The Hungarian government chips away at the abortion law

Thursday afternoon, during his regular press conference, János Lázár announced the latest government decision. Two hospitals–the Budai Irgalmasrendi Kórház, managed by the Hungarian Catholic Church, and the Bethesda Gyermekkórház, maintained by the Hungarian Reformed Church–will receive a generous grant of 7.8 billion forints so they can offer obstetric services. In return, they will not perform abortions and will refuse to accept gratuities, which, as we all know, are steep. Obstetricians can become quite wealthy from money happy new parents pass to them under the table.

The immediate reaction in the liberal press was negative. Journalists remember only too well earlier attempts to restrict abortions. The sanctity of life issue is at the core of the Christian Democratic People’s Party’s ideology. During the debate on the constitution in 2010 KDNP politicians were adamant about the issue. Eventually the following sentence made its way into the final text of Orbán’s constitution: “Human dignity shall be inviolable. Every human being shall have the right to life and human dignity; the life of the fetus shall be protected from the moment of conception.” Subsequently, KDNP tried several times to convince Viktor Orbán to follow the Polish example, which makes abortion illegal except in cases of rape, when the woman’s life is in jeopardy, or if the fetus is irreparably damaged. The Polish government recently tried to enact a total ban on abortions, but it had to retreat in the face of huge demonstrations. Orbán knows that the introduction of a sweeping abortion law in Hungary would be political suicide.

Társaság a Szabadságjogokért (TASZ), the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, objected to the terms of the grants. Judit Zeller, who works on patients’ rights cases, took the position that although individual doctors may refuse to perform surgical interventions in pregnancy cases, institutions as such can’t. If the condition of the government’s financial assistance depends on the hospitals refusing to perform abortions, the arrangement between the hospitals and the government is illegal.

As is often the case in the chaos within the Orbán government, there was a discrepancy between Lázár’s statement and the official government text. In its announcement Magyar Közlöny, the official gazette of government edicts and laws, said not a word about the special understanding between the hospitals and the central government concerning the prohibition of abortions.

The two hospitals will actually share one new obstetric department, which will be housed in Bethesda. People familiar with the medical facilities in Budapest claim there is no need for an additional facility. They suspect that the arrangement is a kind of unholy alliance between the two so-called historic churches, on the one hand, and the Hungarian government, which is eager to have the churches’ full support, on the other.

KDNP, the “political arm of the Catholic Church,” has been unhappy ever since 2010 when it failed to have a total ban on abortions included in the new constitution. The party therefore periodically makes attempts to smuggle in restrictive laws. In 2012 there was a huge debate on the “abortion pill,” in which KDNP successfully led the opposition to its availability in Hungary. The World Health Organization approved the pill in 2005 and the Hungarian “college of gynecologists and obstetricians” also endorsed its use. But KDNP’s “expert” described the horrors that follow the procedure, which in his opinion was even more dangerous than the surgical technique. He also claimed that “WHO suggested the use of the abortion pill for overpopulated countries,” not for countries with a low birthrate like Hungary. As a result of KDNP’s fierce opposition, the pill is not available in Hungary to this day.

A year later, in 2013, KDNP introduced yet another bill to restrict women’s gynecological rights. This time is was Bence Rétvári, undersecretary in the department of justice, who introduced the bill. KDNP wanted to put an end to voluntary sterilization. Prior to 2005 Hungarian laws had restricted voluntary sterilization. The Constitutional Court found them unconstitutional because they violated women’s rights. Therefore, after 2006 such operations could be freely performed at the patient’s expense. It was this liberal law that KDNP wanted to change in such a way that only those women who were over 40 years old and already had three children could be sterilized. This bill was never enacted into law.

Medián took a survey at that time on Hungarian attitudes toward the abortion issue, and it turned out that even supporters of Fidesz-KDNP didn’t back further legal restrictions. The poll showed that 72% of churchgoers thought that in cases of financial stress abortion was an acceptable alternative. The same group of people believed that the abortion pill that KDNP torpedoed a year before was an acceptable, maybe even preferable, method of birth control.

