By Hilary White
PRAGUE, April 11, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Czech Radio reports that the Christian Democrat party, one of the three parties in the centre-right governing coalition, is proposing to create some limits to abortion, which is largely un-restricted in the country.
The proposed changes are in addition to a bill proposed by the Civic Democrat Health Minister Tomas Julinek, who will need the support of the Christian Democrats to push his reforms through parliament.
Abortion in the Czech Republic is legally allowed up to 12 weeks gestational age for any reason, with "medical indications" up to 24 weeks and at any time during pregnancy in cases of suspected serious foetal abnormalities. Abortion was legalised under the communist regime in 1957. The only restrictions beyond these say that abortions must be spaced at least six months apart and the mother must be at least 16 years old, unless she has the permission of her parents.
Earlier this month, statistics showed that the birth rate, as well as the abortion rate, is dropping in the Czech Republic. The number of abortions reached a peak in 1990 at over 100,000 per year, but has declined steadily, reaching less than 1/3 of the peak level in 2004. In 2006, there were 25,400 abortions in a total population of 10,228,744 in the country. 77 per cent of the induced abortions were committed on children in the first 8 weeks of gestation.
The Christian Democrats propose to limit abortions on "health grounds" to the 18th week of pregnancy and propose to allow fathers to have a say in whether a child is aborted, although the father’s opinion will not be a ‘veto’. They also propose to raise the age at which parental consent is required from 16 to 18.
The Christian Democrats have objected to a bill presented by the health ministry proposing to further liberalise the abortion law by removing the time restrictions on abortion in cases where there is suspicion that an embryo might be "damaged". The ministry also proposes to allow foreign women to obtain abortions in the Czech Republic.
Despite the Czech Republic having one of the lowest birth rates in the world, 1.22 children born per woman according to 2007 statistics, support for abortion among the public remains high.
A poll of over 3000 respondents, released at the end of March, found that 71 percent oppose any restrictions on abortion. The paper noted that although 90 percent of respondents in the poll said the ban on abortion would violate women’s rights, 23 percent considered abortion to be murder. The numbers, therefore, would seem to indicate that 13 percent of respondents are in favour of giving a mother the "right" to murder her child.
In late March a small group of demonstrators gathered in St. Wenceslas Square in Prague protesting the country’s liberal abortion laws. One poster carried by protesters read, "Free choice ends where new life starts." Organiser Zdenka Rybova, president of Movement for Life, told the Prague Daily Monitor that legal abortion is legal murder and compared abortion to Hitler’s practices.
A junior Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) deputy, David Macek, sent a letter to President Vaclav Klaus asking for a public debate on abortion. The debate on abortion intensified recently when a Czech court awarded 80,000 crowns in compensation to a 26-year-old woman who gave birth to a healthy daughter after an attempted abortion.
The Czech government is also considering legislation that would allow unmarried women to undergo artificial fertilization, homosexuals to adopt their "partners’" children, and a penal bill that would eliminate the threat of prosecution for drug use.
Read related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Czech Abortion Numbers Fall Along with Live Births