Do you understand abortion is murder?

"This is more than a symbolic act"

In Hungary, a new constitution was passed in mid-April, which has sparked outrage and concern about the country's democratic development not only among the Hungarian opposition and civil society, but also at the international level (see derStandard.at/Ungarn). The "protection of the life of a fetus from conception" is enshrined in the new constitution, a formulation which is otherwise not found in any European constitution. Women's groups fear that after the constitution comes into force in January 2012, there will be massive restrictions on the country's abortion laws. To date, the legislation in Hungary with regard to reproductive rights has been considered exemplary in Europe. For example, termination up to the 12th week of pregnancy is legal and not only "exempt from punishment", as in Austria, for example.

After all, as part of the broad protest movement against the constitution of the right-wing conservative Fidesz party, women's groups in the mainstream were also heard for the first time, as Júlia Spronz from the "Patent Association" in Budapest emphasizes. The small, privately financed organization offers women legal, social and psychological advice and sees itself as a lobby group for women's and homosexual rights in Hungary. Talked to her theStandard.at about the consequences of the new constitution for the reproductive rights of women and the socio-political development in the country.

theStandard.at: You have been campaigning for women's rights in Hungary for several years. Where do you see the main problems of the new constitution from a women's political point of view?

Júlia Spronz: We are particularly concerned about the fact that the 'protection of the life of the fetus from conception' is enshrined in the new version. It is a formulation that suggests the status of a legal subject to the fetus and could thus come into direct confrontation with the right of self-determination of pregnant women. This finding enables, in principle, any citizen to turn to the Supreme Court with the view that abortion law is not constitutional.

In Hungary there is a strong anti-abortion movement that is formed around Fidesz's alliance party, the Christian Democrats (KDNP). The right-wing extremist Jobbik party has already tried to change our abortion law through parliamentary channels, but they couldn't get away with it. Politicians close to the government then said that the time was not ripe for it. This new constitution will come into force in January 2012 and we fear that the time will have come then.

theStandard.at: Are there any concrete signs on the part of the government to work in this direction?

Spronz: The government declares that it does not want to shake abortion law, but at the latest when the new constitution comes into force, it will be up to the Supreme Court to judge whether our law is still constitutional.

In addition, the current situation is such that the Hungarian population does not want the abortion law to be tightened. 72 percent said in the last representative poll in February 2011 that they are against a change in the abortion law. Paradoxically, in the same poll, they advocated the protection of the fetus in the Constitution.

theStandard.at: What has your organization done to prevent the passage?

Spronz: Women’s political issues do not get a lot of attention from the Hungarian public. So our main concern was to make the problem visible.
Then of course we tried to get in touch with the responsible politicians, but they were totally dismissive of us. Their argument was that the constitutional entry was the result of a political negotiation and that there is nothing they can do about it. They emphasize to this day that it is 'only' a symbolic act because they see it as a defect that the fetus was not previously represented in the constitution. We should be convinced that this passage will have no influence on the legal situation.

Our former President László Sólyom, to this day an influential voice in Hungary, has tellingly called our fears 'hysterical' and a pipe dream of 'these crazy women's groups'.

theStandard.at: The government originally planned to introduce multiple voting rights for mothers, officially in order to better represent future generations. Why did you finally abandon the proposal?

Spronz: When the population was asked about the constitution, it turned out that the majority rejected the proposal. Incidentally, fetal rights were not an issue in this survey.

theStandard.at: How did the Hungarian people react to their mobilization?

Spronz: Women's groups in Hungary are usually quite isolated. But with this campaign we managed to get noticed in the mainstream for the first time. In doing so, we have benefited from being part of a larger movement that speaks out against the constitution. For example, we had speeches at the big demonstrations against the constitution. In this respect, it was a success, even if we couldn't bring the passage down.

theStandard.at: How else do the anti-abortionists make themselves noticeable in Hungary? For example, are there problems in front of abortion clinics?

Spronz: No, we do not demonstrate. We don't have our own abortion clinics either, abortions are carried out in all hospitals, which makes women less vulnerable. We've been pretty well off with our abortion laws so far.

theStandard.at: The new constitution is full of Christian values ​​and rhetoric. What else do women have to fear in the future?

Spronz: We don't know anything yet. But laws on family protection have been announced, which, under this political composition, will primarily affect the rights of fathers. The new constitution determines the ideal of the family as father, mother and child. It defines marriage as the union of man and woman, which homosexual couples will fundamentally exclude from it.

theStandard.at: What actions are you planning in the near future?

Spronz: We are currently building a nationwide network of activists, academics, NGOs and government organizations who share our demands. There will already be a founding meeting in June and we are pleased that the WHO will support us in this endeavor. We want to prepare as best we can so that we don't just have to react to the government's proposals. (Ina Freudenschuß asked the questions, theStandard.at, 5.5.2011)

Continue reading:

The opinion of the NGO "Center for Reproductive Rights" on the Hungarian Constitution