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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Is abortion legal in Austria?

With the debates on women's rights again in the spotlight worldwide, readers in Austria have asked what the rules are in the alpine country.

People enjoying the sun at the Danube canal in Vienna, Austria on Thursday May 5
People sit in the sun at the Danube canal in Vienna, Austria on May 5, 2022. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

The leaked US Supreme court draft document that shows the highest court in the United States is now in favour of overturning the ruling, known as Roe v Wade, which made abortion legal across the country, has brought the issue of reproductive rights back to the centre stage worldwide.

Austria has been put particularly in the spotlight, as Reuters reported that a company headquartered in the country has seen a spike in interest from American women this week.

The company, nonprofit Aid Access provides prescription pills used to terminate pregnancies at home and sends them by mail.

To get around restrictions in some US states, the Austrian-headquartered company works with European doctors who prescribe the abortive pills for patients using a mail-order pharmacy in India.

READ ALSO: Violence against women in the spotlight in Austria after horrific killings

While women in many countries need to go through such schemes or even resort to illegal and dangerous abortion clinics, rules in Austria, where abortion has been legal since 1975, make the procedure much safer for women.

Is abortion legal in Austria?

It is decriminalised. Since 1975, optative abortion is not a crime in Austria. Women can discontinue a pregnancy per choice within the first three months – before the 16th pregnancy week, counting from the date of the last menstrual period.

Women must go through a consultation with a doctor, but they don’t have to disclose the reasons for the abortion. Instead, the consultation will usually decide which abortion method is better for the patient’s case.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: Which European nations have the highest (and lowest) percentage of women MPs?

The so-called “late abortions”, after 16 weeks, are possible in some instances.

These include if there is a severe danger to the mental health, physical health, or the life of the pregnant woman; if the child is expected to be born with severe mental or physical disabilities; or if the woman was under 14 years of age when she became pregnant.

Teenage pregnancy

Girls in Austria can give their own consent to an abortion from the age of 14. However, some hospitals in Austrian provinces would still require a legal guardian’s consent for minors.

The consent of a legal guardian is also necessary if the adolescent is not legally capable of giving consent (for example, as a result of a learning disability), according to Austrian authorities.

If the girl is under the age of 14, then the consent of a parent or legal guardian is always required before an abortion can be performed.

What are the methods available in Austria?

Women who have decided to have an abortion can do so with a surgical method (usually suction, but curettage is also possible in some cases) or using drugs. This will usually depend on how far along with the pregnancy she is and is decided together with a doctor.

READ ALSO: Does Austria have a problem with violence against women?

The surgical option can be done either in a hospital or an outpatient clinic, with general or local anaesthesia. It is a safe surgical procedure, and women are usually discharged after a few hours.

With a drug-based abortion, doctors use the Mifegyne pill, which has been approved in Austria since 1999 and is considered a very safe and reliable method, especially in early pregnancy. However, the drug must be taken in the presence of a doctor or after written medical order.

Where can women go to get information on abortion?

For information or to get the procedure, women can go to general practitioners, gynaecology clinics, special abortion ambulatory clinics, and gynaecological departments of hospitals.

There are also advice institutions such as family counselling centres and women’s health centres that women can visit to get more information.

Austria has many private women’s clinics that offer advice, do the procedure in a safe environment, or just provide implantation and recommendation for contraception methods.

Most of them will see people seeking abortions without a previous appointment, on short notice, and even on weekends. Most clinics have doctors and receptionists who speak English. They don’t require women to give much personal details or be Austrian citizens or residents.

Who pays for the costs of an abortion?

Optional abortions are not covered by social insurance in Austria and must be paid privately. Costs can range from €550 to €915 for a surgical abortion in Vienna or €535 to €560 for the pharmacological option in the capital.

The costs of abortion will only be covered by social insurance if the abortion is necessary for medical reasons.

READ ALSO: Austria’s top court legalises same-sex marriage

Some municipalities offer financial support through the social welfare office of district authorities, subject to certain conditions.

Is the morning after pill allowed?

Yes. Emergency contraception is not free, though, but can be bought without a prescription in pharmacies or in women’s clinics, which usually open late.

What is “anonymous birth”?

In Austria, there is also the legal possibility of giving birth anonymously, free of charge, in any hospital. The Youth Welfare Office becomes the child’s legal guardian as it is adopted by parents in the system.

