Abortion in the European Union

Actors, issues and discourse



A medical act with multiple social, psychological and emotional implications, abortion is a socio-political issue in its own right. Access to the right to abortion is subject to tension, opposition and conflict between different actors or ideas with sometimes extremely antagonistic positions.

While Europe is the continent where access to safe and legal abortion seems to be closest to international medical and health recommendations, authorities in several countries are challenging this access. In general, attempts to restrict access, whether successful or not, highlight the possible reversibility of the right to access abortion. As a result, the right to abortion remains a highly sensitive issue of public and political debate.

This book compares the legal regime of abortion in the different EU countries and the effectiveness of the right of access to abortion. Moreover, it traces the evolution of the political debate whilst drawing on the concrete example of Belgium. This examination highlights the extent to which the calls for the right to abortion and the institutional recognition of this right are shaped by various actors within national and international networks. The positions and framing of the issues by these ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ actors, including the Holy See, are carefully analysed.

The book also examines the discrepancy between the citizenship approach adopted by research on sexual and reproductive rights and the language of human rights used by activists to legitimise themselves as interlocutors in political deliberation and to justify their claims.

This book provides a comparative look at the discourses and practices of abortion rights across Europe.

Karl Renner Institut
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