Archive for the ‘Abortion Contraception’ Category
Malta’s strict anti-abortion laws will not be affected by the recent judgment of Europe’s supreme court relating to abortion in Ireland, according to a Maltese judge who sat on the case.
The European Court of Human Rights last week found that a sick woman’s human rights were breached when she sought an abortion in Ireland but was forced to go to the UK instead.
However, Judge Giovanni Bonello, one of the judges deciding on this case, told The Times the judgment had “no relevance at all” to Malta.
Although Ireland, like Malta, has strict anti-abortion laws, its Constitution allows abortion if the pregnancy puts the woman’s life in danger. It is this exception which the Strasbourg court had to evaluate because the woman claimed she was unable to obtain proper medical advice to terminate her pregnancy.
“The violation consisted in Ireland denying the woman a personal right guaranteed by the Constitution of her own country,” Judge Bonello said.
The case concerned a woman who underwent chemotherapy treatment for cancer. The cancer was in remission when she got pregnant. Before realising she was pregnant, the woman had undergone some tests contraindicated during pregnancy.
She feared the tests would have harmed the foetus and the cancer would reappear if she carried the baby to term.
According to Judge Bonello, the Irish state had not put in place any legal and practical structures through which a woman could actually make use of a legally recognised right to abortion if her life was in danger.
On the contrary, in Malta, he added, the law criminalised all forms of abortion, even those intending to terminate a pregnancy that threatened the life of the mother.
“The Strasbourg court did not have to face this issue and said absolutely nothing about it. Nothing has changed in so far as Malta is concerned,” Judge Bonello said.
Human rights lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia believes the difference in legislation between Malta and Ireland will make it very difficult for either the pro-life movement or those who favour abortion to use this judgment for their cause.
This has not stopped pro-life lobby group Gift of Life renewing its call for the Constitution to be changed to ensure the right to life is protected “from conception” so as to make it very difficult for abortion to ever be made legal at some point in the future.
As expected, the Strasbourg court’s judgment on such a sensitive issue created a media sensation. However, Judge Bonello lamented what he described as a “radical misinterpretation and distortion” of the judgment.
“Nowhere does the judgment suggest that there is a right to abortion, much less that abortion is a fundamental human right,” he said.
The judgment concerned three women, two of whom desired to have an abortion in Ireland for reasons of “well-being” but could not have it performed in the country. The third concerned the sick woman.
Irish law does not allow abortions for reasons of “well-being” and the court dismissed the request of the first two applicants.
Judge Bonello said the court decided the issue of abortion was one which involved “grave moral, ethical and religious considerations” and as a result an international court should not interfere with domestic regulation.
However, Dr Comodini Cachia said the European court’s decision on abortion cases involving women who had to terminate their pregnancy for health reasons did raise pertinent questions about the fate of Maltese women who may find themselves in similar circumstances.
“The message seems to be that even if there is a risk to her life the woman will not be given any assistance or even advice related to termination of pregnancy. Essentially her life is at risk and that is it,” Dr Comodini Cachia said, dreading the prospect of being a doctor who is faced with a situation of having his hands tied by the draconian law.
“While the State is provided with a lot of discretion as to issues of morality and values, yet one may wonder whether that same State would be fulfilling its obligations in respecting the life of the woman and the family life of her partner and other children where there is clear evidence that a pregnancy would jeopardise her life and health,” Dr Comodini Cachia said.
This conundrum has not been resolved by the European court and yet even if a case ever makes it to Strasbourg the outcome is anything but a straightforward decision.
In Malta, abortion is a criminal act that punishes the woman and the doctor. There are no legal provisions that permit abortion if the woman’s life is in danger.
The criminal code states that anyone found guilty of inducing a miscarriage or consenting to an abortion faces a prison sentence of between 18 months and three years.
Doctors who perform an abortion or prescribe medicines to cause an abortion face a prison term of between 18 months and four years and perpetual interdiction from the profession.
The government has proposed a cash-incentive plan to encourage families to have girls.
As India’s middle class grows, more families are using modern technology to ensure they have a boy, according to gender and population experts. Confronted with a decrease in the number of girls born, the state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, has decided to crack down on the illegal practice of so-called female feticide.
India outlawed the practice of doctors using technologies like ultrasounds to tell patients the sex of their unborn child in 1994. Abortion based on certain grounds is legal, but having one based on sex is not.
