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Abortion law

Swiss vote for legal abortion
Press release from SVSS
June 04, 2002

At last women in Switzerland obtain the right to decide for themselves whether or not to have an abortion.

On June 2nd, with a spectacular proportion of 72.2 percent ayes, Swiss voters have accepted abortion on request of the woman within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Simultaneously a fundamentalist initiative which asked for a complete ban of abortion was on the ballot. It was rejected with 81.7 percent of the votes.

This is a great victory for women in Switzerland who have been fighting for the right to choose for over 30 years. The new legislation adopted by the Swiss electorate allows abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, at the written request of the woman who finds herself in a situation of distress. The decision lies with the woman. Before the abortion is done, the doctor has to inform and counsel the woman and give her the addresses of specialized counselling centers where she can receive more information and help. Young women under the age of 16 have to visit a counselling center before an abortion can be performed. The costs of the abortion will be covered by health insurance.

The Swiss government will decide on the date when the revised articles of the penal code will take force, which will not be before 1st of January 2003 though. The legislation was adopted by Parliament in March 2001 already, but had to be put on the ballot because fundamentalist opponents succeeded in collecting enough signatures for a referendum to be hold.

Up to now, the Swiss abortion legislation in force since 1942 is one of the most restrictive ones in Europe, allowing abortion only in case of a danger to the woman's life or health. The danger has to be certified by the expert advice of a second doctor. Abortion on request was first proposed by a people's initiative in 1971, but was rejected in a referendum in 1977. Since then the practice has become ever more liberal though, and since the 1990s any woman was in fact able to get a legal abortion, may be not always in the canton where she lived, but not too far away. Nevertheless this situation was intolerable, leaving women at the mercy of doctors.

The struggle for abortion rights in Switzerland was long and hard. And the success of this weekend is the result of a long and intensive effort of informing and educating the public, of lobbying and of coalition building. During the last two years of campaigning, fundamentalist groups raised many million Swiss francs for their misleading propaganda, whereas the pro choice side only disposed of one tenth of their budget. But the media largely trusted the reliable information given to them regularly during the last 10 years by pro choice organisations. Reason has triumphed over emotions and horror stories.

Anne-Marie Rey
Swiss Union for Decriminalizing Abortion
Schweiz Vereinigung für Straflosigkeit des Schwangerschaftsabbruchs
Union suisse pour décriminaliser l'avortement
P.O. Box, 3052 Zollikofen
Tel. 031 911 57 94 / Fax 031 911 69 94

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