‘Abortion in the EU’ – Country fact sheets

Multispeed access to abortion across member states

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In Europe, 29 out of 1000 women aged 15 to 44 have had an abortion. Decriminalising abortion is once again becoming an issue for supporter of the right to abortion in the face of various setbacks driven by opponents since the 2000s.

Access to abortion varies greatly across the EU. It is subject to various cumulative legal conditions and de facto barriers. The book ‘Abortion in the EU: Actors, Issues and Discourse‘ authored by Prof. Bérengère Marques Pereira published by FEPS & the Karl-Renner-Institut illustrates that no country, even in the most permissive ones, recognizes women’s control over their bodies in the way that feminist movements have been demanding since the 1970s.

It is true that in the EU abortion is generally possible at the request of the woman, with a few exceptions. However, a detailed approach to the legal regimes and their implementation highlights that the cumulative nature of the legal conditions (which are far from being solely health-related) constitutes an obstacle, sometimes severe, to women’s decision-making autonomy, as do practices of circumventing or even transgressing the law in certain states.

These country factsheets therefore map all the (non-)legal criteria for profiling the different abortion regimes in each of the EU 27 countries (and the UK as well as Northern Ireland[1]). Each factsheet helps us to better understand that it is only by combining the respective national legal regime regulating abortion with effective access to abortion in practice that it is possible to assess how difficult or easy it is for a woman to legally and effectively obtain an abortion in her country. In other words, a woman’s access abortion will depend not just on the existing legal framework but also on a range of additional barriers along her journey.

[1] which, though part of the UK, had its own legislation until 2019 that was radically different from that of the rest of the country.

Karl Renner Institut
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