A year ago Index got hold of a study by a hobby demographer whose remedy for the low birthrate in Hungary is to forbid all abortions on childless women between the ages of 35 and 45. This hobby demographer has close ties to KDNP. In fact, his study was at least partially financed by KDNP’s Barankovics Foundation.

In brief, KDNP has been relentlessly trying to overturn the current law on abortion. Yet the top politicians of the party now claim that they had absolutely nothing to do with the deal between the two hospitals and the government. I doubt that this is the case. I can hardly imagine that Miklós Soltész (KDNP), the secretary for churches, minorities and civil affairs, had nothing to do with the 7.8 billion forints given to the two church-run hospitals.

This first step toward “abortion free hospitals” might seem innocuous. It simply reduces the number of hospitals where women can have abortions. Perhaps this way KDNP’s drive for a ban on abortions might be less noticeable, especially if the process takes several years. Népszava’s headline to its article on the subject read: “Did the future begin?” A lot of people think so.

February 10, 2017
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bimbi
Guest

It is called “the thin end of the wedge”. The insidious KDNP seeks to exercise its dogma-based control on all of Hungarian society. This sect-based political party must be watched with the utmost vigilance.

There is an (unfortunate and unhappy) connection too with yesterday’s post on Kormend high school teacher Szabo, who apparently was also in the business of “making babies”. As KDNP might say, “Teacher knows best”.

Observer
Guest

As I said my friends,
it’s fascism light, a primitive and retrograde dictatorship trying to drape itself with various banners just to hide its ugly nature.

bimbi
Guest

There is also a second dismal aspect to this affair, pointed out in the post, namely that the hospitals concerned were given no “choice” at all – either accept the restrictions on abortion that we (the government) are imposing on you or you won’t get the money. The Irgalmasrendi korhaz is in a dismal state of repair now under the present Fidesz health care system. They had no “choice” in the matter. The disgrace in this effort to evade provision of abortion facilities via “smuzi” lies with KDNP, with the government and above all with Orban. Sickening.

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘choice’

Really a major major part of the issue isn’t it? Too many institutions sleep together. Extremely unhealthy for a supposedly ‘free and democratic’ society. The mitre holders sure keep banging away at the concept of ‘choice’.

Guest

Strange coincidence:

Right now we had a “similar” case in Germany – but with different sides:
A doctor said his clinic would not do abortions – because they were against his religion.

And then the clinic fired him because of course they will do abortions if women need it – and get the necessary agreement papers …
http://www.spiegel.de/gesundheit/schwangerschaft/chefarzt-verlaesst-dannenberger-klinik-a-1134053.html

Not too much OT:
That story about voluntary sterilisations reminds me of my activities as a student more than 50 years ago:

We (the Humanist Union) invited a famous doctor for a talk at the university whom the judge wanted to send to jail because he had done sterilisations on married women – with the agreement of their husband of course. The whole thing was based on a Nazi law which had never been revoked by the Catholic dominated German government …

After a public outcry the whole prosecution was stopped.

Btw we also produced flyers for the students on the available methods against unwanted conception – and financed them by selling buttons:
Make Love Not War!
Oh, those were the days!

And this affair again proves my saying:
Hungary (like Poland etc …) is 50 years behind the civilised Western Europe!

Istvan
Guest
I think the discussion so far on Eva’s post reflects a lack of understanding of the intersection of Catholicism, abortion, and birth control. It was promoted by Eva’s post itself where she writes the “sanctity of life issue is at the core of the Christian Democratic People’s Party’s ideology.” It also has become a core aspect of the Catechism and the KDNP is just reflecting that. As I have stated before as a Catholic I am opposed to abortion, but I am opposed to legally banning it in civil society because women have a right to choose even if I disagree with the choice. I think the strategy being used by KDNP as presented by Eva could be called evolutionary or incremental. I do not agree with that attempt to alter the nature of civil society either. I am not in the least opposed to the Church morally trying to persuade Catholic doctors not to perform abortions. I have had debates over this with Catholic theologians in my extended family from Esztergom and here in the USA. I once debated this issue at Norte Dame University here in the USA on a panel devoted to the topic. I have not… Read more »
bimbi
Guest

@Istvan 12:55 p.m.

