Press Release – Over 250 Romanian and International CSOs Call on Romanian Health Minister to Ensure Free Access to Safe Abortion

Over 250 Romanian and International civil society organisations call on the Romanian Ministry of Health and the National Health Insurance House to improve access to abortion care in Romania by paying for the abortions on request from the budget of the National Health Insurance Fund.

The CSOs, the majority of them working in the area of women’s rights, reproductive health care and fighting gender-based violence, show that access to abortion has become increasingly difficult in Romania in recent years, which only increases the number of unsafe abortions, and the measure they propose will ensure women universal and safe access to abortion, regardless of their vulnerabilities and identities.

Thus, the open letter addressed to the Minister of Health states that, in the last three years, according to data from the Romanian National Institute of Public Health (INSP), more than 300 women have had abortions in unsafe conditions. The letter shows that the reason for this rise in unsafe abortions is because, in recent years, more and more hospitals in Romania no longer offer patients the option of abortion, invoking religious, ethical or moral reasons, the decision of management and doctors to refuse or the COVID-19 crisis.

“Unsafe abortion is a leading – but preventable – cause of maternal deaths and morbidities. It can lead to physical and mental health complications and social and financial burdens for women, communities, and health systems.”

The said CSOs state that costs are a major barrier to accessing abortion on request services, showing that the price of an abortion can reach up to EUR 200 in the public system and over EUR 900 in the private medical system, while the net minimum wage in Romania is a little over EUR 300. “Sometimes women, especially vulnerable ones, have no access to abortion, either because they live in a county where abortion on request is not available or because they cannot afford to pay for this medical service in the private system”.

At the same time, the letter shows that anti-abortion organisations have become increasingly prominent in the public arena in recent years. They often present themselves as an alternative to proper medical care offered in doctors’ offices. Women who seek services provided by anti-choice organisations, anti-abortion callcenters and pregnancy crisis centers are often exposed to traumatizing rhetoric based on medically false information. 

In support of this endeavour to ensure free and safe access to abortion on request, The Independent Midwives’ Association and the FILIA Centre from Romania, the organisations initiating the open letter signed by over 250 other organisations, with the support of the international organisations VOICE, Médecins du Monde and the Center for Reproductive Rights are organising the event “What to do when there is no choice? – An immersive experience about access to abortion in Romania” in Bucharest from 18 November to 10 December.

The experience is blurring the lines between the stories of women during the communist regime – when more than 10,000 women lost their lives and another 100,000 suffered from medical complications because abortion was outlawed then in Romania – and during the pandemic in recent years – when, according to the National Institute of Public Health (INSP), over 300 women experienced abortions in unsafe conditions. The space in which the event takes place becomes one in which the participant plays the role of witness and then of helper of the person facing an unwanted pregnancy.

In the context of increasing restrictions on access to abortion, including for refugee women, whose access to safe services is even more difficult, we want to raise awareness internationally, especially in Central and Eastern European countries, for women’s right to choose and for better access to adequate reproductive health services. We reiterate that any restriction of access to abortion only increases the number of unsafe abortions and that solutior safe access to abortion are needed.

It is important to regain the rights to our own bodies in Central and Eastern European states, to make sure they are firmly rooted in our countries’ legislation and to extend them so that women can choose safely. Currently, many countries are constantly at risk of losing rights that now seem guaranteed, which is why we stand together and will support each other to create a world where every woman gets the care she needs and chooses”, said the CSOs organising the event.

For further details please contact:

Irina Popescu-Mateescu, vicepresident of The Independent Midwives’ Association, +40 722 658 054

Andrada Cilibiu, expert in sexual and reproductive rights, FILIA Center, +40 753 996 943

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