Legal Action Against Church-Run Hospital Denying Abortion Services for Roma in Hungary

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the National Association of Disadvantaged Families are taking legal action against the Saint Damien Greek Catholic Hospital in Kisvárda for their denial of abortion services to women, including disadvantaged Romani women. The organisations have filed a complaint before the Deputy Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, Ombudsman for the Rights of National Minorities in Hungary.

Källa: ERRC
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“Romani women are often discriminated against when accessing their sexual and reproductive health rights throughout Europe. In this particular region, Romani women are among the poorest in all of Hungary. There are several rights violations in this story: the Hungarian Metropolitan Church’s illegal decision to deny abortion services means that these women are practically denied access to this right because of their inadequate access to transport to another hospital. It is also very stressful for them to be discharged from hospital on the same day of the procedure. It’s not hard to imagine that after such procedure, having to make the journey with several transfers is physically and emotionally demanding and painful. That’s why we are bringing a legal complaint, not just for their sake, but on behalf of all women in the region who should not have to face difficulties accessing an abortion” said the ERRC’s Legal Director, Vivien Brassói.

On 1 July 2021, state-run Kisvárda Felső-Szabolcs Hospital was taken over by the Hungarian Metropolitan Church under the name of Saint Damján Greek Catholic Hospital. The hospital previously provided pregnancy termination, however, since the takeover, it has stopped offering abortion services. Since then, many Romani women have complained about having to travel almost 50 kilometres away to Nyíregyháza for an abortion, which takes about two hours by public transport and adds additional hardship for women who live in a region marked by the deepest poverty in Hungary according to the Hungarian Central Statistical Office. This change significantly affects the roughly 80,000 residents, of which around 15% are Roma, in and around Kisvárda in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County.

The ERRC and the National Association of Disadvantaged Families’ complaint argues that the hospital’s decision to refuse abortions violates all women’s reproductive self-determination and the requirement of equal treatment. The right to self-determination, an integral component of human dignity, allows women to decide about their bodies and destinies. The decision to stop offering abortion services at the Saint Damien Greek Catholic Hospital, which has a territorial care obligation, directly discriminates against women living in poverty, and further indirectly discriminates against Romani woman with lower socioeconomic status who are disproportionately affected by the regulation.

We have called on the Deputy Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, Ombudsman for the Rights of National Minorities in Hungary to investigate this matter, given its severity and the implications for Romani women’s reproductive rights. The ERRC and the National Association of Disadvantaged Families are committed to ensuring that all women, regardless of ethnicity or socioeconomic status, can access necessary healthcare services.

This press release is also available in Hungarian.

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