Christian Democrats unveil radical proposals to abortion legislation

Tomáš Julínek, photo: CTK

The Christian Democrats – one of the three parties in the centre-right governing coalition – unveiled controversial new abortion proposals on Thursday that are bound to outrage many women in the sexually liberal Czech Republic. The changes are suggested additions to the health reforms being prepared by the Civic Democrat Health Minister Tomas Julinek, who will need the support of the Christian Democrats to push his reforms through parliament.

At present, the Czech Republic has fairly liberal abortion laws. Any woman has the right to ask for an abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy. Provided there are no health grounds on which to turn her request down, the hospital is compelled to carry out the procedure, although she does have to pay a small fee.

The only limitations are that a woman can’t have an abortion more than once in six months, and she has to be at least 16 years old. If she is younger than 16, she has to have the permission of her parents, and if she is younger than 15, the doctor is compelled to report a case of sexual abuse to the police – the age of consent in this country being 15.

After the 12th week of pregnancy, Czech law says a woman can only have an abortion on health grounds, i.e. if the foetus is deformed or if the mother’s life is at risk, but the foetus can be carried at any point during pregnancy.

The Christian Democrats propose the following radical changes:

(1) The doctor would have to listen to the opinion of the father. The father wouldn’t have a veto, but should at least have his say. The media has pointed out this immediately presents problems because (a) what happens if the father is not the woman’s husband or partner? (b) what happens if the father is not the father, merely someone roped in (or paid) to claim he is?

Health Minister Tomáš Julínek, photo: CTK
(2) The Christian Democrats also want to extend the age of parental consent from 16 to 18 – so in other words a woman could only go for an abortion on her own if she was at least 18. In a country as sexually liberal as the Czech Republic, with many teenagers already having sex before the age of 18, this is unrealistic.

(3) The party also wants to limit abortions on health grounds to the 18th week of pregnancy and not beyond.

The chances of the party pushing through the changes are slim. The church has negligible influence in Czech society. The Civic Democrats – who control the Health Ministry – are themselves against it, although minister Julinek himself hasn’t yet come out and said either way. The left-wing opposition and probably the Greens would almost certainly be against it too, so it’s very unlikely these changes – or any health legislation containing these changes – would make it through parliament.