House rejects anti-abortion initiative

A pro-life group's billboard poster campaign A pro-life group's billboard poster campaign

The Swiss House of Representatives has voted resoundingly against an anti-abortion initiative, standing firm on its decision to legalise abortion.

This content was published on November 29, 2001

The parliamentary chamber rejected the motion called " For Mother and child" by 139 votes, with seven in favour and 17 abstentions.

The vote was called after various pro-life groups and the Christian Democratic party delivered a petition to the federal government in July calling for a referendum on the issue.

The matter will now go to the Senate for a further vote.

Both houses of parliament voted in favour of legalising abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in March 2001, and Thursday's overwhelming vote in the House of Representatives further reinforced this decision.

Referendum challenge

Pro-life supporters challenged the parliamentary agreement by calling for a referendum. They said they had managed to get more than 120,000 citizens to state opposition to the decision.

According to the Swiss constitution, a new law can be challenged if 50,000 signatures are collected and submitted to the authorities.

Regardless of Thursday's show of confidence in the House of Representatives on legalising abortion, the issue will go to a referendum, and the Swiss public will have the final say at the ballot box. The vote has not yet been scheduled.

Abortion is technically illegal under a law dating back to 1942, unless a woman's health is in danger. In practice, however, more liberal solutions have been introduced over the past few years.

Up to 13,000 terminations are carried out in Switzerland each year.

Most countries in Europe, including all of Switzerland's neighbours, have legalised abortions in the early stages of pregnancy. Restrictive legislation is in place in traditionally Catholic countries, notably Spain, Portugal, Poland and the Republic of Ireland.

swissinfo with agencies

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