Austrians Debate Abortion in Public Hospitals

In 1974 Austria removed all criminal penalties for abortions in the first three months of pregancy. While most people interpret this action as making abortion legal, some public authorities argue that the change merely removed any penalty for conduct that remains illegal (or at least publiclly disfavored). The change was challenged on the basis that it violated the Austrian Constitution and Article 2 of the European Convention. The Austrian Supreme Court rejected the challenge in Decision of the Constitutional Court of 11 October 1974, 39 Erkentnisse und Beschluesse des
Verfassungsgerichthofes (1974), summarized in ANNUAL REVIEW OF POPULATION LAW, Vol. I, 49 (1974), and abortion was deciminalized during the first trimester of pregancy. A 2007 brief by the Center for Reproductive Rights contesting the existance of an international right to life and relying in part on the Austrian decision can be found here.

Whatever the proper interpretation of the 1975 change, abortions can be obtained throughout Austria, although there is some geographic difference in availability. Many public hospitals provide abortion in the Eastern half of the country, but only a few private practiitioners in the West. A brief UN report on reproductive issues can be found here. Yahoo news is reporting that some public officals are pressing to tie federal money for hospital care to making abortions more widely available. The news story can be found here.

Teresa Collett

Teresa Stanton Collett is a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she teaches bioethics, property law, and constitutional law. A nationally prominent speaker and scholar, she is active in attempts to rebuild the Culture of Life and protect the institutions of marriage and family. She often represents groups of state legislators, the Catholic Medical Association, and the Christian Medical and Dental Association in appellate case related to medical-legal matters. She represented the governors of Minnesota and North Dakota before the U.S. Supreme Court as amici curiae regarding the effectiveness of those states’ parental involvement laws. She has served as special attorney general for Oklahoma and Kansas related to legislation designed to protect the well-being of minors and unborn children. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute and has testified before committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittees on the Constitution, as well as numerous legislative committees in the states.