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Hungarian women will be forced to listen to 'foetal heartbeat' before they can have an abortion

Ali Condon

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| Last updated 

Hungarian women will be forced to listen to 'foetal heartbeat' before they can have an abortion

Featured Image Credit: Sarah McEwan / Alamy Stock Photo, Tetra Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Women in Hungary who are seeking an abortion will be forced to 'listen to the foetal heartbeat' before going through with the procedure as the country tightens its abortion laws.

A notification from Hungary's interior ministry announced this week that 'nearly two-thirds of Hungarians associate the beginning of a child's life with the first heartbeat.'

Although Hungary's government pushes 'traditional family values', its abortion laws haven't been particularly harsh.

Hungarian women will be forced to listen to 'foetal heartbeat' before they can have an abortion. Credit: Unsplash
Hungarian women will be forced to listen to 'foetal heartbeat' before they can have an abortion. Credit: Unsplash

According to Hungary's current abortion laws, which hasn't been changed since 1992, a termination can be carried out in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, or at any other point in the pregnancy if the foetus isn't viable.

That being said, anyone looking to undergo an abortion is required to provide a letter from a gynaecologist, and to visit family services twice, where they will be spoken to about adoption and state benefits for mothers.

However, this new legislation, which is set to come into law from Thursday 15 September, will act as an addition to the government's current policies.

The addition, announced by Prime Minister Viktor Orban this week, claims that modern equipment can detect heartbeats early into a pregnancy to offer 'more comprehensive information for pregnant women'.

Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban issued the new legislation this week. Credit:  360b / Alamy Stock Photo
Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban issued the new legislation this week. Credit: 360b / Alamy Stock Photo

However, medical experts have regarded the term 'foetal heartbeat' as misleading in the context of early pregnancy.

When a similar abortion restriction was put into effect in Texas in 2021, a spokesperson from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists pointed out that the sound heard in early-term pregnancies isn't a heartbeat, but a noise generated by the ultrasound machine.

Alarmed abortion advocates now fear that Hungary's new legislation could be the first step towards tighter restrictions in the future.

Politician Dora Duro from the right-wing Our Homeland party celebrated the new decree with a post to Facebook this week.

She announced to her followers: "This is the first pro-life move since the regulation of abortion in 1956, breaking a decades-old taboo."

Meanwhile, opposition MP Timea Szabo has accused the Hungarian government of 'banning abortion quietly, without consulting women'.

Alarmed abortion advocates now fear that Hungary's new legislation could be the first step towards tighter restrictions in the future. Credit: Unsplash
Alarmed abortion advocates now fear that Hungary's new legislation could be the first step towards tighter restrictions in the future. Credit: Unsplash

Amnesty International Hungary have claimed that the new restrictions will now make it "harder to access legal and safe abortion".

A brief statement to their social media read: "Restrictions on safe and legal abortion only put people who can get pregnant at risk.

"Hungary's new amendment is an alarming step that only further [traumatise] people already facing a difficult situation. It has to be repealed immediately."

Since Prime Minister Viktor Orban came into power in 2010, he has made great efforts to boost Hungary's declining birth rate.

In 2019, the leader announced that mothers with four or more children would be exempt from paying income tax for life.

The government also mentions in its 2011 constitution that 'the life of a foetus will be protected from conception', however, this will be the country's first significant move to tighten abortion laws.

For help, support and advice about abortion, contact the National Abortion Federation on 1-800-772-9100, EST 8am-7pm EST Monday to Friday or EST 8am-4pm EST Saturday to Sunday. 

Topics: News, Health

Ali Condon
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