Anti-abortion and pro-abortion activists clash
Prague's historic city center witnessed a rare demonstration by pro-life activists on Saturday, as some six hundred people protested against the right of Czech women to have an abortion. Police were forced to intervene when scuffles broke out with a rival group of demonstrators, who took to the streets to demonstrate for the opposite view - that it's a woman's right to choose. Olga Szantova reports.
It's two years since Prague last witnessed a demonstration against abortion. At that time they adopted a declaration proclaiming the rights of the unborn child. They took to the streets on Saturday to protest against the fact that nothing has changed since two years ago. "We're here to protect the rights of the unborn child. Abortion is murder and must be banned." The executive director of the Czech Family Planning Association, Radim Uzel, says there is nothing new or unusual in this kind of demonstration. "These demonstrations are in many countries, for example in the United States, but in the Czech Republic this fighting is not serious." That's because at this point abortions aren't really an issue here. "In the Czech Republic the number of abortions has decreased, in the last seven years by about 65 to 66 percent." This decrease in the number of abortions is happening despite women's free access to them. "The reason for this decrease in the number of abortions is more contraception, and especially oral contraception. In the Czech Republic oral contraception the use is three times higher than in communist times. This is really the sign of a developed country, from abortion to contraception." Access to contraceptives and sex education are the reasons behind the fact that the Czech Republic compares favorably with the abortion rate in developed countries. "In communist times we had here, in the Czech Republic about three or four times higher number of abortions compared to other West European countries. Nowadays the number of abortions is comparable." Also comparable with other developed countries are Czech laws dealing with abortion. Women have the right to choose in all developed countries, the only exceptions in Europe, says Dr. Uzel, are Catholic Ireland and Poland. And experience, both past and present, has proven that outlawing abortion is a dangerous measure, which usually results in illegal, backstreet operations. Those are always more dangerous for the woman, or else they result in women's travelling abroad to have abortions, which is equally undesirable. And according to the opinion polls, two thirds of Czechs say a woman has the right to decide. "Our law is very permissive and under this permissive abortion law the number of abortions has decreased."