News

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rights (SRHR), is a fundamental pillar of women’s rights and gender equality that cannot in any way be watered down or withdrawn.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

10 December 2020, Warsaw

 

Abortion Without Borders helps more than 5,000 people in Poland in first year; celebrates with billboards advertising their service in Warsaw

 

The Abortion Without Borders initiative has helped more than 5,000 people in Poland since its launch one year ago. The group has provided pregnancy options counselling, information about safe abortion with pills in Poland, and funding and practical support for abortion outside Poland. To celebrate, the group has engaged billboards in Warsaw advertising their organisation and will hold a press conference in Warsaw at 11 am local time. In their first year, Abortion Without Borders has:

 

      Received 7,007 calls from 5,237 people seeking information and help

      Helped 2,199 people access safe abortion with pills inside Poland

      Provided assistance and funding to 262 people who needed to travel outside of Poland for abortion care

      Provided more than £67,320/PLN329,419 in funding during this time, with an average grant of £765/PLN3,766

      Received a signal boost after nationwide protests against a further tightening of Poland’s already restrictive abortion laws

      States: “We are unapologetically pro-abortion.”

 

Abortion Without Borders (AWB) was set up on 11 December 2019 to help anyone in Poland access a safe abortion in Poland or abroad. In their first year, AWB received calls from more than 5,000 individuals. This is the number of people who contacted the AWB helpline and does not include hundreds more who made direct contact with one of AWB’s member organisations, Kobiety w Sieci (Poland), Abortion Dream Team (Poland), Women Help Women (International), Abortion Network Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Ciocia Basia (Germany) or [http://www.asn,org.uk]Abortion Support Network (England).

 

Initially, the AWB helpline was hearing from an average of 250 people each month, but after a constitutional tribunal proposed further restrictions to Poland’s draconian abortion laws, widespread protests raised awareness of the group and its services, calls to the helpline grew exponentially. The group heard from roughly 2,700 people between 11 December and 22 October, and roughly 2,500 from 22 October and the first week of December.

 

To celebrate their first anniversary, AWB has arranged for two billboards in Warsaw advertising their services. The billboards, which provide contact information for the group, are intended to capitalise on the incredible amount of public support shown by the hundreds of thousands of people who took to Polish streets in protest against further restrictions to Poland’s already cruel and restrictive abortion law, as well as to raise further awareness about the help on offer from the charity.

 

Justyna Wydrzyńska, Kobiety w Sieci said:

“Abortion Without Borders is not only about sisterhood – it’s a community and unconditional support regardless of a decision that a pregnant person makes. I am proud that so many people trust us, that they reach out to us once they are taking abortion pills or planning their trips to have an abortion abroad. The fact that they have us to share that experience with, to discuss all the options they have in their situation gives them agency. There are no barriers for us  we can support financially, logistically or just be there for them. I am happy when they contact us to say they are happy and relieved to have had an abortion. I am proud to be a part of Abortion Without Borders.”

 

Karolina Wieckiewicz and Natalia Broniarczyk, Abortion Dream Team said:

“With the ‘constitutional court’s’ decision over 1,000 more people a year heard that their abortions are something nobody cares about. People are now on their own. Just like the tens of thousands of other people every year whose abortions are neglected by the law. We are happy that the Abortion Without Borders number has been so widely distributed. We know that people who decide to have abortions will seek out support and help, in spite of any view on abortion the government or courts might have. Abortion Without Borders guarantees that help and support. We don’t ask people for their reasons. No one needs to prove they “deserve” an abortion. All someone has to do is contact us. And we will do this as long as we are needed and will do everything in our power to ensure everyone knows how to contact us. By calling or writing us people get unconditional support. For us access to abortion and fighting for a world in which no person with the experience of abortion feels shame is far more important than laws.”

 

Mara Clarke, Abortion Support Network said:

 

“We are delighted by numbers of people who have contacted Abortion Without Borders for help with pregnancy options counselling, information on abortion pills, and support and funding for travelling abroad for abortions. When we opened to Poland a year ago, we did not expect a global pandemic. Covid-19 did not stop us helping people get abortions and a ‘constitutional tribunal’ will not stop us either. If someone in Poland needs an abortion at home with pills, we will help them. If someone needs an abortion abroad, we will help them. For now, this initiative is largely focussed on Poland – but watch out. We have plans.”

 

Zuzanna Dziuban, Ciocia Basia said:

 

“Ciocia Basia is glad to be able to expand its reach  not only to people who need abortions abroad but also to help more people accessing abortion pills and emergency contraception in Poland. As a group consisting of mostly Polish migrants, we feel strongly about providing support and solidarity to our siblings in Poland who are denied the basic human right of deciding to have a safe abortion. It has also been exceptional to see people across the globe supporting abortion rights in Poland, and people from other parts of Europe starting to set up support groups.”

