EU pressures member countries to ensure abortion access for Ukrainian refugees

Ukraine, Poland
People wait for a train to Poland at the railway station of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on February 26, 2022. - Ukrainian forces repulsed a Russian attack on Kyiv but "sabotage groups" infiltrated the capital, officials said on February 26 as Ukraine reported 198 civilians killed in Russia's invasion so far. A defiant Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed his pro-Western country would never give in to the Kremlin even as Russia said it had fired cruise missiles at military targets. |

The European Parliament passed a resolution calling for all countries within the European Union to provide Ukrainian refugee women and girls access to emergency contraception and abortion, including countries with stricter restrictions like Poland and Hungary.

The resolution, which also condemned gender-based violence and human trafficking of Ukrainian refugees, passed last Thursday with 462 votes in favor, 19 against and 89 abstentions.

Members of the European Parliament said offering emergency contraception and abortion access is a way for the EU, alongside host and transit countries, to guarantee female refugees and victims of rape access to "sexual and reproductive health and rights" (SRHR) services. 

"For those women who are still in Ukraine, Parliament urges the EU to use all the measures and funds at its disposal to respond to their SRHR needs, and to send dignity kits, including contraceptives and sexual reproductive health kits, in humanitarian packages and convoys to Ukraine and to host countries," the European Parliament said in a Thursday statement

The resolution contends that the European Parliament should supervise how the EU's funding to countries that accept Ukrainian refugees is spent, "particularly in countries with ongoing rule of law violations such as Poland and Hungary." The document claims this "reiterates" how things like "gender mainstreaming" in the budgeting process are a "core principle" of the EU.  

The document states that emergency contraception access is "hampered" in Poland and Hungary due to prescription requirements and that restrictions on abortion in those countries have also prevented abortions for pregnant Ukrainian women. 

The European Parliament insists that legal abortion is "crucial" during this conflict perpetuated by "Russian aggressors," claiming many women have been raped. It also states that EU member nations should provide access to abortion "in all circumstances," not just in cases of rape. 

Countries like Poland are urged to "fulfill their obligation, including under national law, to guarantee access to abortion care for women who became pregnant as a result of rape." 

The European Parliament did not immediately respond to The Christian Post's request for comment. 

According to UNHCR data accessed Monday, over 5.8 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of its neighbor country. The statistics also show the total refugee influx from Ukraine is over 3 million in Poland and more than 500,000 in Hungary. 

On April 12, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed when addressing the Parliament of Lithuania that there have been hundreds of reports of Russian soldiers raping Ukrainian women.

Last month, the United Nations highlighted numerous reports of violence and instances of rape committed by Russian soldiers, stating that the news raised "red flags" about a "potential protection crisis."

From March 1 to April 19, the Abortion Support Network, an organization working to procure abortion for women by assisting with finances and travel, sent abortion pills or arranged surgical terminations in Germany or the Netherlands for 267 Ukrainian refugees in Poland.

As reported Sunday, ASN Founder Mara Clarke said the majority of Ukrainian women her group helps undergo abortions in "closed facilities" like refugee centers. 

Clarke expects the number of Ukrainian women seeking abortions to "skyrocket," claiming they hear from over 500 Ukrainian refugees every month through ASN's "Polish helpline."

In 2020, a top court banned most abortions in Poland, ruling that pregnancies cannot be aborted due to fetal defects but still permitting abortions in cases of rape, incest or if the mother's health is at risk. The previous law dating from 1993 allowed for abortions in fetal anomaly cases. 

According to Angloinfo, Hungary permits abortion up until the 12th week of pregnancy and allows late-term abortions in fetal anomaly cases. Women must undergo two mandatory counseling sessions about state support and adoption. 

Before the abortion, a woman must obtain a letter from a gynecologist stating how far along the pregnancy is and visit a social worker twice to receive a hospital referral for the abortion. Surgical abortions are the only abortion method legally permitted in Hungary.

As the European Consortium for Emergency Contraception reported, Poland and Hungary require a prescription to obtain emergency contraception. Neither country covers or provides reimbursement for it through social security. 

This is not the first time there has been a push for European countries to repeal abortion restrictions and procure abortions and contraceptives for Ukrainian women and girls. 

In March, groups including Amnesty International, the Center for Reproductive Rights, International Planned Parenthood Federation, and Women's Link Worldwide released a call to action, insisting that humanitarian packages to Ukraine and host countries include the abortion pill. The document also requested the removal of laws restricting abortion in countries that have welcomed Ukrainian refugees, including Hungary and Poland.

In 2020, Hungary and Poland were among 32 countries that signed a document spearheaded by the U.S. government under the administration of former President Donald Trump declaring “there is no international right to abortion" nor "any international obligation on the part of States to finance or facilitate abortion." The statement proclaimed that "each nation has the sovereign right to implement programs and activities consistent with their laws and policies.” 

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