BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Sunday, 2 June, 2002, 20:33 GMT 21:33 UK
Swiss legalise abortion
Voters have rejected the pro-life lobby
The Swiss people have voted to decriminalise abortion in two referendums called to decide whether to liberalise the country's 66-year-old law, or toughen it further.

Final results from one referendum show that 72% of voters have backed a parliamentary measure to allow abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

In the other, 82% of voters rejected a proposal by anti-abortion groups to toughen Switzerland's already strict abortion laws.

Justice Minister Ruth Metzler said the changes would come into force in October.

"I think the key elements were the woman's rights to choose and the decriminalisation for women, where we see a broad consensus in the country," Ms Metzler said.

Ban ignored

Under Switzerland's existing abortion law, which dates back to 1937, a woman who performs her own abortion or who lets it be performed, is subject to up to five years' imprisonment and a heavy fine.

However, the official ban on abortion has been widely ignored in all but the most conservative regions, and one in eight pregnancies in Switzerland already ends in abortion.


The unborn child will no longer be protected and women in a distressing situation will be on their own

Barbara Guepfert
Swiss Aid for Mother and Child
"This is a great victory for women in Switzerland," said pro-choice campaigner Anne-Marie Rey of the result.

She said women would no longer "feel criminalised" for terminating a pregnancy.

Pro-life groups have been pressing to have the law toughened even further, including a ban on abortions for women who have been raped.

Religious differences

No-one has been convicted in Switzerland under the existing law for more than 14 years.

Many cantons, or states, opt for a broad interpretation, allowing a woman to have an abortion not just if her health is at risk, but also if her social or economic situation is unstable.

However, in the Roman Catholic cantons the law is still upheld very firmly and a strict ban on pregnancy termination remains in force.

But even most of these regions voted in favour of the government proposals, with only Valais in the south and the tiny Appenzell Inner Rhodes rejecting them.

"We are extremely disappointed," said Barbara Guepfert from Swiss Aid for Mother and Child.

"The unborn child will no longer be protected and women in a distressing situation will be on their own".

Three previous attempts to change the law in the 1970s and 1980s were rejected by voters.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Emma Jane Kirby
"The result will be welcomed by thousands of women"
Swiss Justice Ministry spokesman Hans Klaus
"It is a very clear result"
Swiss Aid for Mother and Child's Patricia Casanova
"It is a very sad result"
See also:

13 Mar 02 | Europe
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes