Hungarian women appalled by ‘tormenting’ abortion reform

BUDAPEST, September 15 (Reuters) – Hungarian women have expressed dismay at the entry into force on Thursday of an amendment to abortion rules, which some see as a first step towards tightening access to procedure under a deeply conservative government.

Home Secretary Sandor Pinter introduced an amendment to abortion rules this week requiring pregnant women to submit proof from their healthcare provider of a definitive sign of life, widely interpreted as the heartbeat. of a fetus, before requesting the procedure. Read more

The number of abortions fell to around 22,000 in Hungary last year, from over 90,000 in 1990 according to official statistics. However, some women interviewed by Reuters were skeptical that the amendment could further reduce the demand for abortions.

“I think it won’t change the mind of someone who has already decided to opt for an abortion, so it’s completely unnecessary and will only torment women,” said Borbala Jonas in a playground from the center of Budapest amidst the joyful jostling of children around her. .

Current rules allow Hungarian women to seek an abortion in cases of rape, health risks to the mother due to pregnancy, severe disability of the unborn child, or in the event of a serious personal crisis.

Poland, one of the most Catholic countries in Europe, almost completely prohibits abortion. Access to it has been boosted in recent years under the Law and Justice (PiS) party, Hungary’s conservative nationalist ally, triggering major protests.

“It is my biggest fear that they will take away our rights little by little, little by little,” said Nora Bakacs, a mother from Budapest. “I believe it’s a first step, and it’s going to go from here, to the most extreme.”

Right-wing nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban was easily re-elected in April but faces his toughest term in office since a landslide victory in 2010 with the forint nearing historic lows, soaring energy costs and European Union funds in limbo amid a row over rolling back democratic standards.

The government gave no reason for the abortion amendment.

Some political analysts said it could be aimed at mobilizing more conservative voters for Fidesz in politically difficult times by clipping the wings of the far-right Our Homeland party, which won seats in parliament for the first time in April. and had initially campaigned for the changes. .

Dora Duro, an MP for Our Homeland, said that even after the decline in abortions seen in recent decades, there were still too many in the central European country.

“This is a procedural change,” the mother-of-four said, holding up a plastic replica of a 10-week-old fetus.

“It’s necessary because one in five children conceived in Hungary still have an abortion and that’s an extremely high number.”

Women’s rights group Patent said the changes would not curb the demand for abortions, but could foreshadow a possible future tightening of abortion laws.

“Making access to abortion more difficult will not result in fewer abortions,” spokeswoman Julia Spronz said. “It serves the sole purpose of inducing guilt in women so that they feel even worse, even more like sinners.”

Reporting by Krisztina Fenyo Writing by Gergely Szakacs Editing by Mark Heinrich

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Laura T. Thrasher