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Abortion vote hailed as milestone for women's rights

The Swiss press welcomed the outcome of Sunday's abortion vote

(swissinfo.ch)

The Swiss press has welcomed a decision by voters to legalise abortion, describing it as proof of a sea change in attitudes.

In a nationwide vote on Sunday, more than 72 per cent of Swiss voted in favour of legalisation, which puts federal laws on a similar footing with most of Europe.

"A victory for women," read the headline in the mass-market German-speaking daily, "Blick".

"Women have won a 30-year-old struggle to win self-determination," the paper said in its editorial.

Under a law dating back to 1942, terminations have been prohibited unless a woman's health was in danger. Around 12,000 abortions are nonetheless carried out each year because many doctors have been prepared to approve the procedure.

"Personal victory"

The French-speaking paper, "Le Temps", described Sunday's vote as a "personal victory for [Swiss justice minister] Ruth Metzler," who has long championed the right of women to decide whether or not to have an abortion.

"We needed 20 years to get to this point," the paper said.

"And the page which was turned in the history of Swiss women on June 2 does not leave a shadow of doubt... even the most optimistic supporters of [legalising abortion] didn't dare hope for such a result."

The new legislation - approved by all but two of Switzerland's 26 cantons - comes into force on October 1. The two cantons who rejected the proposal were Valais and Appenzell Inner Rhodes - both have Catholic majorities.

The French-speaking paper "Le Matin" was unsurprised about the outcome of the vote.

"For some weeks now," the paper said, "all the indicators have been that the vote would be carried, because attitudes have changed."

"Nevertheless, the overwhelming 'yes' vote is a surprise," the paper added.

Sea change

The papers also pointed to a sea change in attitudes among Switzerland's Catholics, who have traditionally voted against any reform or watering down of the existing legislation.

On Sunday, most of the country's Catholic cantons voted in favour of legalising abortion.

"The citizens of these cantons have understood that abortion is above all a private matter and not one for the Catholic Church to decide," said Le Matin.

A front-page editorial in the "Tribune de Genève" said that the vote meant it was now the responsibility of parents to "defend the quality of life of a child".

For the Zurich-based "Tages-Anzeiger", the outcome of the vote is proof of a wider change in attitudes and that the anachronistic image "of a woman in need of protection ...is outdated."

"The majority is convinced that a woman will take the decision to abort only as a last resort and not without a great deal of thought," the editorial added.

A counter-proposal to tighten Switzerland's 1942 law was thrown out by 82 per cent of voters. That initiative - "For Mother and Child" - would have prohibited abortion even in cases of rape.

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