Written by Laura Baranik
There are many various forms of contraception commonly available in the Czech Republic today. While methods such as condoms and the contraceptive pill existed in Czechoslovakia during the Communist regime, they were rarely requested by patients or offered by doctors. Abortion was frequently the contraceptive of choice. Currently, modern methods of birth control are in widespread use and can be easily obtained.
Condoms (kondomy, prezervativy) are available just about everywhere: in grocery stores, gas stations, the metro, and some public toilets, as well as in pharmacies. The female condom (Femidom) is more rare, but can be ordered over the internet and is carried by some sex shops.
The contraceptive pill (antikoncepční pilulky) can be prescribed by a gynecologist. If you are unsure of what the local equivalent is to the pill you were taking at home, bring the empty pack with you to the doctor. Contraceptive hormone injections (hormonální injekce) such as Depo-Provera and hormonal implants (hormonální implantáti) are also available.
The emergency contraceptive pill (“morning-after” pill) is marketed under the brand name Postinor 2 and must be prescribed by a doctor.
Cervical caps (poševní pesar) and diaphragms (diaphragma) were on the market here for some time, but due to low interest are no longer obtainable anywhere in the Czech Republic. The nearest countries that provide them are Germany and Hungary.
Intrauterine devices (nitroděložní tělísko) are available and can be fitted by a gynecologist.
Spermicides (spermicidy) can be purchased over-the-counter in pharmacies. A common brand name is Pharmatex.
Abortion is legal in the Czech Republic. The official Czech term for the procedure is either interrupce (termination) or umělé přerušení těhotenství (artificial interruption of pregnancy). Frequently, the word potrat is employed erroneously to refer to an abortion; the word actually means “miscarriage.” Sometimes the phrase umělý potrat (artificial or induced miscarriage) is used.
According to Czech law, abortion can be performed on a healthy mother and fetus up until 12 weeks of pregnancy. If there are serious medical indications, the procedure can be carried out up to 24 weeks. An abortion may be carried out at any time during the pregnancy in case of grave problems with the fetus. Health insurance does not cover the cost of abortions unless the mother´s life is in danger; the woman must pay for the procedure herself at a minimum of 3000 CZK, depending on the method used. Women up to the age of 16 must obtain signed permission from a guardian.
The most common method of abortion in the Czech Republic is miniinterrupce (manual vacuum aspiration/mini-suction), which can only be used for fetuses of up to 8 weeks (7 weeks if the woman has not previously given birth). Other procedures include vakuumexhausce a kyretáž, (electric vacuum aspiration/curettage, up to 12 weeks), roztažení a vyprázdnění/kyretáž (dilation and evacuation/curettage, from 12 to 24 weeks), and, in later pregnancy, císařský řez (caesarian section). The use of mifepristone (also known as RU-486 or the “abortion pill”) is not legal in the Czech Republic.
Unlike many of its more religiously inclined neighbors, the general Czech population has a tolerant attitude towards abortion. According to a 2004 study, 81% of Czechs support abortion, compared to an E.U. average of only 62%. The Czech Republic sees a fair amount of so-called “abortion tourists,” women from countries such as largely-Catholic nearby Poland – where abortion has been categorically outlawed – who seek safe and legal access to the procedure. Foreigners who do not have legal status in the Czech Republic, however, may have difficulty in obtaining an abortion.
History and Statistics
Abortion for non-health reasons was legalized in the Czech Republic in 1957. During most of the Communist era, however, women were required to obtain approval from a special committee (who granted permission in nearly all cases). In 1986, abortion law was further liberalized and the abortion commissions were abolished. The years before 1989´s revolution saw huge rates of abortion, due mainly to the Communist government´s taboo approach to sex and family planning and a resulting lack of public knowledge about contraception. In 1989, 9 out of 10 fetuses were aborted; during the 1980s, an average of 116,000 abortions were performed each year.
With the advent of widespread contraception and sex education, the post-Communism Czech Republic has seen a sharp decline in the rate of abortion. 27,574 abortions were conducted in 2004 – five times fewer than in the 1980s. The current local abortion rate per capita is lower than in any country in the former Eastern bloc.