Hungary is yet again on a collision course with the EU: a new abortion pill approved by the EU may soon be restricted from availability in Hungary.
This at least is what a handful of protesters urged during an anti-abortion rally held on May 23. Among the 20-30 protesters were Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén, of Hungary’s Christian Democratic party, as well as prominent politicians of the extreme right party Jobbik, Előd Novák and Dóra Dúró. The platforms of both parties include banning abortions in Hungary.The pill to be introduced next month in the EU – which in other parts of the world has been in use for over 20 years – induces a process physiologically similar to miscarriage. Compared to traditional abortion procedures, it poses lesser risks to the health of the woman and reduces the likelihood of complications during later pregnancies.
The participants of the small protests, however, preferred to frame the matter in terms of the Holocaust. The protesters listened 6 bell tolls in memory of the “six million children” lost to the pill’s “philosophy of devastation, death, and destruction” (the company that developed the RU 486 operated chemical plants throughout Nazi Germany and manufactured the hydrocyanic acid used in its death camps).
“This is not a drug, but a poison pill, a weapon in the history of modern warfare against Hungarians” stated a speaker representing the Alfa coalition, the organizer of the protest. With the abortion pill, one witnesses the emergence of “fascism in hiding,” he added. The politician couple from Jobbik, Előd Novák and Dóra Dúró, whose party is openly sympathetic to Hitler’s views and recommends locking the Roma population of Hungary into fenced work camps were not pointed out as “fascism in hiding”; presumably because they were far from hiding – besides Semjén, the deputy to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, they were the most prominent politicians present at the protest.
In defiance of the European Union’s policies of making the drug available in all member countries, the Hungarian government plans to ban the use of the pill, known to many as the RU 486. Although the country’s National Pharmaceutical Institute approved the drug, the Hungarian government cited “expert concerns” against its use. The Hungarian Civic Liberties Union filed a freedom of information request to obtain these expert testimonies, since the ministry in charge of health matters has thus far refused to release any expert statements that formed the basis of its decision not to allow Hungarian hospitals to administer the pill.
The closest the Hungarian government has come to explaining its opposition to the pill was in a speech given in the Hungarian parliament by member of parliament, the Christian Democrat Kálmán Nagy. He holds that the pill causes “heavy bleeding and severe psychic trauma” to women. The Christian Democratic position is that women should be shielded from any opportunity which removes the doctor from the process (this was a part of their argument, in spite of the fact that the abortion pill could only be used by Hungarian women in a clinical setting, under the medical supervision of a doctor). As far as the “severe psychic trauma” is concerned, the Christian Democratic position seems to be that the responsibility a woman must bear in choosing the abortion pill is far heavier a psychological burden than the passive withstanding of having a fetus scraped out of her uterus piece by piece by a doctor.
The governing parties as well as Jobbik draws heavily on Hungary’s declining birth rates for their political rhetoric (in the case of Jobbik, this is coupled with scare-tactics about the high birth rates among Hungary’s ethnic minorities which threatens with a loss of the homeland to non-Hungarians). Abortion debates in Hungary are thus intricately tied up with nationalistic sentiments to safeguard the Hungarian nation and its survival. As far as actual statistics are concerned, the number of abortions procedures undergone by women in Hungary is in fact steadily declining. Last year, 38,000 abortions were performed in the country’s hospitals. In 1990, over 90,000 sought an abortion in the country; the number of abortions has been under 50,000 since 2000.
Of course a government also has the option of promoting the well-being of a people by sound governance and the creation of a livable environment. While the abortion debate is back in the focus of Hungarian politics, a survey published today also shows that the number of Hungarians who wish to immigrate from Hungary is at an all-time high. On average, 1 out of 5 Hungarians plan to move outside of Hungary for long-term employment, though the number is considerably higher in the under-30 population, among whom 50% of those under 30 plans to leave Hungary either on the long run or forever. Interestingly, not even the voters of the far-right turn out to be thoroughly nationalistic when it comes to their personal choices: approximately one-third of them admitted formulating plans to move abroad.