Despite the law as well as gains in girls’ education and employment opportunities across India, the practice has continued and even grown as more people have access to ultrasounds. The child sex ratio, the number of girls to every 1,000 boys in the 0 to 6 years age group, dropped from 945 girls in 1991 to 927 girls in 2001, according to data from the United Nations Population Fund based on the census. When just looking at the sex ratio at birth , for the period 2006-08, the ratio drops to 904 girls per 1,000 boys.
Sex determination leads to a missing 500,000 to 700,000 girls across India each year, according to the United Nations Population Fund.
The state government has since announced a proposal to encourage families to have girls  by providing cash incentives. On the birth of a girl child, 5,000 rupees ($114) will be deposited into a bank account under her name, according to local media reports. Once the family ensures the girl completes her schooling and does not marry before the age of 18, she will have access to the money. The finance department has not yet approved the program, which would initially be for families living below the poverty line, according to the Times of India.
Cash incentives have similarly been used in India to encourage women to give birth in hospitals or other medical institutions and have been credited with an increase in institutional deliveries.
However, social activists in Mumbai question the effectiveness of providing cash incentives to encourage women to have a girl child when the families that need to be targeted are not the poor but rather the middle class and affluent.
Poor families ensure they have a boy by having large families, whereas the middle and upper classes now want fewer children and therefore resort to sex determination, according to Sayeed Unisa, a professor with the International Institute for Population Sciences, a Mumbai-based training and research center in the area of population studies.
There is a long-held belief in many Indian communities that at least one boy is needed to support the parents when they can no longer work and to light their funeral pyre. Girls, on the other hand, can be viewed as a burden given the rising costs of dowries and weddings.
Social activists say the skewed sex ratio shows how little girls and women are valued in many segments of Indian society. Many families still invest less in girls, affecting everything from their nutrition to their education and employment opportunities.
Discrimination occurs throughout a girl’s life in India, and sex determination represents the worst form of it, said A.L. Sharada, program director of Population First, a Mumbai-based non-governmental organization working on population and health issues.
Studies have shown that female feticide is not a result of families being against having a girl child, but more that they feel they must have at least one boy. Birth order therefore has a deep impact on female feticide as the sex ratio becomes more skewed when a family already has one or two girls and is trying for a final boy child.
A study by the Christian Medical Association of India found that if a family already had two girls, the chance the third child would be a girl reduced to 219 girls for every 1,000 boys. The study was based on births at a public hospital in Delhi for the year 2000-2001.
The skewed sex ratio has become so bad in certain communities that families have resorted to buying wives from poorer areas. A young bride was bought for less than $25 in Haryana, one of India’s worst affected states, according to a recent report in London’s Daily Telegraph.
Such trafficking for marriage is becoming more common as sex ratios worsen. Some families, she added, can only afford one bride and share her among multiple family members.
To combat female feticide, social activists say there must be more monitoring of clinics and implementing the law against sex determination, the judiciary and medical professionals need to be sensitized to the issue, and an environment must be created where people can come forward to complain about non-compliance with the law. In addition, there must be more spaces and opportunities in communities to question gender stereotypes.
Extracts from a longer article at http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/india/101216/female-feticide-sex-selective-abortions-gender-ratio
“Women are not dying because of diseases we cannot treat. They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.” — Mahmoud Fathalla, Former President of the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, 1997
Researchers at the World Health Organization have recently documented a substantial 48% decrease in the numbers of unsafe abortion deaths. In 2008, 47,000 women a year lost their lives from complications of unsafe abortion, compared to 70,000 in 2003. But the bad news is that unsafe abortions have not decreased and are still the predominant way that women end pregnancies in developing countries. Abortions appear to a bit less unsafe because more women are turning to safer medical abortion pills to induce their own abortion.
Unsafe abortion deaths are a direct consequence of antiquated and cruel laws against abortion. About 21.6 million unsafe abortions occurred worldwide in 2008, almost all in developing countries where abortion is illegal. (This compares to 19.7 million in 2003, with the rise due to the increasing number of women of childbearing age in the world.) Among women who survive unsafe abortion, an estimated 8.5 million suffer complications, with 1 in 4 needing medical attention.
In contrast, death from unsafe abortion has been virtually eliminated in western industrialized countries that have legalized abortion, and the complication rate is extremely low. When abortion is legalized in a country, there is typically a dramatic decline in maternal deaths and complications due to abortion. This pattern has been repeated numerous times since the 1950’s when abortion was first legalized in former Eastern Bloc countries.
