The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has determined that the rights of a 20-year-old woman were violated when her parents forced her to have an abortion in 2010. At the time, the police did not prosecute the parents because they determined that they were acting in their daughter’s best interest.
Court documents in the case, S.F.K. v Russia, detail the events: “On 1 May 2010, the applicant’s parents took her to a hospital to undergo an abortion; the applicant only found out that this was their intention on the way to the hospital. According to the applicant, she protested strongly and cried, but her father hit her on the head and threatened to beat her and throw her out of the car in order to make her miscarry.”
Further information states, “The medical intervention [abortion] was carried out by a duty doctor at a public hospital, even though the applicant had made it clear both to her parents who forced her and then to medical personnel that she wished to keep her pregnancy.” Though the woman convinced her brother to call the police, they declined to charge the woman’s parents and the hospital because they determined that there was “no malicious intent.”
In ruling in the woman’s favor, the court found that the forced abortion was “an egregious form of inhuman and degrading treatment which had not only resulted in a serious immediate damage to her health – that is the loss of her unborn child – but had also entailed long-lasting negative physical and psychological effects.”
The case highlights a little-discussed fact — that studies appear to show that the majority of abortions are coerced. One study has found that as many as 64% of abortions are coerced, and in many cases, like this one, that pressure was in the form of physical violence. Forced abortion gets even less attention, though it too occurs often. Just recently, Rep. Cori Bush revealed that she was forced into an abortion at the age of 19, even though she told both the nurse and the abortionist that she had changed her mind. Other women have spoken out about being ignored and then forced into abortions that they didn’t want.
This international ruling plays an important role in highlighting that abortion is not always the woman’s choice and that there can be ramifications for forcing a woman to abort against her will. It also recognizes the trauma that can occur over the loss of a preborn child. Hopefully, it will discourage doctors and hospitals from committing these heinous crimes and instead get women the help that they need and deserve.