 

Kasia Roszak, Abortion Network Amsterdam said:

“This year has been incredible. When we started our group in Amsterdam we hoped we would help one or two people per month. As members of Abortion Without Borders we’ve been part of an incredible initiative which has enabled us to help not only women and pregnant people from Poland but also people within The Netherlands who are not eligible for free abortion care. Being part of a larger group makes it possible for us to help more people, and this solidarity between people in different countries working together to help people access abortions is incredible to be a part of. ANA members also can’t wait to go home for Christmas and see our billboard in Warsaw.”

 

Kinga Jelińska, Women Help Women said:

 

“Abortion Without Borders is about solidarity, radical empathy and practical help. When we talk about borders, we mean all the obstacles faced by people who need abortions living in countries with bad abortion laws – not only geography but lack of access to funding and information and support from people who haven’t been brainwashed by abortion stigma. We will ensure that getting an abortion does not depend on where someone was born, what passport they carry, age, gender or faith. We are here with information, with empathy, with kindness, and with funding. We are here with no judgement.”

 

If you are in Poland and need help accessing an abortion you can call Abortion With-out Borders on +48 725 892 134, email administracja@maszwybor.net or visit aborcjabezgranic.pl.

 

ENDS

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS

 

1.  Press contacts

Kobiety w Sieci: Justyna Wydrzyńska, +48 725 892 134 justyna@maszwybor.net 

Abortion Dream Team, Karoline Wieckiewicz, +48 50107 4469, kontakt@aborcy-jnydreamteam.pl, Natalia Broniarczyk, +48 50309 8993, kontakt@aborcy-jnydreamteam.pl 

Abortion Support Network: Mara Clarke, +44 7913 353 530, mara@asn.org.uk 

Abortion Network Amsterdam, Kasia Roszak, +31 6 161 25302, offthemap@riseup.net

Ciocia Basia, Zuzanna Dziuban, +491742563357, ciocia.basia@riseup.net

Women Help Women, Kinga Jelińska, +31 645956581, kinga@womenhelp.org

 

2. AWB by the numbers

Since launching on 11 December 2019, the initiative has received calls from 5,237 individuals. Broken down by month, this is:

 

11 – 31 December:  227

January:                  228

February:               250

March:                    193

April:                      255

May:                       250

June:                      178

July:                       286

August:                   339

September:             313

 22 October:       183*

22 Oct – 4 Dec:       2,535*

 

* AWB is under-reporting these numbers as there were so many calls after 22 October it became impossible to count them all. We expect to have weekly call estimates in the next few months.

 

Also, these numbers are only of the people who contacted the Abortion Without Borders helpline and does not count the hundreds of additional people who made direct contact with Abortion Without Borders members in Poland or abroad, nor does it include the numbers of people who accessed abortions without help from an abortion fund or solidarity network.

 

3. Funding provided

Between 11 December 2019 and 9 December 2020, AWB gave more than £67,320/PLN329,419 in funding towards abortion procedures, travel an accommodation costs, with an average grant of £765/PLN3,766.

 

4. Abortion Without Borders values:

 

      We help people access abortion

      We reduce stigma around abortion, whether with pills at home or at a clinic abroad.

      We never ask clients how they got pregnant or why they want abortions, but trust and respect the autonomy of pregnant people.

      We ensure that “I can’t afford an abortion” is never the only reason someone has a baby, or another baby.

 

The French National Consultative Ethics Committee (CCNE) gave green light for extending the legal period for accessing abortion from 12 to 14 weeks of gestation (14 to 16 weeks of amenorrhea). The CCNE states in their communication released on December 11th 2020 that “there is no ethical objection to extending the period of access to voluntary pregnancy termination by two weeks.”

The CCNE estimates in its report that in 2018 between 1500-2000 French women who have exceeded the authorized limit for abortions on women’s request in France traveled to the Netherlands, Spain and England to seek an abortion. According to the results of our recent study, cited in the report – De Zordo et al. (2020) – 70% of French-resident surveyed women who had to undergo such travels were diagnosed with pregnancy after 14 weeks of amenorrhea for various reasons including irregular menstrual cycles, the absence of clinical signs of pregnancy and sometimes persistent periods.

The BBC reports on new ruling made by Poland’s top court regarding abortion. The court has ruled that abortions in case of foetal defects are unconstitutional. For the full story click the link below.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54642108

On October 8th 2020, deputies of the French National Assembly voted in a first reading in favor of extending the gestational age (GA) limit from 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy. The bill still needs to pass the Senate before entering into force. https://www.vie-publique.fr/loi/276586-loi-droit-avortement-allongement-delai-ivg

One reason for extending the GA limit is the fact that annually between 3,000 and 4,000 French women travel abroad to obtain an abortion after 12 weeks.

https://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2020/10/08/l-assemblee-nationale-adopte-en-premiere-lecture-l-allongement-du-delai-legal-pour-proceder-a-une-ivg_6055321_3224.html

The bill also plans to remove the conscientious objection clause, which allows doctors and midwifes to refuse performing an abortion. The bill remains subject to debate and was opposed by the National Academy of Medicine. https://www.france24.com/fr/20201012-ivg-l-acad%C3%A9mie-de-m%C3%A9decine-oppos%C3%A9e-%C3%A0-l-allongement-du-d%C3%A9lai

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