This is legal in Austria, and women can follow the route without concern for criminal prosecution – they also don’t need Austrian health insurance or residency. After the birth, women have six months to change their minds and revoke the decision to give up the child.

There are also hospitals in Austria that anonymously care for and receive babies. In addition, mothers can anonymously inquire about the child’s condition anonymously and change their minds in six months before the child is released for adoption.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Reader question: How to write an invitation letter for visitors to Austria

While anyone coming from the Schengen area will be exempt from any border controls, visitors entering Austria from outside might have to show some documents, including proof of stay. Here's what you need to know.

Reader question: How to write an invitation letter for visitors to Austria

If you have friends or family visiting you in Austria from outside of the Schengen area, then you might be familiar with the “invitation letter” that a host should write, and the traveller may be asked to present at border control.

The actual documents necessary for entry into Austria will mainly depend on the traveller’s citizenship. If they come from a visa-required country, such as India, South Africa, or Bolivia, for example, they might need to show proof of sufficient travel means, including health insurance, proof of stay, and even a return ticket.

The letter of invitation is what would be accepted as proof of a place to stay for cases when the person is staying with friends and family – and cannot show a hotel reservation.

It will need to be presented to Austrian authorities in the country of residence before the travel to issue a visa.

READ ALSO: One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital

However, even people coming from visa-free countries, including the United States, Brazil, the UK, and Australia, are advised to travel with documents showing their stay’s purpose and duration.

This is because even if you come with a visa or come from a visa-free country, the border control officer is the person to make a final decision on whether or not you are allowed in. On the European Commission’s website, the recommendation is that even those with an approved visa take supporting documents with them.

“At the border or during other controls, you may, for instance, have to provide information on your means of support, how long you intend to stay in the Schengen States, and why you are visiting the Schengen State.”, the website states.

“In some cases, such checks may result in a refusal for the visa holder to enter the Schengen State or the Schengen area.”

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Which Schengen area countries have border controls in place and why?

Carrying documents such as the invitation letter can help “make the border control procedure easier and avoid delays at the border”.

What is the letter of invitation?

There is no official model from the European Union for the invitation letter. Still, it should be written by the host, dated, and signed.

It should state information such as the host’s name, address, relationship to the traveller, reason and purpose of the invitation, dates and duration of stay, and any financial arrangements, such as if you are funding their trip.

The letter could be written in German or English. It is also helpful to attach copies of documents such as the Austrian resident’s Meldezettel (proof of residence) and passport.

It may be that at the border, nobody asks the visitor to show any documents, and more often than not, this is what happens, especially to citizens of visa-free countries.

READ ALSO: How to explore the Austrian mountains in the summer like a local

However, the border officer is entitled to question any person trying to enter the country – in that case, a document such as a letter of the invitation could save your mom or dad a big headache when they are visiting you in Austria.

Is there a model of a letter?

Officially, no. However, there are several models that can be found online. The important thing is for the letter to have the basic information on who is visiting whom, how long, the purpose of stay, and financial means. For example, your letter could look something like this:

Location and date

Re: Invitation Letter for NAME OF TRAVELLER with Passport No. XXX

Dear Sir/Madam,

I, YOUR NAME, currently residing at YOUR ADDRESS, and a citizen of YOUR CITIZENSHIP with residence in Austria, am writing this letter to support the entry application of my RELATIONSHIP (mother/friend/etc.), NAME.

The purpose of the entry of my NAME is to visit me and spend time with me in Austria. She will be visiting me for DURATION OF STAY and then return to COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE, where she/he resides.

NAME will be visiting during the following dates: DATES.

During the specified trip dates above, we will be staying in LOCATION. In addition, NAME will be staying at my house, YOUR ADDRESS. The trip will be funded through their own means/ I will be paying for her/his trip, and she/he won’t pay for accommodation in my house.

If you require any information, please do not hesitate to contact me at PHONE NUMBER or EMAIL.

Kind regards,

NAME
PASSPORT NUMBER
ADDRESS
PHONE NUMBER
EMAIL

READ ALSO: UPDATED: The latest coronavirus restrictions in Austria

With the letter, it is recommended to carry documents such as travel confirmations, other documents stating the purpose of stay, and even the travel insurance.

Again, none of this is mandatory for those who already have a visa or come from visa-free countries. Still, they can save time and avoid complications in case of questions at the border. Especially if mom and dad don’t speak any German – or English.

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