VILNIUS - Polish pro-life activists have joined the fight against abortion in Lithuania in the wake of a proposal to ban abortion in the Baltic state.
A lobby of Lithuanian parliamentarians headed by Valdemar Tomasevski has submitted their proposal for the legislation for protection of pre-natal fetuses, which would effectively prohibit abortions.
Polish daily Dziennik reported that waves of pro-life activists from Poland made the journey north when they heard of the proposal.
Polish Federation of Pro-Life Chairman Pawel Wosicki, released statements indicating that their purpose in coming to Lithuania is to help them save as many unborn babies' lives as possible and to follow the Polish example.
Ewa Kowalewska, director of Human Life International Europa, said Polish people are coming to support the bill by making signs and printing slogans.
"This is Lithuania's chance to protect its own babies," Kowalewska said.
Abortion is currently illegal in three European Union states 's Poland, Ireland and Malta. The other 24 countries do not have laws banning abortion, but they do limit the minimum age the fetus can be before the operation can happen. The limits for abortion range from 10 to 18 weeks depending on the country. Lithuania allows abortion up to the 12th week.
There are people in Lithuania who support the right to have abortions, including the Family Planning and Sexual Health Association. The association's aim is to educate people about the rights and responsibilities that pregnancy entails.
Esmerelda Kuliesyte, the executive director of the Family Planning and Sexual Health association, said it is against human rights to ban the right to abortion.
"It is not okay to force a ban on abortion because it affects our rights as human beings 's especially women," Kuliesyte said.
Statistics show that most abortions are carried out by women who are between the ages of 25 and 30-years-old, closely followed by 20 to 25-year-olds, with 10 percent of abortion procedures carried out by women under the age of 19.
This number is decreasing with the abortion rate dropping by a staggering 50 percent since 1999. Kuliesyte thinks this is a positive sign of the times.
"Abortion rates are dropping significantly because of education 's people know about the pill now," Kuliesyte said.
Interestingly, Kowalewska also believes that educating people has a positive effect. Poland banned abortion in 1993, but leading up to this decision, abortion rates dropped.
"Just before the change of law, pro-life activists told the truth to the people 's just medical facts 's and this made the abortion rate drop by 90 percent before the law was even changed," Kowalewska said.
The proposed Lithuanian bill would prohibit the early cancellation of pregnancy but would exclude instances where the health of the mother is in danger and where the pregnancy is the result of a sexual assault.
An appalling number of Lithuanian women are still not using effective contraception methods, according to research put out by the Obstetrics and Gynecology department at the Kaunas University of Medicine. Some 30 percent of the biggest abortion group 's 20 to 29-year-olds 's use the "withdrawal" method to prevent pregnancy, while 25 percent use the "rhythm" method, which involves waiting for the right time in the menstruation cycle.
The same statistical analysis, however, also mentioned that Lithuanians are having far fewer abortions than their Baltic counterparts. In 1996, 35 out of every 1000 women were having abortions in the country, as compared to Latvia with 45 and Estonia with 55.
Kuliesyte said the sad fact is that women who are not privileged always fall into the trap. "It is women with low incomes, and therefore low education and awareness levels, who find themselves in this unfortunate situation," she said.