Article Hungary: New Rules Oblige Doctors to Present Fetal Vital Signs to Women Before Terminating Their Pregnancies

On September 12, 2022, Hungary’s minister of interior, Sándor Pintér, issued Decree No. 29/2022, amending Decree No. 32/1992, the implementing regulation for Act No. 79 of 1992 on the Protection of Fetal Life. (Decree No. 29/2022, § 1.)

The new decree entered into force on September 15, 2022. (§ 2.)

Contents of the New Decree

The new decree amends the text of the application form for terminating a pregnancy contained in Annex No. 4 of Decree No. 32/1992. Item 2 of the new application form requires that pregnant women requesting an abortion sign a certificate attesting that the obstetrician-gynecologist has “presented the factors indicating the functioning of fetal vital functions [widely interpreted as the heartbeat of a fetus] to the pregnant woman in a clearly identifiable manner.” Item 7 of the application form requires health care providers to attest that they have “acted in accordance with the provisions of the Act on the Protection of Fetal Life … [and] enlightened the pregnant woman and informed her about her rights.”

In item 5 of the form, the pregnant woman’s husband or partner attests that he agrees with the decision of his wife or partner.

Item 3 of the form indicates the reason for the request for termination, which can be either “pregnancy [as] a consequence of a crime” or a “serious crisis situation.”

Item 6 of the form provides the date that the authority acting in the criminal case verified the commission or reasonable suspicion of a crime.

Current Law on Terminating Pregnancies

1992 Act on Protecting Fetal Life

The preamble of the 1992 Act on Protecting Fetal Life states that “fetal life begins at conception [and] deserves respect and protection” and that “abortion is not a means of family planning and birth control.”

Section 6(1) of the act provides that a pregnancy can be terminated up to the 12th week when the pregnancy endangers the health of the pregnant woman, severe anomalies are present in the fetus, the pregnancy is a consequence of a crime, or the pregnant woman is experiencing a “serious crisis situation.”

Section 6(2) provides that the pregnancy may be terminated up to the 18th week if the conditions set out in section 6(1) are present and

  • the pregnant woman is “limited or incapable of acting,”
  • the woman did not recognize her pregnancy earlier owing to health reasons not attributable to her,
  • her health care providers committed medical error, or
  • her pregnancy progressed beyond the 12th week as a result of the medical institution’s or an authority’s negligence.

According to section 6(3), the pregnancy can be terminated up to the 20th week if the diagnostic procedure is prolonged, and up to the 24th week if the probability of genetic or teratological harm to the fetus reaches 50%.

Finally, section 6(4) provides that a pregnancy may be terminated regardless of its duration if the pregnant woman has health problems that endanger her life or the fetus has an anomaly incompatible with life after birth.

Other Legal Measures

In 2011, Hungary adopted a new constitution, article II of which states that “the life of the fetus shall be protected from the moment of conception.”

In 2012, the government of Hungary banned the use of abortion pills to terminate pregnancies.

Reaction to the New Decree

Dóra Dúró, a member of the National Assembly representing the Our Homeland party, welcomed the new requirements as “[t]he first pro-life move since the regulation of abortion in 1956, breaking a decades-old taboo” and “necessary” for further reducing what she claimed to be the overly high number of abortions still performed in the country.

In contrast, the new rules provoked opposition from Hungarian doctors and women’s rights organizations.

The Hungarian Medical Chamber (the Hungarian doctors’ association) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation interpreted the Hungarian government’s decision as a move that “has no medical purpose and serves only to humiliate women.” They criticized the government for not giving the reason for issuing the amendment, proceeding with no public consultation and no input from women or doctors.

The women’s rights organization Patent noted that the changes would only serve to “induc[e] guilt in women.”

Iana Fremer, Law Library of Congress
November 15, 2022

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Chicago citation style:

Hungary: New Rules Oblige Doctors to Present Fetal Vital Signs to Women Before Terminating Their Pregnancies. 2022. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-11-14/hungary-new-rules-oblige-doctors-to-present-fetal-vital-signs-to-women-before-terminating-their-pregnancies/.

APA citation style:

(2022) Hungary: New Rules Oblige Doctors to Present Fetal Vital Signs to Women Before Terminating Their Pregnancies. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-11-14/hungary-new-rules-oblige-doctors-to-present-fetal-vital-signs-to-women-before-terminating-their-pregnancies/.

MLA citation style:

Hungary: New Rules Oblige Doctors to Present Fetal Vital Signs to Women Before Terminating Their Pregnancies. 2022. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-11-14/hungary-new-rules-oblige-doctors-to-present-fetal-vital-signs-to-women-before-terminating-their-pregnancies/>.