Amnesty International: Pregnant Women Seeing Ultrasound Images Is 'Harmful'


Lawmakers in largely Catholic Slovakia are scheduled to debate a proposed law Friday that would require women seeking an abortion to first have an ultrasound and listen to the heartbeat of the unborn baby, a move some liberal groups claim is a backward step for women’s rights.

The bill was submitted by three members of the conservative Slovak National Party, who argued that it is intended “to ensure that women are informed about the current stage of their pregnancy” before having an abortion.

It would oblige doctors to show a woman ultrasound images “about the development stage of the embryo or fetus whose development is to be terminated.”

The draft bill states that “if technically feasible, the physician must also enable her to listen to the heartbeat of the embryo or fetus.”

The authors of the bill argued that “the proposed draft law has positive impacts on marriage, parenthood and family” and that “society does not consider the induced termination of pregnancy a good solution.”

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However, in demonstrations this week in Bratislava, protesters predictably claimed the draft law violates women’s fundamental human rights, including the rights to privacy, autonomy and the ability to make medical decisions free from coercion.

In September, the Slovak Parliament rejected four other bills attempting to ban or restrict abortion in the central European country, but this latest bill passed its first reading last month.

Silvia Shahzad, a lawmaker with the conservative Ordinary People political party, claimed she will be voting against the proposal.

“To try to change the opinions of women about their pregnancy with this kind of pressure, this is not acceptable,” Shahzad said.

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In Slovakia, abortion is legal upon request in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy; it is available after that for certain medical reasons.

Earlier this month, more than 30 organizations, including Amnesty International, wrote to Slovak parliamentarians expressing their “deep concern” about the proposed law.

“If this legislation is adopted, Slovakia would be the only EU member state to impose these harmful requirements on women,” the groups wrote, adding the abortion requirements would violate several international human rights treaties Slovakia has ratified.

Similar letters were sent by European legislators and the Council of Europe.

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In the U.S., seven states have similar provisions obliging women to have an ultrasound and listen to a fetal heartbeat, according to Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute.

The 2011 law in Texas was challenged, but an appeals court ruled the provisions, which also compel doctors to provide a description of the ultrasound image, did not violate the U.S. constitution.

Dr. Jennifer Conti, a spokeswoman for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said there is no evidence to show that introducing stricter criteria for abortions reduces the numbers of women seeking them.

Across Europe, 39 countries have legalized abortion on request.

Six countries only allow abortion in rare instances, such as if the woman’s life is at risk: Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, Poland and San Marino.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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