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Hungary’s new abortion law is just about control

The supposedly informative purposes of the new abortion law in Hungary are actually an excuse to control women

By Caterina Fumero

Image courtesy of Valentina Sagredo

In the past few days, Hungary’s prime minister Victor Orban issued a new decree which would force women seeking an abortion to ‘listen to the foetal heartbeat’ before gaining access to the service.

Theoretically, this new measure would be for ‘informative purposes’, when in fact it is just another instance where a conservative party tries to control women. Hungary is a country where abortion has been legal since 1953; it is widely accepted in society. As Noá Nógradí told the Guardian ‘the government cannot outlaw the procedure overnight. But taking a series of small steps towards restriction can pass more easily’.

It is clear that what this law will achieve is just putting women in an even more traumatic and distressing position, but also its supposedly ‘informative purpose’ is just inexistent.

One of the arguments that was used by the interior minister to back the decree up was that ‘nearly two third of Hungarians associate the beginning of a child’s life with the first heartbeat’. Nevertheless, he failed to check with the medical community what the supposedly ‘foetal heartbeat’ is.

This strategy is not new, as it has been used in Kentucky and Texas as well; somehow people think that making women listen to this ‘heartbeat’ would change their mind, as if it was not already a complicated decision to make. Moreover, most of the time the choice to abort has some deep causes that are far from just not wanting to be a mother.

But because this method has been used in those southern states in the US, many doctors came forward to explain what women are actually listening to, and it is far from being a small heart, like the one a new-born child might have.

Doctor Jen Gunter explains that, at six weeks, a human embryo throbs. Nonetheless, those tissues have not formed an organ yet, so they should not be confused with the embryos’ heartbeat. As she explains in an interview for the Guardian, it is a process, the heart does not just happen to appear overnight, and at this stage there is not a ‘formed’ baby that just grows bigger through the pregnancy.

These sort of misleading information not only are used by pro-life movements, but they are also very damaging to women who are getting an abortion.

There is absolutely no way that the decree that was issued in Hungary has any informative purpose. It is based on disinformation and its only purpose is to terrorize women even more.

This makes me wonder, in the debate on abortion, are we going to discuss the ethics behind a government that issues supposedly informative laws that are actually misinformative?

I do not believe that the prime minister just did not read the research. Or that no one ever wondered whether at six weeks we were listening to an actual heartbeat or not. Was no doctor called to explain how this works before writing this law?

My conclusion would be that no one cares about life here, it is not an instance where one could argue that the government is on a mission to save babies.

This law is just about control.


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