Government rejects anti-abortion bill

22-07-2003

The cabinet at its Monday meeting rejected an anti-abortion bill put forward by a group of Christian Democrat and Civic Democrat deputies. Under the bill, abortions would be a criminal offence and doctors could face up to five years in prison for performing them. The authors of the bill say they expected it to be rebuffed by the government, but in their words, they wanted to stir up a debate on the issue in Czech society.

Eight MPs of the junior coalition Christian Democrats and one deputy from the liberal-conservative Civic Democratic Party would like to see the Czech liberal abortion law made substantially stricter. All abortions would be illegal, expect for cases when the pregnancy is a result of rape or could endanger the woman's life. Anyone who performs an abortion or assists in it would be subject to criminal prosecution.

In its negative verdict, the government refers to a number of United Nations resolutions which stipulate the right of every child to be born into an environment where they will be wanted and loved, and those specifying a basic human right of every family to have as many children as they want, at the time they consider the most appropriate. Justice Minister Pavel Rychetsky.

"Beside the UN, the Council of Europe, too, considers the right to choose to be a basic human right, and the Government of the Czech Republic believes that in matters of reproduction the right of the woman is dominant- either to decide herself or participate on the decision about processes that take place in her body. On top of that, the bill has some formal shortcomings. For example, it criminalises all abortions except in cases of pregnancies resulting from rape, but it does not specify how those particular abortions would be carried out."

The MPs who submitted the bill say they now want to see it discussed in parliament. Along with an almost complete ban on abortions, the bill also introduces new terminology. Instead of "extermination of the foetus" the operation would be called "killing of a conceived but yet unborn child". MP Petr Pleva of the opposition Civic Democrats is one of the authors of the bill.

"If we consider abortion to be a killing of an unborn child, there is no reason to extend the possibilities when a woman can undergo an abortion."

Opponents say that such legislation would only lead to illegal, backstreet abortions, endangering the lives of the women and worsening the health consequences of the operation which is never completely risk-free even when performed professionally.

Statistics show that since the fall of Communism in 1989, the number of abortions has been decreasing significantly. While in 1990, some 100,000 were carried out, the total number of abortions performed in the last five years was just over 180,000. Better family planning, wide availability of contraception and education are thought to be behind the trend. Nevertheless, every third pregnancy still ends in abortion. Experts believe the number of abortions could be further reduced by appropriate sex education both in the family and at school.

22-07-2003