We have a lot to thank her for: as minister for women’ affairs and chairwoman of the Austrian Social Democratic Party’s (SPÖ) women’s committee (Bundesfrauen), Johanna Dohnal had a big hand in the fact that every woman in Austria today has the right to terminate a pregnancy legally, should she need to.
Just a few weeks ago, Dohnal took part in a Museum of Contraception and Abortion press conference, in which she spoke about the long battle before abortion was finally legalised in January 1975. It is also her we have to thank for the time limit approach we have today, which means that in the first three months after conception a woman may terminate a pregnancy irrespective of her personal reasons for the decision. The legislation in force in some other countries obliges women to justify themselves and "come up" with an appropriate reason.
Even after she retired, Johanna Dohnal continued her fight to remedy omissions and injustices, often encountering resistance from within her own party:
Because there are no abortion protection zones for women: every day, women’s access is hindered by Christian fundamentalists, who block the entrance, ambush women, insult them or even physically restrain them. In Austria, we’re still waiting for countermeasures such as protection zones, although other countries have them, such as France. So the emotional blackmail against women in crisis is trivialised by politicians and endorsed by society.
Because abortion in Austria is still regulated by criminal law – unlike in Canada, for example, where it has been struck from the criminal statute books.
Because women still have to pay from their own pockets for prevention of an unwanted pregnancy, as well as the medical treatment – "uniquely" in Western Europe; yet Health Insurance Funds reimburse costs for men’s “leisure activities”.
In Johanna Dohnal (1939-2010), the Museum of Contraception and Abortion has lost a good friend and committed advocate.
Come and learn about Johanna Dohnal and other pioneers of family planning in Vienna's Museum of Contraception and Abortion. Wednesday through Sunday 14 -18 h. Mariahilfer Guertel 37, A-1150 Wien (Austria) www.muvs.org
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