Robert Lewis Dear’s killing of three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic last week is the latest incident in a string of anti-abortion violence in the United States. The level of violence here is an anomaly in the world, especially compared to the absence of such violent incidents in Europe.
“I am not aware of this kind of violence,” Gilda Sedgh, a research scientist at the reproductive health advocating Guttmacher Institute, told Foreign Policy, about anti-abortion violence in European countries.
Since 1977, anti-abortion violence in the U.S. resulted in the murder of 8 people, the attempted murder of 17, 186 arsons, and 42 bombings. Thousands of other incidents also targeted abortion clinics.
But in Europe, such incidents are quite rare. Only Spain, which allows abortions only for women with potential mental or physical problems in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, saw a string of incidents of vandalism last summer.
While Europe’s abortion laws vary by country, many countries cover the cost of abortions and perform them at hospitals — as opposed to specific clinics that perform abortions. Only Malta has banned abortion outright, while Ireland only allows it if the woman’s life is in danger. Many Irish women traveled to the UK last year though to receive abortions, where the procedure is legal if the woman’s mental or physical health are in danger, or if the family requests one for socioeconomic reasons. Eighteen European nations (including France, Germany, Sweden, Italy, and Denmark) allow abortions upon request.
“Abortion isn’t stigmatized there like it is here,” Sedgh said. “It’s socially accepted and encouraged for young adults to seek out family planning. It’s almost stigmatized to not do so if you’re sexually active.”