An anti-abortion campaign poster displayed in the Athens metro has triggered a strong reaction from the government, which forced the transportation company to immediately remove it.
On Monday (13 January), social media in Greece were flooded with pictures from the subway.
News website In.gr wrote that social media users have been angry with the campaign which brings the country “back to the Middle Ages”.
The posters sponsored by the “Movement in favor of Life” wanted to send a message against abortion using the slogan “Choose Life”. Greek media reported that the Orthodox Church is fully backing the anti-abortion movements.
Following the intense reaction of opposition parties and activists, the conservative minister of transport, Kostas Karamanlis, asked the transportation company (STASY) to remove the campaign posters as they were arguing “against an absolutely guaranteed and indisputable right of women”.
He also kept his distance from the decision to allow the posters to be advertised, saying that the government was not informed.
“The control and approval of the content of the advertisements posted on the Metro sites is the sole responsibility of STASY’s administration. This must be exercised with responsibility and social conscience,” Karamanlis added.
EURACTIV Greece reported that abortion is legal, under the condition that the woman asks/fully agrees with it and it is under the supervision of a trained doctor. If the pregnant woman is under 17 years old, a parent is needed to provide consent.
It is allowed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, in the first 19 weeks in case of a rape victim or in the first 24 weeks in case of a serious anomaly of the foetus.
If the conditions of the law are not met, there is the threat of prosecution for the pregnant woman, the doctor and anybody that helped.
What’s happening at the EU level?
Abortion is legal in nearly every European country. But there is a wide variation in the restrictions under which it is allowed.
The EURACTIV network provides more details:
Abortion is illegal by default, but there are two exceptions: First if the abortion is conducted within three months of the pregnancy and only after consultation with the doctor who would perform the abortion. The mother’s agreement is needed. Secondly, if a mother or child could be in danger due to the pregnancy. In order to save the mother’s life, her agreement is not needed.
Abortion for non-medical reasons is allowed by the Veil law since 1975 and may be performed until the end of the 12th week of pregnancy, with no restriction for all women (including under 18).
Abortion is legal up to the 12th week if the woman sought advice from a (state-recognised) institution at least three days before the actual procedure. There’s still a big debate on “advertisement” for abortion ongoing. A doctor was recently convicted because she mentioned that she performed abortions on her website which, in Germany, constitutes advertisement.
A woman can request the voluntary interruption of pregnancy within the first trimester of the gestation period either through a pharmacological method or surgery under a 1978 law.
However, the right to abortion is not fully guaranteed as the gynaecologist might also decide not to practice abortion if requested if conscientious objectors. According to Luca Coscioni, an association that advocates for the freedom of scientific research, 7 out of 10 gynaecologists in Italy are objectors.
Last February, two anti-abortion associations, Pro Vita and Ora et Labora displayed a pro-life billboard in front of a clinic with one of the lowest rates of conscientious objectors in Milan, urging women not to stop babies’ hearts and to ‘be brave’.
The advertisement was covered with a blanket by centre-left activists and then removed by the advertising agency who owns the space after two days.
The UK has one of the most liberal abortion laws in Europe, where abortion is legal in virtually all circumstances in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy and at any time thereafter for medical reasons.
However, abortion law is a devolved competence in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and while Scotland follows English law, abortion was only decriminalised in Northern Ireland in October 2019, meaning that criminal charges can no longer be brought against either those who have an abortion or against healthcare professionals who provide abortion services.
Abortion is only legal under three circumstances: in cases of rape, when the woman’s life or any form of health is in jeopardy and if the foetus is irreparably damaged.
Abortion is legal but in recent years there has been a huge debate about the right to conscientious objection. Although abortion is available in all public hospitals since 2014, there are six hospitals in Croatia in which all doctors called for a conscientious appeal. In others, there are individual doctors who refuse the practice. Still, it is a controversial topic, and many groups, usually connected to the Catholic Church lobby for the ban of abortion and change of family laws.
Abortion is legal until the 12th week of pregnancy, with a medical recommendation up to the 24th week of pregnancy, in case of serious problems with the foetus at any time. Abortions recommended by a doctor are covered by health insurance.
Abortion is legal at the request of the mother up until 12 weeks of pregnancy (paid by the women) or because of medical reasons (paid by health insurance). The only condition is that the woman must sign a document saying she was informed about the risks of the procedure. Only surgical abortion is accessible in Slovakia, not the medical one (with the use of oral medicine, which is generally deemed to have fewer risks).
In general, abortion is illegal with the following exceptions. Until 12 weeks, if the pregnancy seriously threatens the mother’s health; the foetus has serious serious impairment; the pregnancy is a result of a crime; or if the pregnant woman is in a “state of a serious emergency.”
The state of serious emergency is defined as causing physical or psychological shocks or social impairment. The pregnancy can be terminated after 18 weeks if one of the previous conditions is fulfilled and one of the following additional conditions is fulfilled. If the pregnant woman has limited legal capacity to act or is legally incapacitated; the pregnancy had not been recognised earlier due to a health issue or medical error not attributable to her; or the pregnancy has been delayed for more than 12 weeks due to failure of a health care institution or public authority.
Abortion can be performed upon approval of one doctor before the 12th week of pregnancy: if the woman is under 17 years old, more than 40 years old or she has already given birth to four children.
You need two doctors’ approval (before the 12th week of pregnancy) in case giving birth and taking care of the baby are considered to be a considerable burden for the mother; if getting pregnant has involved a crime (i.e. rape) or the illness of either mother or father would diminish their ability to cope with a newborn. For an abortion to take place after the 12th week of pregnancy, permission is needed from the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health – and if the unborn child has been diagnosed as severely handicapped or ill.
Without any time limit, an abortion can be carried out if the life of the woman, mother-to-be, is considered to be in danger because of the continued pregnancy. For this one needs an opinion from two doctors.
Abortion is allowed at the request of the pregnant woman up to 13 weeks of the pregnancy. For medical reasons, it is legal until the 22nd week.
It is legal until 14 weeks and it needs to be done by a specialised doctor in an authorised medical institution. The duration is extended, in special medical cases, as in other countries.
Abortion is legal before the 14th week of pregnancy under any circumstances and unless the woman is 16 or younger. Then, parents or legal guardians need to consent. The abortion can only be conducted three days after the woman has been informed about the alternatives available.
It is also legal until the 22nd week of pregnancy if the mother’s life is in danger that needs to be certified by a doctor; if there are serious risks for the fetus to present malformations, and as long as this is certified by two doctors; or when the fetus presents malformations incompatible with life or a serious and potentially deadly illness. This needs to be confirmed by a clinical committee.
Abortion is legal until 10 week while in case of rape or other sex crime, it is legal until 16 weeks. When there is a malformation of the fetus it is allowed until 24 weeks. And in case of risk of life or a serious and irreversible injury of the pregnant woman, it is legal at any time.
At the request of a patient, it can be done by the 10th week of pregnancy. After that, the decision to terminate the pregnancy is made by a physician’s panel, or by an ethics committee, in the case of advanced pregnancy. Parental consent is required for pregnant women under 16 years.
(Additional reporting from Natasha Foote, Gerardo Fortuna, Theodore Karaoulanis, Tim Steins, Florence Schulz, Cécile Barbière, Julia Simić, Karla Juničić, Krassen Nikolov, Pekka Vanttinen, Łukasz Gadzała, Ondřej Plevák, Zuzana Gabrižová, Philipp Grüll, Beatriz Ríos, Vlagyiszlav Makszimov, Benjamin Fox)
(Edited by Benjamin Fox)