Switzerland is a good example of how liberal abortion legislation is important, but not sufficient to guarantee access to abortion to all women.


In 1942, Switzerland was one of the first countries in Western Europe to legalize abortion for health reasons. Two doctors had to agree that the pregnancy held a great risk of severely and lastingly damageing the health of the woman. Soon doctors began interpreting the law very differently, some including broad mental health reasons for legal abortion, others accepting only vital indications. Practice differed also greatly between cantons (counties). „Abortion tourism“ was flourishing from conservative cantons and from other countries to liberal cantons like Geneva or Zurich.


Over the decades abortion practice was liberalized in ever more cantons, an evolution speeded up by political campaigns and lobbying from 1971 onwards.


In 2002 finally, the Swiss Union for Decriminalizing Abortion (Schweizerische Vereinigung für Straflosigkeit des Schwangerschaftsabbruchs / Union suisse pour décriminaliser l’avortement SVSS/USPDA), founded in 1973, succeeded in getting abortion on request within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (Fristenregelung / régime du délai) adopted in a referendum, by gorgeous 72,2% of the votes. Simultaneously, a constitutional amendment for a total abortion ban, proposed by the anti-abortionists, was defeated by 81,7%.

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