EU Vents Ire on Use of Funds for Hungarian Anti-Abortion Campaign

by Kathy Jones on  June 12, 2011 at 4:28 PM General Health News   - G J E 4
Hungary is facing the ire of the EU for using European money to fund an anti-abortion campaign.

Last month, posters were plastered all over Budapest with the picture of a foetus begging to be allowed to live.
 EU Vents Ire on Use of Funds for Hungarian Anti-Abortion Campaign
EU Vents Ire on Use of Funds for Hungarian Anti-Abortion Campaign

"I might understand that you're not ready for me yet. But think twice, and put me up for adoption. Let me live!" ran the emotional wording of the posters, which carry the logo of the EU's employment and social solidarity programme Progress.

The month-long campaign, costing 110 million forints (416,000 euros, $603,000) and largely paid for with EU money, raised eyebrows in the European Parliament in Strasbourg this week, where French Socialist MEP Sylvie Guillaume protested.

"The Commission made it very clear: using EU money from the Progress programme or any other EU source to promote an anti-abortion campaign is an abuse and is incompatible with EU values," she wrote on her website.

Hungary's national resources ministry, responsible for the campaign, insisted it had a different interpretation of the terms of the EU funding, but was ready to "draw the appropriate conclusions" if its arguments failed to convince Brussels.

Most of the posters have already disappeared from Budapest's streets anyway, because the campaign only ran until the end of May.

Nevertheless, on Wednesday EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding suggested Brussels could demand its money back.

"This campaign is not in line with the Progress programme," Reding told the European Parliament during a two-hour debate on the Hungarian constitution.

"It is not in line with the project proposal submitted by the Hungarian authorities and therefore the Commission asked to stop this part of the campaign without further delay and to remove all remaining posters."

If Hungary did not do so, "we will start procedures to terminate the agreement and draw the necessary conclusions, including financial," Reding said.

For the centre-right administration of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, which has already clashed with the EU on a whole host of other issues, the campaign was part of a drive for "balanced families".

"This campaign addresses women who are ready to give birth to a baby but cannot bring him or her up," said Peter Harrach, deputy leader of the parliamentary Christian Democrat party KDNP, which is the junior coalition member and backed the campaign.

Women's rights groups, however, are up in arms and fear it could be a first step towards criminalising abortion.

The posters turned a woman's right to abortion into "a moral question rather than a human rights issue," said Julia Spronz, a lawyer of the Hungarian Women's Lobby.

"It did not respect women's choices over their own bodies. Instead, it just treated their bodies as containers," Spronz said.

In Hungary, 60 percent of the population believe abortions should be legally available, according to a human rights watchdog, the Civil Liberties Union.

But the number of abortions carried out every year has been gradually declining in recent years, and stood at 43,000 in 2009, according to the EU statistics authority, Eurostat.

"This is still higher than in Western Europe. But the situation is much better than one or two decades ago when we performed 100,000 abortions a year," said Nandor Acs, head of the obstetrics and gynecology department at the Semmelweis University School of Medicine.

Instead of anti-abortion posters, better information about birth control was needed, Acs argued.

"If there is better information on contraception, the number of abortions will decrease."

In April, parliament passed a controversial new constitution, establishing that the state had an obligation to protect life, beginning at conception.

Source: AFP

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