BELGIUM – Belgian bill tabled to extend upper time limit and criminalise anti-abortion protest

TheBelgian parliament is again debating abortion. This time, the bill on the table would allow abortions up to 18 weeks(from the current 12 weeks), remove all penalties for women who do not complywith the law, and shorten the mandatory delay period from six days to two days.

The bill also creates the “offence of obstructingabortion” penalised either by jail for 3-12 months and/(or) a fine of 100 to500 Euros. This would apply to ”anyone who tries to physically or in any waywhatsoever prevent a woman from gaining access freely at a health facilitypractising voluntary termination of pregnancy”.

This latter provision apparently led to livelydiscussionsin the Justice Committee in December. Deputies opposed tothe bill underscored the vagueness of the phrase “in any way whatsoever” (dequelque manière que ce soitin French orop enigerlei wijzeinFlemish). However,examples areincluded in the justification for the bill. These include:

– distributingleaflets at the entrance to abortion clinics;

– disseminationof false news discrediting doctors or abortion clinics;

– pressuring orthreatening a woman who wishes to have an abortion;

– keepingaddresses of abortion clinics;

– for doctorswith a conscientious objection, refusing to refer women to a willing doctor;and

– postponingconsultations, so that a woman can no longer have an abortion.

SOURCE: Bioedge,by Michael Cook, 23 February 2020 ; PHOTO– by TRT World & Agencies. Solidarity with Poland in front of Europeaninstitution, 3 October 2016