Last week, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a watered down version of a resolution that originally called for restrictions on European doctors’ right to withhold referral information from patients seeking abortions. According to a Center for Reproductive Rights press release, the version of the resolution that was approved includes anti-abortion amendments that severely limit its provisions.
The Daily Mail reports that the original resolution would have required all doctors who do not provide abortions to directly refer women to a specific abortion provider. The non-binding resolution also would have encouraged doctors, regardless of their objections, to provide patients with abortions when requested in emergency situations and cases where there is no “equivalent practitioner within a reasonable distance,” reported the Daily Mail. Though the resolution is non-binding, the Council could have used its original language to pressure European governments to enforce and improve their conscientious objection laws.
Currently, European conscientious objection guidelines allow doctors to inform patients of their right to seek an abortion elsewhere without providing women with substantive information about where to find such services. The Center for Reproductive Rights states that numerous European countries legally require doctors to refer their patients to another healthcare provider, but there is no evidence as to whether the laws are obeyed. According to the Daily Mail, an estimated 86 percent of doctors refuse to perform abortions in the Lazio region of Italy, an area which includes Rome. The originally proposed resolution required that doctors who object to providing abortions register as objectors and recommended establishing a patient complaint system.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had also passed a resolution two years ago that recommended unrestricted access to abortions in its member states.