You write: “the discussion so far… …reflects a lack of understanding of the intersection of Catholicism, abortion, and birth control”

You may think that but, sorry to tell you it is irrelevant. The Holy Apostolic Catholic Church is not in a good position to preach to anyone – the US and Australian record on mass seduction of children by Catholic priests howls forth that message. On top of that is all the utterly dishonest and constructed b-s about virgin birth, forgiveness of sins, the life everlasting etc – a construct of nonsense to keep an elite in power.

It was President Clinton who said he wasn’t in favour of abortion and would like to see a nation where it was never resorted to. So would I but the KDNP/Fidesz/Orban dictatorship is determined to foist THEIR dogma-based views on Hungarian society as a whole. Thanks, but no thanks.

And while we are at it Istvan, maybe you can tell us whether the Virgin Mary, Holy Mother of God would go in for concealed carry…

Andy
Guest

The abortion affair is a weapon to create anger and polarization.
Sputnik may have been the hidden creator of this campaigns.
The Catholic church and many Evangelical ministries’ leaders are guilty to dance to the tunes of Sputnik.

Istvan
Guest
The Catholic Church at least here in the USA accepts the right of self defense, but the taking of life. The fifth commandment forbids doing anything with the intention of indirectly bringing about a person’s death. The moral law prohibits exposing someone to mortal danger without grave reason, as well as refusing assistance to a person in danger. But the Catechism of the Church states: “The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not. Those whose usurious and avaricious dealings lead to the hunger and death of their brethren in the human family indirectly commit homicide, which is imputable to them. Unintentional killing is not morally imputable. But one is not exonerated from grave offense if, without proportionate reasons, he has acted in a way that brings about someone’s death, even without the intention to do so.” So if I was to kill someone in self defense using a legally concealed weapon I… Read more »
bimbi
Guest

Ok Istvan, apart from all that, we still love you.

Velem
Guest

Not the actual topic of this piece I know, but I hear a lot in the media of the steep gratuities people pay to obstetricians and other physicians in order to receive good service. We’ve had three babies in a Hungarian hospital, I suffer from a chronic condition requiring regular detailed investigations and check-ups, I see the same doctors regularly. I have never once paid a gratuity, no one I know has, I’ve always had treatment above what I would expect (I once had an ultra-sound and MRI performed to make sure they’d not missed anything). I believe some physicians make reasonable money running their after hours private surgeries, so if I really needed urgent treatment I’d go there and pay the extra for it. How, why, when and where do these steep gratuity payments occur? (I’d actually really like to know the honest truth of what goes on so I’m informed enough to look out if it is actually being expected or not)!

webber
Guest

If you are Hungarian, as your moniker suggests, I have a very hard time believing that you don’t know anyone who has paid tips. Actually, I don’t believe it at all.
If you are not Hungarian, that is different.
There are websites on the tips paid to doctors – how much, to whom, services rendered. If you speak Hungarian, you’ll find them by looking up “hálapénz” online.
The tips are expected by most obstetricians, and they are expected by nurses in the wards of most hospitals. They let you know in various ways if you haven’t tipped them.

Velem
Guest

I’m not Hungarian, lived in the West of Hungary for almost 10 years now. I guess they just let me off as I’m foreign and therefore not expected to know the cultural habits. Still surprising I’ve never felt any expectation from any medical staff to grease their paws. I’ve hd nothing but decent treatment from everyone given what I hear of other medical facilities around the country. Sure the facilities and staff lack funding, but they just get on with what they have. Good to know though, thanks for the search topic, some good info gained from that.

Observer
Guest

Velem

When I came to H many years ago I was shocked to learn about the practice of paying enormous (a monthly salary amount or more) for an ordinary birth in state system of free healthcare.
EVERYBODY PAID/PAYS, never heard of otherwise.

Rivarol
Guest

Damngood article

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