Legal abortion saves women’s lives and improves their health because without it, women risk their safety by resorting to unsafe illegal abortion. The right to abortion also advances women’s equality, liberty, and other human rights, freeing women to pursue an education and career and to participate fully in public life. Access to abortion allows women to better plan and provide for their families, which benefits the entire community and society. Unplanned births of unwanted children can be very crippling to women and families, leading to higher rates of poverty and dysfunction, including child abuse. These factors make the provision of safe and legal abortion a vital public health interest that negates any justification for criminalizing the procedure.
Yet here we are, one decade into the 21st century, and almost every developing country in the world continues to enforce a near-total criminal ban on abortion. Abortion is illegal primarily in Africa, Latin America, and some parts of Asia, as well as a tiny handful of developed countries like Poland and Ireland. However, all countries with more liberal abortion laws still retain abortion as a criminal offence with exceptions, or have enacted further legal restrictions that make it difficult to access.
If the intent behind banning abortions is to stop or reduce them, it’s been a total failure. In 2007, the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute found that overall abortion rates around the world are similar, regardless of whether or not abortion is illegal in a country. This is because countries with strict anti-abortion laws have well-developed black markets for abortion. The global average abortion rate for women of childbearing age (15-44) was 29 per 1,000 women in 2003, with the highest number of abortions occurring in countries where it’s highly restricted and in countries with poor access to contraception. Eastern Africa’s rate was 39 per 1,000 women, while South America’s rate was 33.
In countries with fewer restrictions where legal abortion is widely available, the rates are generally much lower, plus we see a decline in abortion rates as contraception use rises. Canada is the only democratic nation in the world with no abortion law or restrictions, but it has a low abortion rate of 14.1 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age. That compares favourably to western Europe’s rate of 12, the lowest abortion rate in the world and the region with the most liberal abortion laws. In contrast, the American rate is 19.4 (for 2005) and U.S. women must navigate through a thicket of abortion restrictions. There isn’t a shred of evidence that such restrictions are effective or helpful for women or society; instead, they create arbitrary obstacles and delays for women seeking abortion care.
Who should we blame for this global travesty of injustice and for the continuing suffering and deaths of women? The obvious culprits, of course, are the Vatican, conservative countries, various Catholic and fundamentalist religious organizations, and right-wing politicians. But perhaps a better question is: Why does the world allow these entities to inflict such a terrible toll on women’s lives and health, year after year? The most obvious culprit in this case would appear to be sexism and patriarchy, which are very much alive and well in our modern age, and still socially acceptable compared to racism. Traditional views on women’s motherhood role are the main reason that women’s rights and equality still lag far behind the rights of minorities and other vulnerable groups. Much of the world still clings to the deeply-held assumption that women’s dignity and humanity is tied to being a mother, even though this subordinates women to a biological function. Moreover, our male-dominated patriarchal societies still try to guarantee paternity by controlling women’s sexual and reproductive behaviour at the expense of their freedom and human rights.
The United Nations’ position on abortion reflects the world’s hostile attitude towards safe abortion as an essential part of women’s reproductive rights and the cornerstone of women’s health and survival. Although the UN’s purpose is in part to promote and encourage “respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion,” the UN has essentially abandoned women who need abortions by caving to pressure from right-wing forces.
Reactions to the steady stream of headlines about unwanted babies have ranged from an expansion of sex education in schools to calls for stiffer penalties and the opening of the country’s first “baby hatch,” where infants can be left to be cared for by others. One state government has offered financial support for younger teenagers to marry, angering women’s groups that have been campaigning against child marriage.
Under the Shariah, or Islamic, law that applies to the Muslims who make up 60 percent of Malaysia’s population, premarital sex is forbidden, with penalties including up to three years in prison, a fine of up to 5,000 ringgit, about $1,600, or six strokes of the cane. Premarital sex is not punishable for non-Muslims, but it remains socially taboo.
Abortion is illegal unless the woman’s physical or mental health is endangered. Anyone who abandons a child under 12 faces up to seven years imprisonment, a fine, or both.
Despite recent news media attention to the issue, the number of babies being abandoned in Malaysia has not shown a significant spike this year. The police have recorded 76 cases from the beginning of this year through Oct. 1, compared with 79 cases in 2009 and 102 in 2008.
But in August, the cabinet asked the attorney general’s office to look more closely into cases where babies died after being abandoned, to determine whether those responsible should be charged with murder, a crime that carries the death penalty in Malaysia.
