kind of right, and whether women living in Catalunya, Spain, and, more broadly, in European countries where abortion is legal have access to abortion care or not, and what kind of barriers they face. We have contributed to the workshop by presenting the results of our study on cross-border travel for abortion care in Europe. We discussed in particular the impact of conscientious refusal of care and gestational age limits on women and pregnant people seeking abortion care in different European countries where abortion is legal. Here you can access the video of the workshop: 

First day: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOG6GBjKt3Y&list=PLyIUBiNOQvcqXUAjwnVVYbPM2whL_aEA5&index=3

Second day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMEknomnXcU&list=PLyIUBiNOQvcqXUAjwnVVYbPM2whL_aEA5&index=1

Third day (you will find the video of our presentation here): 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZK1HoDCkmA4&list=PLyIUBiNOQvcqXUAjwnVVYbPM2whL_aEA5&index=2 

The National Association of Providers of Contraception and Abortion (ANCIC) organized an on-line conference on June 5th to discuss the impact of the current health crisis on sexuality and access to abortion care in France, focusing particularly on the need for accessing abortion care beyond the gestational age limits established by the French abortion law. We contributed to the debate, by presenting the results of our study, which show that in spite of the liberalization of the law since 2001 and improved access to medical abortion in the 1st trimester, barriers to accessing abortion care still exist in France and negatively impact on women and pregnant people needing an abortion even in non-pandemic times. In particular, lack of providers and long waiting lists force women and pregnant people living in small cities and rural areas to travel to big cities, and gestational age limits force those needing an abortion in the second trimester to travel abroad for abortion care. 

Link to the programme: http://www.avortementancic.net/spip.php?article1209 

In June 2021, the UK Department of Health and Social Care called for written evidence to inform the UK Government Women’s Health Strategy for England “to make women’s voices heard and put them at the centre of their own care”. The consultation was composed of two portions: a survey open to all women over 16 years old, and a call for researchers and third-sector organisation to produce written evidence on women’s health.

Based on our research project on abortion barriers and abortion travel, we produced a document where we list policy implications of our research findings and spell out policy recommendations on how to make access to abortion safer for pregnant people.

While we have focused on the research findings that better resonated with the current UK context, the policy implications we identify and the recommendations we draft are valid for all countries included in the Bar2legab research project, especially those that constituted the countries of residence of people travelling abroad or travelling across regions to obtain abortion care, and beyond.

It is important that all policy-makers and providers who are responsible for pregnant people’s health acknowledge the following:

  1. Pregnant people need clear, evidence-based online information about safe abortion in their language.
  2. Gestational age limits to access abortion constitute a barrier to pregnant people’s reproductive health. Erasing gestational age limits does not increase the number of abortions, but decreases health-related risks connected with illegal abortion or unwanted pregnancy.
  3. Pregnant people sometimes need to travel to terminate their abortion because adequate services are not available locally. Abortion travel constitutes an economic, social and mental health burden for pregnant people. Abortion travel may delay care, thus increasing health risks for pregnant women.
  4. Pregnant people have a better experience of abortion, if they can choose among the abortion method they prefer among the most updated and safe available. Otherwise, they may decide to travel to obtain the abortion method they feel more comfortable with.

 

Please feel free to download our written evidence document to know more about our findings and our policy recommendations:

Zanini et al. Written evidence consultation UKGov on women health June2021

We are happy to announce that another article based on the results of our study on cross-border travel for abortion care in Europe has been published. This paper documents the burdens associated with cross-country travel to England for abortion and provides insight into the factors that compel people to travel. Our findings highlight the need for expanded access to abortion care throughout Europe via the removal of legal restrictions and other social or procedural barriers: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12978-021-01158-z

The report “Access to voluntary abortion in Spain: main barriers” has been published. The report, which cites also our research project on barriers to legal abortion in Europe, focuses on territorial inequalities in access, difficulties related to the choice of the method, the situation generated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and fundamentalist and anti-abortion rights groups. The second part of the report also presents a list of 45 barriers to access to the right to abortion and 45 recommendations to be taken into account in order to transform current public policies in Spain. 

https://lassociacio.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Informe-Acceso-al-Aborto-en-el-EE.-Principales-barreras-FINAL-febrer-2021.pdf

The aim of this year’s conference is mapping the changes of reproductive politics and social practices over the World. We will focus on multiple ways in which individuals and couples struggle to achieve their reproductive rights and desires within a heterogeneous, conflictive and sometimes paradoxical legal and political landscape. For further information: https://afinbarcelona.wordpress.com/

Europe Abortion Access Project Euroe Research Council Universitad de Barcelona

This project has received funding from the European Reseach Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme BAR2LEGAB-680004