COVID-19 restricts access to abortions in Slovakia

Many hospitals in Slovakia have stopped performing abortions following a government decision to postpone all planned surgeries except life-saving ones due to the risk of infections during the coronavirus pandemic.

This has resulted in Slovakia effectively limiting access to safe and timely abortions, several human rights organisations have warned, prompting ombudswoman Mária Patakyová to request the country’s new health minister, Marek Krajčí (OĽaNO), to guarantee women have access to safe abortions during the pandemic.

>>To read more about how Slovakia has been dealing with the pandemic, check here.

A month ago, Krajčí said he “does not recommend” having an abortion in the current crisis, but acknowledged these can be performed legally provided both the woman and the doctor are willing to take the risk.

“Surely, the ombudswoman will understand that the decreased immunity during operation could multiply the risks of any surgical procedure. Health and lives of mothers, weakened by the surgery, could be very much at risk,” a ministry spokeswoman told the TASR agency.

“We deem the statements [by the ombudswoman] saying this constitutes unproportionate interference into women’s sexual rights to be a very serious allegation, that is unfounded and without any substance,“ the ministry added.

The ministry is urging women to protect their health and not request any procedures from the doctors that can seriously affect their health, effectively limiting their access to safe pregnancy termination.

The non-surgical medical method (abortion pill), deemed the safest method available by experts, is not legal in Slovakia. The Ministry of Health has not authorised the pill to enter the market in Slovakia as some women travel to Austria for this procedure.

In Romania, authorities have recommended the postponement of all non-essential medical interventions, and while officially abortions are not forbidden in Romania, media reported that hospitals are not performing pregnancy terminations.

Moreover, many medical clinics are closed, and of the total number of public hospitals, just 11% are performing abortions at request, none of them in Bucharest.

In Poland, which has the second strictest law on abortion in the EU after Malta, the governing PiS has sought to sneak through a bill amid the pandemic that would criminalise abortion in cases of fatal foetal deformation.

The bill was initially accepted by the Sejm, Poland’s lower house, but is now subject to hearings of the health and social policy committees and is likely to remain stuck there at least until the elections.

In the eve of the Sejm vote, dozens of women protested in their cars due to the strict lockdown measures in place since 14 April.

(Zuzana Gabrižová |, Karolina Zbytniewska |, Bogdan Neagu |


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