Risoluzione 16 aprile 2008, n.1607
Access to safe and legal abortion in Europe
Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly. Resolution 16 april 2008, n. 1607 (2008): “Access to safe and legal abortion in Europe”.
(Provisional edition) (*)
1. The Parliamentary Assembly reaffirms that abortion can in no circumstances be regarded as a family planning method. Abortion must, as far as possible, be avoided. All possible means compatible with women’s rights must be used to reduce the number of both unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
2. In most of the Council of Europe members states the law permits abortion in order to save the woman’s life. Abortion is permitted in the majority of other European countries for a number of reasons including to preserve physical and mental health, rape and incest, foetal impairment, economic and social reasons and in some countries on request. The Assembly is however concerned that in many of these states, numerous conditions are imposed and restrict the effective access to safe, affordable, acceptable and appropriate abortion services. These restrictions have discriminatory effects, since women who are well-informed and possess adequate financial means can often obtain legal and safe abortions more easily.
3. The Assembly also notes that, in member states where abortion is permitted for a number of reasons, conditions are not always such as to guarantee women effective access to this right: the lack of local health care facilities, the lack of doctors willing to carry out abortions, the repeated medical consultations required, the time allowed for changing one’s mind and the waiting time for the abortion all have the potential to make access to safe, affordable, acceptable and appropriate abortion services more difficult, or even impossible in practice.
4. The Assembly takes the view that abortion should not be banned within reasonable gestational limits. A ban on abortions does not result in fewer abortions, but mainly leads to clandestine abortions, which are more traumatic and increase maternal mortality and/or lead to abortion “tourism” which is costly and delays the timing of an abortion and results in social inequities. The lawfulness of abortion does not have an effect on a woman’s need for an abortion, but only on her access to a safe abortion.
5. At the same time, evidence shows that appropriate sexual and reproductive health and rights strategies and policies, including compulsory age-appropriate, gender-sensitive sex and relationships education for young people, results in less recourse to abortion. This education should include teaching on self-esteem, healthy relationships, the freedom to delay sexual activity, avoiding peer pressure, contraceptive advice, and considering consequences and responsibilities.
6. The Assembly affirms the right of all human beings, women included, to respect for their physical integrity and to freedom to control their own bodies. In this context, the ultimate decision on whether or not to have an abortion should be a matter for the woman concerned, and she should have the means of exercising this right in an effective way.
7. The Assembly invites the member states of the Council of Europe to:
7.1. decriminalise abortion within reasonable gestational limits, if they have not already done so;
7.2. guarantee women’s effective exercise of their right to access to a safe and legal abortion;
7.3. allow women freedom of choice and offer the conditions of a free and enlightened choice without specifically promoting abortion;
7.4. lift restrictions which hinder, de jure or de facto, access to safe abortion, and in particular take the necessary steps to create the appropriate conditions for health, medical and psychological care and offer suitable financial cover;
7.5. adopt evidence based appropriate sexual and reproductive health and rights strategies and policies, ensuring continued improvements and expansion of non-judgemental sex and relationships information and education and contraceptive services by increased investments from the national budgets into improving health systems, reproductive health supplies and information;
7.6. ensure that women and men have access to contraception and advice on contraception at a reasonable cost, of a suitable nature for them, and chosen by them;
7.7. introduce compulsory age-appropriate, gender-sensitive sex and relationships education for young people (inter alia, in schools), to avoid unwanted pregnancies (and therefore abortions);
7.8. promote a more pro-family attitude in public information campaigns, and provide counselling and practical support to help women where the reason for wanting an abortion is family or financial pressure.
(*) Assembly debate on 16 April 2008 (15th Sitting) (see Doc. 11537 rev., report of the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, rapporteur: Mrs Gisela Wurm; and Doc. 11576, opinion of Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee, rapporteur: Mrs Christine McCafferty). Text adopted by the Assembly on 16 April 2008 (15th Sitting).