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In Hungary, women have to listen to foetus’ heartbeat before having an abortion

Aron Demeter, spokesman of Amnesty International Hungary, said the decree would make it 'harder to access legal and safe abortion'. 

Hungary has tightened abortion rules with activists decrying on Tuesday that pregnant women will have to listen to the foetus’ heartbeat before having an abortion. 

Anti-abortion rhetoric in the EU member has increased during Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s increasingly Christian-conservative era.

The decree, signed by the interior minister and published in the government’s gazette late Monday, amends the application form required for terminating a pregnancy. 

It stipulates that doctors must issue a report that records that the pregnant woman was presented “with the factor indicating the functioning of foetal vital functions in a clearly identifiable manner”.

The far-right party Mi Hazank (Our Homeland) had been pushing for the amendment with its lawmaker Dora Duro welcoming the decree, which comes into effect on Thursday.

“A chance for life: from now on, mothers will listen to the foetal heartbeat!” she said in a post on Facebook. “The government has taken a step in the direction of really protecting all foetuses from conception.”

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Aron Demeter, spokesman of Amnesty International Hungary, said the decree would make it “harder to access legal and safe abortion”. 

“It is definitely a worrying step back, a bad sign,” he told AFP. “This amendment achieves nothing, but will further traumatise women, put additional pressure on women who are already in a difficult place.”

He said the legal change was “coming out from nowhere, without any kind of public and professional consultations around the matter”.

Abortion has been legally accepted in Hungary since 1953. In 1992 the government passed an act to protect foetal life.

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Under the current laws abortions may be performed up to 12 weeks, but may be extended up to 24 weeks in certain circumstances.

Women must meet with family service workers before being allowed to terminate their pregnancies.

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