• Press Release

Failures to guarantee safe access to abortion in Europe endangers health of women, girls amid COVID-19

Photo by Aleksander Kalka/NurPhoto via Getty Images

European governments should urgently guarantee safe and timely access to abortion care for women and girls in the region during the COVID-19 pandemic, 100 nongovernmental organizations said today.

Many women and girls in Europe are struggling to safely access abortion care during the pandemic as barriers caused by highly restrictive abortion laws and onerous administrative requirements to access abortion services make safe access to this essential health care extremely difficult. The call comes as Poland’s parliament prepares to debate a draconian new law that would make one of the region’s most highly restrictive abortion laws significantly more stringent.

“European governments must act urgently to guarantee safe and timely access to abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Leah Hoctor, Regional Director for Europe, Center for Reproductive Rights.

They should move swiftly to eradicate all medically unnecessary requirements that hamper access to abortion care and should authorize women to access early medical abortion from their homes.”

Governments should recognize abortion as essential health care and should take measures to ensure that women and girls can safely access abortion care.

Most governments in the region have not implemented measures to ensure safe and timely access to essential sexual and reproductive health services, supplies or information during the pandemic, including for at-home management of medical abortion. Many hospitals and clinics have reduced reproductive health services to a bare minimum, or closed altogether due to staff shortages and reassignments, among other reasons. In many places, accessing normal clinical services has become extremely difficult.

Restrictions to reproductive health services disproportionately affect women living in poverty, women with disabilities, Roma women, undocumented migrant women, adolescents, trans and gender non-binary people, and women at risk of or who are survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Particular concerns arise in relation to those six European countries where abortion is still illegal or severely restricted and in countries where, due to a range of barriers such as administrative processes or doctor’s refusals of care due to their private beliefs, women are often forced to travel abroad to access abortion care or to obtain abortion medication from other countries by post.

The harmful impact of these highly restrictive laws and barriers are compounded in the current context as it may now be impossible for women to travel to access legal abortion abroad or to obtain medication sent by post from medical providers in other countries.

“Whilst the pandemic is impacting every aspect of our lives, it should not be used as an excuse to undermine women’s rights to make decisions regarding their reproductive and health rights,” said Caroline Hickson, IPPF EN Regional Director.

For more information or to arrange an interview contact: Mariya Parodi, [email protected] 

To learn more about COVID-19 and human rights, visit: https://www.amnestyusa.org/distant-but-together-responding-to-covid-19/



  • Abortion Rights Campaign, Ireland
  • Albanian Center for Population and Development
  • Amnesty International
  • Amrita Association, Hungary
  • Association des Femmes de l’Europe Meridionale
  • Association européenne pour la défense des droits de l’homme (AEDH)
  • Association for Human Rights and Civic Participation PaRiter, Croatia
  • Association for promotion of women’s action Tiiiit! Inc., North Macedonia
  • Association Mnémosyne, France
  • Association of Women of Southern Europe (AFEM)
  • Associazione italiana donne per lo sviluppo, Italy
  • Associazione Luca Coscioni, Italy
  • ASTRA Network
  • Austrian Family Planning Association
  • Bibija Roma Women Center, Serbia
  • British Pregnancy Advisory Service
  • Bureau Clara Wichmann, Foundation for strategic litigation for gender equality, Netherlands
  • C.G.I.L. Confederazione Italiana del Lavoro, Italy
  • Center for Curricular Development and Gender Studies: FILIA , Romania
  • Center for Reproductive Rights
  • CESI – Center for Education, Counselling and Research, Croatia
  • Citizen, democracy and Accountability, Slovakia
  • Clio. Femmes, Genre, Histoire, France
  • Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment, Ireland
  • Concord Research Center for Integration of International Law in Israel
  • Cyprus Family Planning Association
  • Danish Family Planning Association
  • Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung (DSW)
  • Doctors for Choice Ireland
  • Doctors for Choice Malta
  • Doctors for Choice UK
  • Encore féministes
  • Equipop
  • European Humanist Federation
  • European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights
  • European Roma Rights Centre
  • European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health (ESC)
  • European Women Lawyers Association
  • Family Planning Association of Moldova
  • Federación Planificación Estatal, Spain
  • Fédération des Centres Pluralistes de Planning Familial, Belgium
  • Federation for Women and Family Planning, Poland
  • Fédération laïque des centres de planning familial – FLCPF, Belgium
  • Femmes solidaires, France
  • Forum femmes méditerranée
  • Freedom of Choice / Možnosť voľby, Slovakia
  • Fundación para la Convivencia Aspacia, Spain
  • Garance, Belgium
  • German Women Lawyers’ Association
  • Helia Association, Spain
  • HERA – Health education and research association, North Macedonia
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Humanists UK
  • International Commission of Jurists
  • International Federation for Professionals in Abortion and Contraception (FIAPAC)
  • International Planned Parenthood Federation – European Network
  • IPAS
  • Irish Family Planning Association
  • Kosovar Gender Studies Center
  • L.A.I.G.A, Italy
  • L’ Associació de Drets Sexuals i Reproductius, Spain
  • La Ligue des droits de l’Homme, France
  • Latvian Association for Family Planning and Sexual Health
  • Le Planning Familial, France
  • London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign
  • Médecins du monde-France
  • Nane, Hungary
  • National platform for reproductive justice, Croatia
  • National Women’s Council of Ireland
  • Patent Association, Hungary
  • Planning Familial Luxembourg
  • Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)
  • pro familia Bundesverband, Germany
  • Rape Crisis Network Ireland
  • Regards de Femmes, France
  • Rutgers, Netherlands
  • Santé Sexuelle Suisse, Switzerland
  • Sarajevo Open Centre, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Sensoa, Belgium
  • Serbian Association for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
  • Sex og Politikk, Norway
  • Society Without Violence, Armenia
  • SOS Rijeka – Center for Nonviolence and Human Rights, Croatia
  • Swedish Association for Sexuality Education
  • Tajik Family Planning Association
  • Union des Familles Laïques – UFAL, France
  • Union Women Center, Georgia
  • Väestöliitto – The Family Federation of Finland
  • Vita di donna, Italy
  • Voice for Choice – L-għażla tagħha, Malta
  • Wales Assembly of Women
  • WAVE Network – Women Against Violence Europe
  • Women Center “Light Steps”, Albania
  • Women on Waves, Netherlands
  • Women on Web, Netherlands
  • Women’s Rights Foundation, Malta
  • Women’s circles, Slovakia
  • Women’s Resource Center Armenia
  • YouAct – European Youth Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights
  • Young Feminist Europe