Hungarian women have to listen to baby's heartbeat before abortion


Central Europe


Genaecologist doing an ultrasound for a pregnant women. Photo AFP, Janek Skarzynski

Hungarian women who request an abortion will have to listen to the heartbeat of their unborn foetus before they can start the procedure of ending their pregnancy. That has become mandatory by a new decree of the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

About two-thirds of the Hungarians see the first heartbeat as the beginning of life, the Ministry of Interior Affairs stated on Monday. That is reported by the Dutch broadcaster NOS among others. By making women listen to the heartbeat of their unborn child, gynaecologists have to confront women with “a clear sign of the vital functions of the foetus”, the government argues. After that, the women have to present a certificate from a specialist which proves that the factors that indicate the presence of the child's vital functions have been brought to their knowledge in a clear manner, Kath.net reports. The new rule is to come into force on Thursday.

Already in May, the proposal to introduce this law was brought to the table. It was the initiative of the right-wing party Mi Hazánk (Our Homeland), Ungarn Heute reported at the time. Dóra Dúró, party member, said that the Hungarian legislation concerning abortion is a lie, because “life begins at the moment of conception and should be protected from that moment.” She then continued that Hungary should make it compulsory for the mother to listen to the foetus's heartbeat before having an abortion. According to Dúró, this would reduce the number of abortions, Infostart writes.

Family friendly

The Orbán government is known for its family friendly policies, but the country still has a relatively liberal abortion law. Women are allowed to terminate their pregnancy up till 12 weeks for medical or social reasons. Anyone requesting an abortion has to show a letter from a gynaecologist who confirms the pregnancy. Furthermore, she must visit family services twice to receive information about adoption and state benefits for mothers, the Guardian writes. After 12 weeks, it is still possible to end a pregnancy, but only when the foetus is not viable.

In 2011, the Hungarian government already wrote in the Constitution that “the life of the foetus will be protected from conception.” Although the government did not change its abortion laws yet up till now, it did introduce family friendly policies to boost the declining birth rate in the country. Families with several children are able to receive subsidies for a bigger house or car, for example.

Although the Orbán government says to follow the Christian tradition in its family politics, the government never legislated against abortion. The only thing is a short poster campaign soon after 2010. The abortion rate decreased a small bit from 1 in 4 pregnancies to 1 in 5 pregnancies that were terminated. But the numbers remain high in comparison with many other EU countries.



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