Reader question: Is abortion legal in Switzerland?

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 25 Jun, 2022 Updated Sat 25 Jun 2022 14:02 CEST
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Abortion is legal per choice within the first three months in Austria - but very expensive. Photo: Gayatri Malhotra/Unsplash

An apparent change in decades-old US abortion law has put additional scrutiny on abortion rights around the world. Here’s what you need to know about abortion in Switzerland.

A leaked document released earlier this week claims that the US Supreme Court is now in favour of overturning a landmark 1973 ruling, called Roe v Wade, that made abortion legal across the United States. 

Abortion is legal in Switzerland, although you will need a consultation with a doctor. 

The procedure is relatively uncommon in Switzerland, where the abortion rate was 5.4 per 1,000 women of child-baring age in 2020. This compares to 8.7 for foreign residents in Switzerland. 

The rate per 1,000 women is much higher abroad, at 19 in Sweden, 17 in the UK, 16 in France and 16 in the US. 

Switzerland defines 'child-baring' age as between the ages of 15 and 44. 

What are the rules for abortion in Switzerland? 

In Switzerland, the law was changed in 2002 to allow for abortions within a certain time period. 

Abortion is permitted if it takes place in the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy, which Swiss law measures as starting on the date of the woman’s last period. 

This means that both medical and surgical abortions are permitted in Switzerland, with medical abortions taking place until the eighth week and surgical interventions taking place from the ninth week onwards. 

Under Swiss law, a woman is required to have an in depth discussion with a doctor where she will be advised of her options, although the decision remains that of the woman rather than the medical professional. 

This discussion must be confirmed in writing. 

The woman will also receive a list of agencies which can provide additional information and support. 

The costs of an abortion - which can be in the thousands of francs - are covered by Switzerland’s basic insurance cover. 

The law is the same in all regions of Switzerland, although some communes may not have adequate facilities. 

What about people under 18?

Women under 18 can have an abortion without parental consent, provided a doctor judges that the woman has the capacity to understand and therefore consent to the procedure. 

If the woman is deemed too young to have the capacity, consent of her legal representatives - in most cases her parents - will be required. 

Most sexual and reproductive health centres can provide tailored advice to adolescents and minors. 

Are there any exceptions to the 12-week rule? 

Abortions can take place from the 13th week onwards only in exceptional circumstances. 

This will be possible in the case of serious illnesses or disabilities, or where a doctor recommends the termination of the pregnancy for the purposes of physical or mental health for the woman. 

There is no end date for when abortions will no longer be allowed, but it is ultimately a question of risk. 

What are the rules for emergency contraception, i.e. the ‘morning after pill’, in Switzerland? 

Emergency contraception is available at most Swiss pharmacies without a prescription, however you will need a consultation with a doctor or a family planning clinic before you receive it. 

If these centres are not open, you can also receive the consultation and the pill at a hospital. 

It will cost up to 60 francs depending on a variety of factors, including your age, healthcare status and the rules in place in your canton of residence. 

Like abortion, there are no minimum age requirements, although if your doctor believes you cannot form consent you will need the consent of your parents or legal guardian. 

If you would like to speak to a sexual health expert about reproductive rights in an anonymous fashion, contact Sante here. 

Glossary

The termination of a pregnancy is known as abortion in English, Abtreibung/Schwangerschaftsabbruch in German, avortement in French and aborto in Italian. 

Emergency contraception is Notfallverhütung (German), la contraception d'urgence (French) or contraccezione d'emergenza (Italian). 

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The Local 2022/06/25 14:02

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