Is Lithuania about to Adopt an Abortion Ban?

the 41st Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination
against Women (CEDAW), the UN agency responsible for monitoring countries’ progress on ensuring women’s human rights, held recently in New York, Committee members raised concerns about abortion laws and in several Eastern European countries,
Lithuania among them. Why? The Lithuanian Parliament
is considering an abortion ban. By adopting more
restrictive regulations on abortion Lithuania would
join a group of three countries of the European Union (Malta, Ireland
and Poland), where access to abortion
is significantly limited.

The Committee considered the recent official reports from Lithuania as well as a shadow letter submitted by the Seimos Planavimo ir Seksualines
Sveikatos Asociacija

(The Family Planning and Sexual Health Association-FPSHA) based in Vilnius,
Lithuania and the Center for Reproductive Rights, based in New York. In their
letter of June 5, 2008
organizations brought to the Committee’s attention the pending restrictive
abortion legislation. And during Lithuania’s review, CEDAW committee members pressed the
government delegation not only on access to contraception but also on
proposed legislation that seeks to defend prenatal
life and would pose restrictions on access to abortion. Japanese committee
member Yoko Hayashi stated that governmental restrictions on abortion
"contradict the full enjoyment of women’s reproductive health rights
that are protected by CEDAW."

of the Lithuanian Parliament are considering a draft law (known as the
Act of the Republic of Lithuania on the protection of the human life
in the prenatal stage) that aims to severely limit access to abortion and would create one of the most restrictive laws on abortion in Europe. The
draft provides for only three situations in which abortion would be lawful
within very strict time-limits: when the pregnancy involves a risk to the life
or health of the pregnant woman, and when there are reasonable grounds
to believe that the pregnancy is the consequence of criminal acts. Access
to abortion in cases of fetal impairment is not guaranteed. In February
2008, a group of more than 110 Members of the European Parliament signed a letter urging the Lithuanian Parliament to
reject this draft law because it would represent a serious backlash
to women’s reproductive health rights in Lithuania, limiting their
right to life, health and dignity. On April 16, 2008, the Human Rights
Committee of the Lithuanian Parliament issued its supportive opinion
on the law. According to one of the members of Lithuanian delegation
to CEDAW session, the discussions are being continued, as the Ministry
of Health responsible for presenting the final conclusions on the draft
did not support the act in its current wording. Delegation members also explained that because the draft is very controversial
and because it is influenced by the Catholic Church authorities, it
is extremely difficult to predict the outcome of debates.

Taking the above into consideration,
in its concluding observations, the CEDAW Committee expressed concern
about this draft law on the protection of human life in the prenatal
phase. Since, according to the law, abortion under circumstances apart
from three situations mentioned in the act may be considered a punishable
offense under Lithuanian law, the Committee is concerned that the adoption
of such a law may lead women to seek illegal abortions, which may bring
negative consequences to their health. The Committee has called on Lithuania
"to consider the impact on women of the draft law on the protection
of human life in the prenatal stage to ensure that the draft law is
in line with the Convention and accordingly will not lead to women seeking
unsafe medical procedures, such as illegal abortion, which may seriously
risk their health and lives and may contribute to a rise in maternal

Lithuania seems to be considering more restrictive regulations on abortion as a solution to reducing high numbers of abortions performed annually throughout the country. However, as rightly pointed out by many organizations working on reproductive rights, banning abortion will negatively affect only low-income women, while wealthy women will still be able to meet their reproductive health needs by travelling abroad and performing abortions in other countries of the European Union. The example of Poland shows ‘abortion underground’ seems to be a direct result of introducing restrictive laws not allowing for abortions in many justifiable situations. The Center for Reproductive Rights rightly pointed out in the written comments on the proposed legislation that "the Irish and Polish laws, by severely restricting legal abortion access, have not succeeded in achieving their policy goals of reducing the number of abortions women seek and in increasing the number of children born. […] In addition, both the Irish and Polish laws have been analyzed by national as well as international courts. Both countries’ laws have been challenged for violating women’s fundamental human rights before the European Court of Human Rights (see Even Legal Abortion Is Hard to Access in Poland).

The experiences of countries
like Ireland or Poland show that restrictive abortion laws have not
led to reduced numbers of abortions or resulted in population growth.
Hence, as also requested by the CEDAW Committee, instead of changing
the laws, Lithuania should arrange for family planning methods, "such
as a comprehensive range of contraceptives, including emergency contraception,
more widely available and affordable, provide mandatory sexual education
in schools and increase knowledge and awareness about
family planning among women as well as men."
Lithuanian legislators should take this into account before it is
too late.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact

  • invalid-0

    Hi everyone.
    I don’t know what to think of the abortion issue. I hear pro lifers saying that the fetus is a person and should be protected, but then I hear pro choicers saying that it’s the woman who decides. If I ever had an abortion I think I would feel very guilty, like I did kill something that was alive and human. What exactly is the fetus? What exactly is being terminated in an abortion?

  • invalid-0
  • heather-corinna

    The only answer to that, really, is that it depends on when you’re getting an abortion (at what gestational stage): for instance, what’s up at five weeks is incredibly different from what’s up at 25 weeks. Certainly, a fetus or embryo is alive and human and I don’t know anyone in reproductive health who would dispute that — every cell in your body is alive and human, and that certainly includes a product of reproduction. What any of that means to you and how you feel about it — particularly when you’re pregnant yourself and a pregnancy isn’t wanted or isn’t something that seems best for you or a child: for most women, there is more to consider than what exactly is being terminated — just isn’t something someone else can tell you. It also isn’t always the same for a given woman: we don’t always feel the same about every pregnancy or every abortion.


