Despite being registered at the State Institute for Drug Control (ŠÚKL), abortion pills have never made it to pharmacies and patients in Slovakia. The country is one of just four countries in the European Union that do not have allow women to legally access the abortion pill.
As a result, doctors are required to use an outdated surgical procedure during which the patient must be anaesthatised. The Health Ministry forbids any other form of abortion than by surgery.
The local controversy around abortion pills in Slovakia dates back to 2013. It became an issue after conservative politicians got involved, writes the Sme daily. Initially, the Health Ministry approved use of the abortion pill.
Conservatives oppose abortion pills
The abortion pill is widely regarded by clinicians as a much safer option than surgery. According to gynaecologist Jozef Záhumenský, the risks of adverse outcomes from the pill are very low, while surgery can increase the chance of future premature childbirth by 20 percent, and otherwise complicate pregnancies.
In 2013, Anna Záborská, an ultra-conservative who was then an MEP for the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), opposed the use of abortion pills, backed by former KDH health minister Ivan Uhliarik. Ten years on, Záborská – now an MP for the Christian Union (KÚ), who as elected to parliament in 2020 on the OĽaNO list – is still campaigning to restrict access to abortion.
Despite there being nine health ministers since 2013, no change to abortion procedures, including access to abortion pills, has been made by the ministry. Ministers are able to change such rules without the approval of parliament.
There have been some attempts to allow use of the abortion pill during this parliament. One of these came from MP Jana Cigániková (SaS), but was immediately dismissed by former prime minister Igor Matovič, the leader of OĽaNO, the largest party in the assembly.
Caretaker cabinet might make a step forward
There could be a potential change under the current, caretaker government. Prime Minister Ľudovít Ódor has left the new health minister, Michal Palkovič, to make the decision, while noting that all other advanced countries have allowed access to the abortion pill.
“My opinion is that [once the decision to terminate a pregnancy is made] chemical abortion is disproportionately less risky,” Palkovič has said. However, the minister still wants the topic to be debated among professionals.
Approval of the pill would not mean that women would get immediate access to it, however. It would still need formal re-registration at ŠÚKL. The overall response could take almost 400 days, with 210 to deliver a standpoint and 180 for a response, according to ŠÚKL spokesperson Jana Matiašová.
After that, a price for the pill would need to be set, which could take months more.