Austrian Health Minister Alois Stöger Wants More Abortions

International   |   Joannes Bucher   |   Aug 12, 2011   |   3:14PM   |   Vienna, Austria

Austrian Health Minister Alois Stöger recently announced plans to expand abortion services in Austria, saying that state-funded hospitals across the country should provide abortions to women. Pro-lifers should vehemently condemn the Health Minister’s proposal which will only further the demographic crisis in Austria.

Stöger complained that there are no public hospitals that perform abortions in the provinces of Tyrol and Vorarlberg. He said that state-sponsored abortion clinics in these regions would be important assets, as they would supposedly “help” women to choose abortion by making it free of charge, rather than their having to pay a private abortionist.

“A whole group of people, ie. women, is not being taken seriously if in all of western Austria this option (of abortion) does not exist,” the Social Democrat Stöger said.

Stöger said he would press the issue of abortion availability when talks about a reform of the Austrian health system continue in the Fall, and hinted that financial pressure could be used against clinics that refused to offer abortions.

Austria already has the second lowest birthrate in the EU, and Stöger’s proposal will undoubtedly reverse what little gains have been made to return Austria’s fertility rate to a sustainable level.

People outside Austria should realize how abortion even entered the picture, and the effect it has had. When the Social Democrats introduced abortion to Austria in 1975, the total fertility rate (TFR) was hovering just above replacement level, at 2.1 births per woman. Since then, more than two million children have been killed by abortion in Austria alone. In 2011, the TFR is expected to be 1.4, which is second lowest even in the demographically failing EU, and 200th in the world Our country’s demographic crisis confirms that abortion is a social suicide mission.

Salzburg, where Human Life International’s (HLI) European regional office is located, is often referred to by pro-lifers as a prime example of abortion promotion in Austria. Gabi Burgstaller, the Governess of the province of Salzburg, made it one of her first decisions to install an abortion clinic at the hospital in the City of Salzburg in 2005. Abortions have since been performed there every Saturday.

The Austrian Penal Code (Penal Code § 97) states that no physician is required to perform an abortion. At the same time, however, those who perform abortions or assist in doing so must in no way be discriminated against.

A dissenting voice against Stöger’s proposal came from Family Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner, who claims that the proposal to enable abortions in public hospitals in all regions of Austria would be a “wrong signal.” He emphasizes that parental counseling should be enhanced, so that parents can know their full range of options, and be encouraged to choose life for their unborn child.

Mitterlehner has gained support from Karlheinz Kopf, chairman of the People’s Party, the Social Democrats’ coalition partner in government, who said that, “Abortion is not a state duty.”

“Carrying out abortions is not the job of public hospitals, and it will stay that way,” said Vorarlberg’s vice-governor Markus Wallner in opposition to Stöger.

Further, the Austrian medical association deemed it “alarming” to link access to abortion with the allocation of state funds.

Catholic Bishop Dr. Klaus Küng of St. Pölten said Thursday, “Abortion is a wound in society and it is not desired by anyone. The problem is not that in Austria there is no possibility to perform abortions in some places, but rather that women are often not encouraged enough to say yes to their child.”

There is also a trend toward intimidating those who have had some success in reaching women and letting them know all of their options, both at the local and the governmental level. Our offices were recently attacked by masked thugs, causing thousands of Euros in damage, and HLI Austria director Dietmar Fischer and three colleagues are the target of a gross miscarriage of justice on the part of activist judges.

As we have learned from our friends in the United States, this harassment is the price of even the small successes we have seen, but still, the fight for the sanctity of human life and human dignity is the responsibility of all of us. We must continue to encourage society to say “Yes” to life, as Bishop Küng suggests, and we must be bold in countering supporters of the culture of death around the world. Note:  Reprinted with permission from Human Life International’s World Watch forum.