This selective report notes recent events relating to pregnancy termination in the U.S., France, England, Italy, East and West Germany, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Due to the Supreme Court decision in January 1973, abortion is now legal in the U.S. Although abortions is illegal in France, an estimated 400,000-1,000,000 clandestine abortions occur each year. Although abortions are legal in Britain, the ease with which they can be obtained varies regionally. As of March 1973, contraceptives are part of Britain's National Health Service. In Italy, a bill to legalize abortion has been introduced in Parliament, though there is little likelihood of its passing. In East Germany, abortion can be granted for medical or social reasons, while in West Germany, the governmental policies are more conservative, resulting in an abundance of illegal abortions performed by physicians. There is a trend toward easier abortion laws in Norway and Sweden. Little is happening in the Netherlands as far as liberalizing the abortion laws. Rather liberal grounds for pregnancy termination exist in China (though emphasis is on contraception), India, Russia, and Eastern Europe (with the exception of Romania). Abortion is frowned upon in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East resulting in a large number of illegal abortions. It is concluded that there is liberalized abortion in communist bloc countries, there is trend toward liberalizing abortion in a large group of western countries, and tradition and religion are responsible for conservative abortion laws in a third group of countries.
Last month saw the end of the first year of operation of the Abortion Act in Britian, and statistics are now available for the first 10 months, from April 1968, to February 1969. In that time, legal, notified abortions totalled 28,849, of which 20,746 were on the grounds of risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the women. A further 1350 were carried out because of risk to the life of the woman, 1137 because of risk to the physical or mental health of existing children, 965 because of the risk of the woman bearing a physically or mentally handicapped child, and 52 as emergencies to save the life of the woman or prevent grace injury to her health. Another 4599 abortions were carried out for more than 1 of these reasons. An earlier set of statistics, covering the period up to December 1968, showed that 22,256 abortions legally carried out up to then, 13,609 were in National Health Service hospitals and 8601 in other approved hospitals. It is likely that the total number of legal abortions in Britain for the first full year of the Act will be about 34,000. In the years leading up to the introduction of the Abortion Act, the number of abortions carried out in Britain for reasons then legal had been growing steadily, and had reached 7600 in National Health Service hospitals in 1967. An unknown further number of legal abortions had been done in private nursing homes - these cannot be computed because they were not notifiable before the Abortion Act came into force. There are 4 legal abortions for every 100 live births in Britain; this is about 1/2 the figure for Denmark and one tenth that of Czechoslovakia.
An overview is provided of the access to abortion legally mandated in Eastern and Western European countries; changes in legal restrictions are indicated. Only in Ireland and Poland is abortion prohibited. In most European countries women may legally terminate a pregnancy in the first 3 months. Some countries require an authorization from a medical officer before the request is accepted; countries with these provisions are England, Scotland, Wales, and former Federal Republic of Germany, Spain, Hungary, Ireland. Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Portugal. Most of the women in these countries are able to obtain an abortion, at least during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion without restriction is not authorized in any European country. Countries that have removed noncompliance from the criminal code are Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia and the Slovak Republic, and European republic of the former USSR. There is a range of different restrictions. For example, in England and Wales, abortion is permitted for a nonviable fetus regardless of any other health risk and does not restrict foreign nationals from obtaining an abortion. Abortion on demand is possible in Albania without any conditions for unmarried women and with a husband's consent for married women. Liberal laws do not always translate to liberal practices. For example, in certain regions of Australia, Spain, and the former Federal Republic of Germany, there is still opposition to abortion and obstacles are presented or information on abortion requirements is kept quiet. On the other hand, violations of the law on abortion were frequently violated and unpenalized in countries with restrictive legislation, such as the Netherlands prior to 1982, France before 1975, and Belgium prior to 1990. Restrictive laws are sometimes interpreted liberally regionally, such as Switzerland's concept of "dangerous to health." Abortion procedures tend to be simple (curettage) due to lack of equipment such as suction curette. RU-486 is available only in France, Great Britain, and Sweden. Regardless of the law, frequency of abortion varies. Romania has the highest abortion rate at 6 abortions/woman. Abortions are also widespread in Belarus, Serbia, and Russia. Data are available by country on average number of abortions and conditions for legal practice.