    Women tend to have a wide array of feelings after abortion. Certainly some women do feel guilty or sad. Others feel relieved and much better about things, and there’s a whole range of possibilities.


    If you want to know more of what is being terminated, factually, I’d just suggest looking at embryonic and fetal development by stages where a timeline is listed in a sound reference. (For the record, if you do searches on terms like "baby" you’re less likely to some up with medically accurate information for reasons which perhaps are obvious.) If you did actually want some visual reference for embryonic development, <a href="">this page</a> from the University of New South Wales has both sound imagery by Carnegie stage and lots of additional information.

  • invalid-0

    It doesn’t work….

  • invalid-0

    Copy and paste it directly from here to your web address line:

    I just did it and it works fine. Try it again. Make sure you copy and paste the entire thing…

  • invalid-0

    I think my computer blocks google images. Can you give me something else?

  • invalid-0

    Look up “baby in the womb” or “development of baby”… That should get you to some sites that show and describe the baby’s devolopment each week…

    You can start by reading this though…notice that by week 3 the HEART has begun to pump:

    Day 1:
    The sperm fertilizes the egg. The sperm and egg each carries half of the normal amount of genetic material (DNA.) After fertilization, the egg now has a full set of genes that is unique.

    Day 6:
    The embryo, which has been floating free, comes to rest on the lining of the uterus, and burrows in. The embryo is now a round mass of cells, with an empty space in the middle.

    Week 2:
    The embryo now receives nutrients from the rich blood supply to the uterus. The embryo now consists of two layers of cells, roughly an “inside” layer and an “outside” layer.

    Week 3:
    A third cell layer has appeared, roughly a “middle” layer. The inner, outer, and middle layers of cells are destined to become different tissues in the developing fetus, such as skin and nerves, intestines, and muscle. The heart has begun to pump; the brain and spinal cord begin as a tube-like structure. You miss your first menstrual period.

    Week 4:
    Through a complex series of folds, the disc-like embryo now has a head and a tail, with buds that will grow into limbs. The beginnings of a spinal column and muscles are apparent. The embryo is about 4 to 5 millimeters long — a bit less than 1/4 inch.

    Week 5:
    Eyes are starting to form, a mouth-like opening appears near the “head”; finger and toes are beginning to form. The brain now has three recognizable divisions, as it does in the fully-developed baby and adult.

    Week 6:
    The beginnings of a nose and palate appear; eyelids cover the eyes. The brain is growing rapidly, making a prominent bulge in the head region. The length is not quite one inch.

    Week 7-8:
    More brain growth. Inside, intestines, liver, kidneys, lungs, heart are all taking shape. Ovaries and testes can be seen. The first muscle movements take place.

    By the end of the 8th week, all of the main organ systems are in place, although not in their final form. The embryo sits in the shape of a C, with its large head bowed, and legs flexed upward. It weighs about 1/3 of an ounce, and measures about 2 inches from top to bottom.

    Up until this point, scientists have called this wonder of development an embryo. After week 8, the convention is to call it a fetus. All of the most dramatic transformations are over. But there is still a lot of development that needs to take place before the baby is ready to emerge into the world.

  • invalid-0

    The most natural feeling after killing a human life is guilt because that’s what is normal to feel when you do something that is against the natural moral order (unless you’re a pyschopath/sociopath you may trick yourself out of these feelings). What Heather is saying is that it is a Human Life in all of its stages and if you feel like it then go ahead and kill him/her.

    That’s awesome advice – so loving.

    If you want to you can go to this website and hear from women that have had abortions:

    Also, my son was born when I was 17yrs old. I had nothing, zero support from my parents, no money, I was making $5.62 p/hr (barely over min wage at the time), and I was being abused at my job. I look back and what got me through was PURE LOVE. There were those that thought the problem should go away, but I knew that wherever I went and whatever I did in my life that I would always have to go back to that one decision in my youth where I sunk so low as to destroy a miracle. My son is 15yrs old and is a freshman in High School. He is a gift from God, and I didn’t think I could do it. God never gives us more than we can handle because He loves us more than we can comprehend. If you are thinking of abortion or know someone who is – Love them and help them to think of the long term consequences.

  • invalid-0

    Thank you, Heather and Truth Returns, for your comments. It’s helped me understand more about abortion and the unborn baby. It seems to me that the only logical choice for me is to be pro life, since that seems the most factual and moral choice. One thing that bothers me though, is what about the mother who just really can’t afford, etc. a child right now? I would be concerned for her.

  • heather-corinna

    And that is the case for many women who choose abortion, a great deal of whom already have children, so they know very well what their needs as well as limitations are.

    A common reason why those of us who choose to support choice do is because we are concerned for the women and children who cannot afford what is needed for their survival and well-being.


    But mostly we support choice because we know that the circumstances of all women and all pregnancies are not the same, which is why we feel it is best to let each woman decide for herself — rather than any of us deciding for her — what is best for her and any children she has already and/or may have with a pregnancy.

  • invalid-0

    There are many non-for-profit organizations that help with getting the mother what she needs for herself and the baby. The government provides healthcare through medicaid for the birth and ongoing regular checkups for the baby. A great organization that has helped me is called Catholic Charities, and they can put the mother in contact with whatever resources she needs — and, “No.” you don’t have to be Catholic or believe what they do to get help.

    Here’s their website:

    Go to “Get Help”

    Then put in your zip code and call the local office in your area. Explain your situation and needs and they will help you or put you in contact with who can in your area.

    Let me know if this helps or if you need anything else?

  • invalid-0

    No, I don’t need anything else. Thank you so much for the links you provided and everything. It really helped!