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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.