The various countries of Europe have similar conditions of access to contraceptive methods. In eastern Europe, however, the supply of contraceptive pills, coils, spermicidal products, and condoms is less than the demand (except for Hungary and the Czech and Slovak republics), particularly in Poland, in the former Soviet Union, and in Romania. Sweden and Turkey have authorized midwives to prescribe contraceptive pills or to insert coils. In Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, and in the former Soviet Union, the dispensing of pills without prescription is tolerated. Spermicidal products can generally be dispensed in pharmacies without a prescription. Condoms are sold even in Ireland. France dose not allow the advertising of contraceptives in nonmedical journals, while Denmark encourages such advertising. Today a number of European countries regulate contraceptive surgery. In Finland, a minimum of 3 children is the prerequisite and age conditions are set (over 18 years in Turkey, over 25 years in Austria, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, and Sweden, over 30 years in Finland, and over 35 years in Croatia and Slovenia). Sterilization for contraceptive purposes constitutes a statutory offense of mutilation in France, Ireland, Austria, Greece, Malta, and Poland. Sterilization is carried out in Spain and Italy, less so in Ireland and Malta, and there is slow progress in this regard in Belgium and France. Voluntary sterilization is legally allowed in Hungary and Romania, practiced on a small scale in Albania, and prohibited in Bulgaria. The Netherlands has the highest number of couples protected by sterilization. Most often the public family planning services are integrated in other services, such as community clinics, hospitals, and pre- and postnatal clinics. In Europe as compared with the developing countries, a very large number of private practitioners have the responsibility of informing and prescribing.
In March 1985, the Swedish Parliament allocated financial resources for an action program to strengthen the position of women in the labor market. This program is based on the recognition that special efforts are needed to interest girls in technical subjects at preschool age and to support women entering occupational fields where men predominate. The program includes: special technology courses for girls in grades eight and nine; further training of teaching and vocational personnel concerning equal opportunities; an experimental training scheme for women whose jobs are threatened by new technology; supportive back-up groups or study circles for women who have opted for nontraditional occupations; and the appointment of a special study group to analyze conditions for women in connection with structural changes in industry. The Government also instructed the National Board of Education to follow the progress of upper secondary school girls taking technical lines of study and to ascertain the extent to which special supporting measures are needed.
This Law amends the Marriage and Divorce Act of Denmark to provide that a spouse has the right to obtain a divorce when the other spouse deliberately has committed serious violence toward the first spouse or the children.
This Danish Act repeals subsections 2 and 3 of section 10 of the Act on the termination of pregnancy and replaces them with the following language: "2) Physicians, nurses, midwives, and assistant nurses shall, if they so request, be absolved from carrying out or participating in termination of pregnancy if it is contrary to their ethical or religious views. The foregoing shall also apply to persons undergoing training for one of these professions."
This Danish law authorizes persons of the same sex to register their partnership and be treated legally in most cases as persons in heterosexual partnerships are treated, notably with respect to marriage, divorce, succession, and social and tax laws. Nonetheless, persons in such partnerships are not treated the same as heterosexuals with respect to adoption of children and the right to obtain a religious celebration of their partnership.
In 1986, Denmark's family allowance scheme was modified by these two Acts with effect from 1 July 1987. The regular allowance and the youth allowance were abolished by the second Act and replaced by the first Act with a single allowance "for children in the family" payable with respect to every child under the age of 18. The new allowance is payable quarterly and set at DKr 1250 per quarter. Payment of the allowance is taxable in Denmark, but no longer conditional on the child being permanently resident in Denmark. Allowances are no longer dependent on the income of parents and are adjusted by a percentage fixed by law every year, rather than by the cost of living.
Family planning associations (FPAs) in the Scandinavian countries know the importance of addressing the needs of male adolescents and young men. Even though sex education is part of school curricula in Denmark, many young men lack good and confident counsellors to give them advice about sexuality and reproduction. In Denmark, almost half of men aged 16-20 years never talk to their parents about sexuality. It should therefore not be surprising that more than two-thirds of callers to the Danish FPA's, and other European FPAs', anonymous sex counseling telephone line are male. Many of the questions asked by young men indicate insecurity about sexual activity and what is perceived to be sexually normal. FPAs can play a vital role in providing counselling to boys and young men. Male discussion groups can help identify the needs of boys and young. Involving adolescents and the importance of the male perspective are discussed.