Insights from the dashboard: Abortion in Europe in 2023

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Insights from the dashboard: Abortion in Europe in 2023

In the first half of 2023, the topic of abortion was a source of tension in many European countries. Read this article to find out more.

The EARS dashboard is a collection of summaries of articles from European media on the topic of religion and society. The dashboard allows users to sort through these articles by selecting, for instance, specific topics and timeframes of interest. Since May 2022, over 1,750 summaries have been added to the dashboard.

In the first five months of 2023, 24 of those summaries featured the keyword abortion. The majority of these articles are focused on a handful of countries including Spain and Poland. In the past, EARS analysts have produced two articles that examine how the keyword abortion is discussed in summaries on the dashboard, focusing on 2021 and 2022. This article will reflect on how the EARS dashboard has documented debates about abortion across Europe in the first five months of 2023.

Spain: state vs church leaders

In the first five months of 2023, 9 of the 24 summaries on the EARS dashboard that featured the keyword abortion, featured Spain as the country of focus. In February, new laws concerning sexual and reproductive rights were introduced in Spain. One such law ensures that 16- and 17-year-olds in Spain can now undergo an abortion without parental consent. Furthermore, the law also states that each woman has the right to have an abortion in a state hospital. Currently, over 80% of abortions take place in private clinics due to the large number of doctors who refuse to perform them because of their religious beliefs.[1]

Summaries on the dashboard show the controversy surrounding this new law in Spain. A handful of summaries detail how some Spanish Christian leaders have joined forces with Vox, the national-conservative political party in Spain, to protest the new laws. For example, one summary explains how the Bishop of Orihuela-Alicante, José Ignacio Munilla, took to social media to say, “if abortion is progressivism, then the law of the jungle is the summit of democracy.”[2] At another point, Bishop Munilla criticised the Constitutional Court’s endorsement of the new abortion law, saying how “someone with a straight conscience, knowing that the gift of life is inviolable” can support any political party that endorses this law.[3]

These summaries highlight the tension in Spain between the trend toward more liberal political views regarding sexual and reproductive rights versus the conservative views of some religious leaders. As the image below shows, this relationship is reflected on the dashboard, where 5 of the summaries with the keyword abortion also tagged the keyword state.

Poland: where aiding an abortion is a crime

The topic of abortion has also gathered much attention in Poland in the first five months of 2023. Poland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe and helping women to obtain an abortion is illegal. On the dashboard, several summaries detail the case of Polish abortion rights activist Justyna Wydrzyńska. In March 2023, Wydrzyńska was sentenced to eight months of community service for helping a pregnant woman buy abortion pills. Agnès Callamard, the secretary general of Amnesty International, said the “conviction marks a depressing low in the repression of reproductive rights in Poland.”[4]

Moreover, another summary from March 2023 details how the Polish Parliament rejected a bill that would have introduced jail terms for those who promote abortion publically or provide information about how abortions can be obtained. Even though the majority of Polish MPs voted against the bill, more than half of the conservative coalition’s MPs voted for the bill.[5] Therefore, like in Spain, the influence of the conservative, Christian perspective is still strongly felt and has a significant impact on discussions surrounding abortion.

Croatia: abortion and pro-male protests

Another summary on the dashboard from Croatia demonstrates how it is not just those with conservative values that are protesting women’s right to abortion. Instead, in Croatia, one group demonstrates how abortion is central to the message of pro-male groups. The rise of the conservative Catholic men’s group leading the vigils, known as ‘Be Manly’, has attracted a small but dedicated following in the Balkan country. The group argues that women should dress modestly, and premarital sex should be condemned. In addition, they demand an absolute abortion ban.”[6] Central to their message is that women’s reproductive rights must be restricted in order to return to traditional values. Whilst support for this group and those like it is still relatively small in Croatia, the simple fact that they exist is a cause for concern and highlights how controversial the topic of abortion is in the country.

As the EARS dashboard shows, in the first five months of 2023, the topic of abortion was a source of tension in a handful of European countries. Debates commonly occurred in countries with strong conservative, Christian values, such as Spain and Poland. The topic of abortion often overlapped with the topics of state, leadership,and tension, highlighting the divide between those pushing for more equality regarding women’s right to access abortions compared to those trying to restrict such rights.

Learn more on the EARS dashboard

The EARS dashboard allows you to gain insights into a large number of topics, including abortion. It is a free tool that allows you to make connections like those described above, and to find out about relationships between interesting subjects across Europe. Please visit the dashboard to learn more.

Martha Scott-Cracknell

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[1] Spain approves menstrual leave, teen abortion and trans laws | Health News | Al Jazeera

[2] Munilla compara el plan antiaborto de Vox en Castilla y León con la información de las cajetillas de tabaco

[3] Munilla pide el voto para VOX: “La traición del PP a la causa de la vida es total y absoluta”

[4] Polish court convicts activist for helping woman get abortion pills

[5] Polish parliament rejects law banning “promotion of abortion” | Notes From Poland

[6] Catholic group ‘Be Manly’ sparks culture clash in Croatia