Taking another approach, Mohamad Ali Rustam, chief minister of Malacca State, south of Kuala Lumpur, recently announced plans to give 500 ringgit to couples under the age of 18 if they marry.
In Malaysia, Muslim girls under 16 and boys under 18 may marry with permission from a Shariah court. Non-Muslims must be at least 18, unless they have permission from their state’s chief minister, in which case they may be as young as 16.
From 2000 through 2008, 1,654 marriages were registered involving girls aged 16 and 17, although women’s rights advocates believe the incidence of child marriage may be higher.
A Unaids report released this year showed that 7,176 Muslim girls and 2,029 Muslim boys aged 19 and below underwent H.I.V. screening in 2009, which is compulsory in most states for Malaysian Muslims who are applying to marry.
Mr. Mohamad said he hoped that providing teenage couples with money to help pay for a wedding ceremony would discourage premarital sex and thus reduce the abandonment of children born out of wedlock.
Groups that advocate raising the marriage age to 18 for all Malaysians, regardless of gender or religion, have condemned Mr. Mohamad’s move.
Ivy Josiah, executive director of the Women’s Aid Organization, a nongovernmental group, said that allowing those under 18 to marry contravened Malaysia’s obligations under the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and the country’s own legislation. “Child marriage is against every right of the child,” she said.
Both the U.N. convention and Malaysia’s Child Act define a child as anyone under the age of 18.
The Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development is investigating reports that a 14-year-old girl was recently given permission to marry by the Shariah court, but there are no plans to raise the marriage age to 18 for Muslim girls.
“We hope that the Shariah judges will continue to exercise their discretion judiciously,” said Heng Seai Kie, deputy minister for Women, Family and Community Development.
Other efforts are focused on education and logistical support.
The number of teenage pregnancies, regardless of marital status, has risen slightly in Malaysia in recent years, with 16,207 live births registered in 2007, compared with 15,752 in 2005.
Nongovernmental organizations have long called for schools to provide students with more knowledge about sex and how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Currently, students learn only the basics of anatomy and reproduction in biology and physical education classes, and abstinence outside marriage is promoted.
Starting next year, however, primary school students will spend 30 minutes a week and high school students will spend 40 minutes twice a month in “Reproductive Health and Social Education” classes.
The lessons will continue to emphasize abstinence before marriage, but secondary students will also learn about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases.
Ms. Heng, the deputy women’s minister, said that while the government wanted to discourage premarital sex, it did provide support for unwed women and girls who became pregnant. It operates four shelters for unmarried girls under 18, and two for pregnant women 18 and older, at which free food and accommodation are provided. She said the country also maintained up to 60 welfare centers that offered assistance to unwed mothers and their babies.
The government’s response has failed to impress advocates like Ms. Josiah of the Women’s Aid Organization. While she welcomed the greater focus on sex education, she deplored the attempts to encourage young teenagers to marry and said punitive measures, like charging people with murder if the baby they abandoned died, would not help address the problem of child abandonment.
“If the message is that you might get caned for having sex outside marriage, or you might even be executed because you have abandoned a baby and the baby dies, or we will force you to get married — never mind if you are under 18 — if these are the messages that are going out, then certainly no one is going to come forward,” she said.
To increase the chances of survival for abandoned babies, Malaysia’s first “baby hatch,” a place where mothers can leave their unwanted babies, opened in May. Fifteen babies have been left so far.
The hatch, based on a design already in use in Germany and Japan, features an alarm that is activated when a baby is placed inside. It is located on the premises of Orphan Care, a nongovernmental organization that arranges for the babies to be placed in children’s homes or adopted.
Orphan Care is hoping to open another baby hatch in Kuala Lumpur and a third at a government hospital on the outskirts of the capital. “I think if more hatches open, if they are more accessible and in different cities, we can save a few more lives,” said Adnan Mohammad Tahir, the organization’s president.
Part of a longer article at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/09/world/asia/09malay.html?_r=1&src=twrhp
This, they argued, was necessary to give mothers confidence to seek safe abortion of unwanted pregnancies and thereby reduce maternal mortality.
The research, conducted by Guttmacher, a United States-based health research and education organization in year 2008, studied Ghana’s unsafe abortion situation with a view to identifying effective ways of dealing with this.
The seminar provided the opportunity to discuss the findings with stakeholders in Kumasi.
The participants were mostly from NGOs and civil society groups in the health and reproductive health sector, the Ghana Education Service, prisons service, media, faith-based organizations and the youth.
