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New Law Proposal strengthens the Freedom to Choose in Slovakia

Women who are unintentionally getting pregnant can face a lot of pressure to terminate their pregnancy. There can be economic pressure in providing for the child, but also pressure from partner, family or teachers. A new law is being voted in Slovakia this week which updates the current legislative framework, the main goal being to help women make informed choices and to increase support for them. This law has been initiated by Member of Parliament Anna Záborská (Christian Union, Slovakia).

In order to reduce the economic pressure on pregnant women, the law proposes the following:

  • Possibility to obtain financial support after the 4th month of pregnancy to cover for increased expenses due to the pregnancy.
  • Governmental financial help from childbirth, with no administrative barriers (until now the child had to be alive at least 28 days after birth to be eligible for financial support). The law is also proposing to extend financial aid to all children born in Slovakia.
  • The financial help in case of birth of child with severe disabilities is increased by four times.
  • Creating a new state social service for mothers who lost their accommodation due to their unplanned pregnancy. This social service would be in charge of providing emergency accommodation where women could live with their new-born child for three years.

For women to be able to make an informed decision, the law asks they be provided with more information on economic, social, and psychological help that can be obtained by women either from the state or from various NGOs. In addition, the new law[1] increases the mandatory waiting period from 48 to 96 hours so that a woman can have the time to reflect and process all the information she receives from her doctor and others before proceeding with an abortion. It also expands the existence of a mandatory waiting period to all cases except when a woman’s health or life is at immediate risk.

The law has been criticized by several civil society actors who claim that this law aims to “block women’s access to safe abortion”[2] as the state wants to financially support only the termination of pregnancy based on health grounds. However, we must not forget about the right of life for the unborn child and take that into account when we legislate on this topic.

Protecting life and human dignity is a principle underlined in international human rights law as well as in multiple treaties.[3]  The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates that “[T]he child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.” Moreover, the European Court of Human Rights, in a case where a French woman (Mrs Vo) accused a doctor of unintentionally killing her unborn child due to negligence, affirmed that the unborn deserves protection and that “it may be regarded as common ground between States that the embryo/foetus belongs to the human race.”[4] This means that the court affirmed that the foetus is worthy of some level of protection.[5] Additionally, with regard to  “access to abortion” the European Court of Human Rights has held that the “woman’s right to respect for her private life must be weighed against other competing rights and freedoms invoked including those of the unborn child.”[6]

This law offers a holistic approach to this topic. Together with giving every possible moral and financial support to the mothers, it also takes into consideration the life of the unborn babies they carry. I believe it is the fairest and most humane approach. It is also in line with international law, human dignity and the human rights and Christian values that underpin our European democracies.

 



[1] Draft Law which Amends and Supplements Act No. 576/2004 Coll. of Laws on Healthcare, Healthcare-related Services, and on Amending and Supplementing Certain Acts as Amended, and which Amends and Supplements Certain Acts (Print no. 154, 19.06.2020)

[2] http://moznostvolby.sk/analyza-4-poslaneckych-navrhov/

[3]Article 2.1 of the  European Convention of Human Rights, Article 2.1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

[4] Vo vs France par. 84 https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/fre#{%22itemid%22:[%22001-61887%22]}

[5] ADF International Contribution to the General Discussion on the preparation for General Comment No.36 Article 6 of the ICCPR: Right to life p.3 http://adfinternational.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/ADF-International-Submission-on-Art.-6-ICCPR.pdf

[6] A, B and C v. Ireland par. 213 https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#{%22itemid%22:[%22001-102332%22]}

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