Health Ministry: Polish women and EU citizens can come to the Czech Republic for abortions

A letter signed last year by Health Minister Blatný misinterpreted the law regarding eligibility for abortion.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 20.02.2021 09:56 (updated on 20.02.2021)

The Czech Ministry of Health said that doctors who perform abortions on women from Poland are not in danger of imprisonment, rebutting a report in weekly magazine Reflex.

The magazine cited a November 2020 letter from Czech Health Minister Jan Blatný (for ANO) to Parliamentary Deputy František Kopřiva (Pirates), in which the minister said that under the Criminal Code, an abortion performed “other than in a manner permitted by the Act on Abortion” is a criminal offense with a prison sentence of up to five years, or longer if the patient was under 18.

The Health Ministry said on its website that interpretation of the law is wrong, and that the letter did not do through the standard review process.

“We regret to say that there was a serious mistake in this case. The mentioned text, in which the author, in addition to a medical explanation, also embarked on a legal analysis, did not go through the standard system set up at the ministry,” the Health Ministry stated.

“Employees tasked with preparing similar opinions are required to consult the contents of the response with both the Minister and several other departments (such as the Legal Department or the Communication Department). However, this did not happen in this case. As a result, that answer contains conclusions which are not in accordance with the applicable law,” the Health Ministry added.

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The ministry did not say who actually wrote the letter, though according the Pirate party, it was signed by Minister Blatný.

The ministry then reviewed the relevant legal points. “The clear conclusion is that European Union citizens can legally undergo abortion in the Czech Republic, even if they came to our country only for this purpose and spent only a few days there,” the Health Ministry said.

The ministry added that a 2016 opinion interpreting the communist-era abortion law continues to apply. A 1986 law passed in then-Czechoslovakia bans abortions for women who are in the country only for a temporary stay. The 2016 opinion states that visits by European Union citizens are not temporary stays, as defined by the 1986 law.

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The issue of abortions for non-Czech residents came up in 2020 due to Poland passing a near total abortion ban that allows the procedure only in cases of rape or incest, or when the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother. The ban came into effect Jan. 28, 2021. Before the law took effect, abortions were also allowed for fetal defects.

The Pirate party said that their pressure on the Health Ministry was responsible for the reversal of the letter. Member of European Parliament Markéta Gregorová (Pirate) was also involved in asking the Health Ministry to reverse its stance in the November 2020 letter.

“Our pressure, caused by the activity of František Kopřiva, brought a positive result! Poles and other citizens of the European Union will not be discriminated against in the Czech Republic when applying for an abortion,” she said on Twitter.

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She also thanked the ministry for changing its opinion.

According to Institute of Health Information and Statistics data from 2016, the most recent year available, from the Institute of Health Information and Statistics (ÚZIS) for 2016, some 1,773 abortions were performed on foreign women were registered in the Czech Republic, which is about 5 percent of all abortions in the country.

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