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INTERNATIONAL NEWS | Slovakia's Constitutional Court Rejects Request To Declare Abortion Law Unconstitutional

INTERNATIONAL NEWS | Slovakia's Constitutional Court Rejects Request To Declare Abortion Law Unconstitutional
[Dec. 6, 2007]

Slovakia's Constitutional Court on Tuesday rejected a request submitted by a group of lawmakers led by the Christian Democrat Party to ban abortion in the country, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports (AP/International Herald Tribune, 12/4).

A 1986 law allows abortions in the country up to 12 weeks' gestation. Thirty-one members of Slovakia's Parliament in 2001 filed a complaint that the law was unconstitutional. The court in a statement accompanying its decision said the 12-week limit "is related to the onset of a fetus' ability to sense its surroundings," adding that the law is "in accordance with prevailing European practices for relevant countries that allow" abortion (TASR-Slovakia, 12/4).

The complaint also challenged a Health Ministry directive that allows such abortions up to 24 weeks' gestation if the fetus is "genetically damaged" (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 7/24/03). Although the court ruled that the directive does "not comply with the Constitution," Luba Mackovicova, a representative for the Constitutional Court, said that abortion "for genetic reasons will also be possible after this (12-week) term." In an accompanying statement, the court also stressed that its decision was not meant to threaten the right for abortions on health grounds (Agence France-Presse, 12/4).

Daniel Lipsic, a Christian Democrat lawmaker who filed the initial complaint, said that he believes the ruling means that "it will not be permitted to carry out abortions in the case of a genetic defect later than within 12 weeks of conception" (TASR-Slovakia, 12/4). Lipsic added that the party will study the ruling to decide whether to propose an amendment to the country's abortion regulations. Several Roman Catholic leaders condemned the ruling. Jozef Kovacik, a spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops Council, said the group "will use all possible means so that the law can be changed in the future" (Agence France-Presse, 12/4).

During the communist era in the former Czechoslovakia, abortion was legal and common (AP/International Herald Tribune, 12/4). However, the number of abortions in Slovakia has more than halved to 15,000 in the 10 years prior to 2005, largely as a result of the increased use of contraceptives, according to the health ministry (Agence France-Presse, 12/4).