A decree has been published, signed by the Minister of the Interior, amending the Act on the Protection of Fetal Life in Hungary. Under the changes, a new addition has been made to the abortion application form.
The essence of the amendment, as reported by Mandiner, a Hungarian political news site, is that in future, pregnant women will have to present a document issued by an obstetrician-gynaecologist certifying that they have been presented with “indications of the functioning of fetal vital functions” by a health care provider in a clearly identifiable way.
The “indications of the functioning of fetal vital functions” means a heartbeat. This means that, under the regulation in force from September 15,
abortion in Hungary is subject to listening to the fetus’ heartbeat.
The amendment is considered too harsh by many, some of whom said it was cruel that a mother should have to listen to her baby’s heartbeat before having an abortion. Telex, a Hungarian news site, has written to the Ministry of Interior asking whether this is how doctors should act in the future.
The Ministry of Interior responded with two press releases revealing that the College of Health Professionals had adopted a new guideline on the determination and classification of risk of intra-uterine live pregnancy. “Research shows that nearly two-thirds of Hungarians associate the beginning of a child’s life with the first heartbeat. Heartbeats can be detected early in pregnancy using modern tools, and the guideline recommends a more complete range of information for pregnant women,” the statement read.
Current rules in Hungary allow fetuses to be aborted up to the 12th week of pregnancy, which is quite a permissive law compared to other conservative states’.
The abortion issue is also gaining momentum around the world, with a wave launched by the US Supreme Court in June. At the beginning of the summer, the court overturned a decades-old precedent that meant that abortion was no longer a national right, but instead regulated by each state.
Several states in the US have already tightened abortion rules, passing so-called ‘heartbeat laws,’ under which a fetus cannot be aborted if a heartbeat is already detected. The fetus has a heartbeat from around six weeks, but many women do not even know they are pregnant at that time.
The change in Hungarian law has already made waves in international waters.
Spain’s El País newspaper reported on Wednesday that Hungary had taken a step in the direction that has led other countries to ban abortion.
According to El País, the Orbán government has been concerned about women’s rights movements for some time and this is the first time that Viktor Orbán’s “ultra-conservative government” has taken a measure that, although indirectly, has an impact on abortion. According to the article, women’s rights groups have been fearing this for some time, given the Hungarian government’s alleged ties to countries that are already more immersed in “a crusade against voluntary abortion.”
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