They said the lack of adequate information about the abortion law among majority of Ghanaians had been responsible for the adoption of unsafe abortion methods resulting in severe health complications and deaths.
It is estimated that, 20 per cent of maternal mortality in the country is caused by unsafe abortion.
Dr Joana Nerguaye-Tetteh, presenting the report, said if care was not taken, deaths from unsafe abortions could surpass that of HIV/AIDS.
She warned that given the situation where more women were not using contraceptives, unwanted pregnancies certainly would occur and the likelihood of unsafe abortions would be higher.
Dr Nerguaye-Tetteh appealed to NGOs and civil society groups in the health sector to intensify their education campaigns in communities to create awareness on the use of contraceptives to raise the acceptance rate.
Mrs Josephine Addy, Programme Associate of Ipas, an NGO, said more women resorted to unsafe abortions because of ignorance of the legal regime.
Ipas, which is operating in 17 districts in the Eastern, Ashanti and greater Accra regions, is supporting the Ghana Health Service to provide a Comprehensive Abortion Care (CAC).
Mrs Addy said unsafe abortion has now become a social problem and that her organization was engaging various stakeholders including queens, parliamentary select committee on health and population, women commissions in tertiary institutions, lawyers, journalists and the police service to enhance stakeholders’ support for safe abortion.
The Rev. Michael Kimindu, the Metropolitan Community Churches’ minister, said human beings were prone to worldly shortcomings and, therefore, need help from religious leaders to overcome temptations.
“It is common to hear a leader saying they are interested in the few who are righteous than many who are weak in faith. Religious leaders who look at abortion as immoral miss the point of seeking the other sheep,” Kimindu said at the regional conference on eliminating unsafe abortion in Africa held at the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons in Accra last week.
Kimindu, who is also the coordinator of Other Sheep East Africa, a coalition fighting for Christians’ human rights, with offices in Uganda and Tanzania, suggested that human sexuality and rights be included in theological studies to help religious leaders understand human sexual and reproductive rights.
“If the so many religious groups on this continent embraced human rights and left judgement to God, Africa would be the happiest place to live in on earth.”
Participants expressed concern about the negative attitude that religious leaders have towards safe abortion. This, they argued, would increase maternal deaths in Africa since women will continue dying from complications resulting from unsafe abortions.
Kimindu noted that sometimes parents of a pregnant girl need help from religious leaders, but they choose to keep quiet for fear of being labelled supporters of sin.
“To say that all abortion is murder of a life that God has created when, for instance, a woman has been raped, is to say that God is responsible for the rape.”
The one-week conference under the theme, Keeping our promise: Addressing unsafe abortion in Africa, attracted over 250 participants across the continent.
Ipas, a global women’s rights advocacy NGO, in collaboration with African Network on Medical Abortion, African Women’s Development and Communication Network, Marie Stopes International, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Ghana’s health ministry and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa organised the conference.
Democrat MP for Rayong Sathit Pitutecha has proposed that a bill on “consensual and necessary abortion” be drafted to give women more options when dealing with unwanted pregnancies.
Mr Sathit said he would begin drafting the bill and campaign for support in the hope of submitting it to the House during the next parliamentary session starting in February.
The proposed bill would call for the setting up of a committee to consider an abortion request from a pregnant woman or her guardians. An applicant with “necessary qualifications” would be allowed to end her pregnancy, he said.
The law permits an abortion if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or if it endangers the mother’s life.
The Democrat MP said the law should be broadened to include other cases including pregnancy among minors or pregnancies among women who have insufficient mental capacity to rear the baby.
Only registered clinics would be allowed to perform the abortions, Mr Sathit said.
Democrat leader and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has insisted that there is no need for a change in the law to solve illegal abortions, as the law is based on Medical Council regulations which, in his view, are “good enough”.
Mr Sathit said he was trying to convince the prime minister that relaxing the law would reduce fatalities and accidents among pregnant women who undertake unsafe illegal abortions.
It would also put an end to the illegal abortion business and reduce family problems.
“Let me make it clear that legalising abortion is not liberising abortion,” Mr Sathit said. “The bill will not make it easier for a mother to end her pregnancy. Each case must be considered carefully by a committee of experts and social workers.”
Maytinee Bhongsvej, of the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women (APSW), said social workers and women’s aid groups had been pushing for an abortion law for more than two decades. Ms Maytinee does not think the discovery of foetuses at Wat Phai Ngern Chotanaram will be a turning point.
