Religion Is Gaining Ground in Another EU State
Flags of the European Union (EU), left, and Slovakia fly outside the presidential palace in Bratislava, Slovakia. (Photographer: Lisi Niesner/Bloomberg)

Religion Is Gaining Ground in Another EU State

Slovakia’s new government is pushing to limit abortions, becoming the latest nation in the European Union’s eastern wing to push its religious ideology into law in a way rights groups say limits the freedom of women.

The government of Prime Minister Igor Matovic, a self-described devout Catholic, has appointed religious conservatives to key posts in his administration after riding an anti-corruption campaign to an unexpected victory in general elections.

On Monday, Labor Minister Milan Krajniak, known for writing blogs under the name “the Last Crusader,” appointed a vocal opponent of the Istanbul Convention on preventing violence against women to lead the ministry’s gender-equality department. The Health Ministry has also proposed the nation’s public insurer no longer automatically pay for abortions for women older than 40.

The moves follow a rise in conservative religious rhetoric and policies in the eastern EU, where leaders such as Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban and Polish ruling party chief Jaroslaw Kaczynski are vowing to protect traditional Christian values against western liberalism.

“These are small gradual steps, which the more liberal part of society consider as a move toward a religious state,” said Michal Vasecka, Director of Bratislava Policy Institute. “Though we are still far from Poland we are heading in that direction. The voice of the church will get louder.”

Last week, tens of thousands of women demonstrated in Poland after an official in that country’s Justice Ministry said the nation should leave the Istanbul Convention as soon as possible and called the pact “gender gibberish.” Poland’s government also campaigned against “LGBTQ ideology” in the successful presidential campaign of Andrzej Duda, who won re-election this month.

Slovakia’s parliament has already approved a bill in a first reading that makes it more difficult for women to seek abortion. Just under two thirds of Slovakia’s 5.2 million people consider themselves Catholics, and the country is among handful of EU states still lacking legislation about same-sex partnerships.

The ruling coalition’s four parties, including liberal SaS, have pledged to put identity issues aside to preserve its unity, but some of its steps have given rise to concern that the church will have a bigger say in formulating public policies.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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