The Daily Telegraph

Hungary tightens abortion laws to lift falling birth rate

- By James Crisp

WOMEN seeking an abortion in Hungary will be forced to first listen to the heartbeat of the foetus as Budapest tightens laws on terminatio­ns.

A new decree set to enter into force tomorrow states that pregnant women in Hungary must be given “clearly identifiab­le indication of foetal vital signs” before they are granted an abortion.

Pintér Sándor, Hungary’s interior minister, said “nearly two-thirds of Hungarians associate the beginning of a child’s life with the first heartbeat”.

Modern equipment was sophistica­ted enough to detect heartbeats early in pregnancy, which the ministry said would provide “more comprehens­ive” informatio­n for pregnant women.

Hungary allows abortion up until the third month of pregnancy, but terminatio­ns can be carried out later if there are severe health complicati­ons.

Hungarian women must already complete a counsellin­g session before going ahead with an abortion, which was legalised in Hungary in 1953 and reaffirmed in 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s authoritar­ian prime minister, styles himself as a defender of Christian values and has unveiled a series of measures to boost the country’s falling birthrate.

The law echoes rules in some US states, such as Texas and Kentucky, which insist women listen to the “foetal heartbeat”.

But doctors say the heart is not fully formed in the early stages of pregnancy and the fluttering sound where it will develop can be heard before brain activity begins.

There are fears the new law will make it more difficult to access safe and legal abortions in Hungary, and could lead to even tougher restrictio­ns.

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