More than 1,000 Hungarians protested on Wednesday against a change in abortion rules that came into effect on September 15 and which women’s rights groups say would “humiliate” and torture women without affecting abortion rates.
Under rules amended by the government of conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, pregnant women must have a definitive sign of life, widely interpreted as a fetal heartbeat, presented by their doctor before requesting the procedure.
Current rules allow Hungarian women to request an abortion in the event of rape, a pregnancy that poses a threat to the mother’s health, a severe disability in the unborn child, or in the event of a serious personal crisis.
The government did not justify the change and denied that it would be a tightening of the rules. Some political analysts have said it may be aimed at winning votes for Orbán’s Fidesz party from the far-right Our Home party, which won seats in parliament for the first time in April and campaigned for these abortion rule changes.
“Despite the government professing to be ‘pro-life,’ these measures do not save a single life: the true purpose of the creeping restriction is to humiliate women and exercise control over women’s lives,” organizers said in a statement .
They called on Orbán’s government to create safe living conditions for women expecting children and improve access to contraceptives.
Demonstrators, some carrying placards reading “My body, my life, my choice” or “Free contraception for all,” gathered in front of Hungary’s parliament and planned to march to the Interior Ministry, which drafted the reforms.
“I think that’s a very bad premise because having an abortion in itself … is a tremendously traumatizing experience,” said Laura Fekete, 22, a student, referring to the change meaning women can actually hear the fetal heartbeat need to have .
These protests came in conjunction with the annual celebration of International Safe Abortion Day, an event that began with a campaign to decriminalize abortion in Latin America.
Pro-choice protests also took place on Wednesday in Italy, which on September 25 elected a far-right, largely anti-abortion bloc that will soon form a government.