“People’s attitudes are the major obstacle. For Thai society, abortion is a sin,” she said. “But as a person working in this area, I think the bill will give mothers more options to deal with the problem of unwanted pregnancy.”
The sensitivity of abortion law has resulted in the exclusion of clauses that set criteria for legal abortions from a bill on reproductive health which has gone to public hearings, she said.
The APSW-run emergency home for women receives an average of 140 women with unwanted pregnancies every year, she said.
The APSW and 44 other state and non-governmental organisations working on women’s issues on Saturday issued a statement calling on the government to provide safe abortions for women to prevent them from using unsafe services at unhygienic, illegal premises.
“Abortion should be permitted if the woman has been raped, is younger than 15, and could be mentally and physically affected if the pregnancy is continued,” they said.
Kanrawee Daoruang, coordinator of the Choice Group which helps women with unwanted pregnancies, said a 2005 Medical Council regulation on ending pregnancies allows doctors to perform abortions under certain conditions.
However, no doctor dares perform them under this regulation because they fear criminal action.
She said the government should provide facilities to care for women with unwanted pregnancies. “If a woman knows that she still has somewhere to go and someone to help take care of her and the baby, she might choose options other than aborting the baby.”
Abortion will be tackled anew by the National Human Rights Commission (Korea), putting the most ethically-controversial “fetus removal” issue under the spotlight once again.
The human rights watchdog will hold public hearings, discussions and conduct media monitoring next year before it decides whether or not to advise the government to revise a pertinent law which imprisons women who get abortions.
If so, the administration may have to revise its policy, which they believe will help address the low birthrate.
According to the commission, the decision was made in response to a petition filed by Korean Womenlink that the law violates the rights of women and their freedom of choice. Currently, except for several restricted circumstances, women who get an abortion are subject to up to one-year imprisonment or up to a 2 million won fine. Doctors who perform the practice are also subject to prosecution.
The petition reads, “The current law shows no understanding of the circumstances of women who are forced to abort. Penalization is the last thing a government should consider because it could drive women to receive the practice in the dark. The regulation violates not only the rights of women to choose but also the right to live a healthy life.”
The commission explained that the United Nations also advises governments with such laws to make a revision. “It is true that the law does not reflect the social, economic and individual conditions of a pregnant woman. Some women go abroad for the practice, which could risk their lives,” an official of the commission said. “On the other hand, we need to have discussions to look into the rights of a fetus to live. It is a tricky issue.”
Indeed, abortion is a difficult and thorny issue in Korea as in the rest of the world. In the latest report by gynecologists here, there were reportedly 342,233 cases of abortion in 2005 while the number of births stood at 476,000 in the same year. Some birth experts said the actual number of abortions could be double or treble the reported figure.
The administration, which has been extremely concerned about the falling birthrate, set out to regulate abortions. The regulation was part of its plan to boost the birthrate, which marked 1.18 in 2008, one of the lowest in the world. Some doctors joined in by revealing the names of gynecologists and the clinics performing the illegal practice.
But some experts refuted that the prohibition has adversely created a black market, allowing incompetent doctors to perform operations that could put women’s lives at risk and charge them rather inflated prices.
In a seminar held to discuss the possible legalization of abortion, Prof. Kim Hae-jung of Korea University said some countries with looser regulations such as Japan, Australia and Canada have a lower rate of abortion than Korea, meaning that legalization does not lead to an increase in abortion. “Education on contraception should also be included as a measure,” he said.
A new Amnesty report launched in Jakarta on Thursday 4 November details the fatal consequences of denying access to sexual health services for women in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world.
Left Without a Choice describes how government restrictions and discriminatory traditions threaten the lives of many Indonesian women and girls by putting reproductive health services out of their reach.
Amnesty International’s research shows discriminatory practices and problematic laws are prohibiting access to contraception for unmarried women and girls, and endorsing marriage for girls younger than 16. The law requires a woman to get her husband’s consent to access certain contraception methods, or an abortion even in the event that her life is at risk. Amnesty International also found that health workers frequently deny the full range of legally available contraceptive services to unmarried women and also to childless married women.
Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:
“Restrictions on sexual and reproductive rights are placing severe and potentially deadly obstacles in the way many women and girls can access reproductive health information and services.
“Indonesia must do more to ensure that old stereotypes and mindsets are replaced with a more forward-looking recognition of the problems and needs facing their wives, sisters and daughters.”
Interviews with Indonesian women and girls, as well as health workers, highlighted how restrictions increase unwanted pregnancies and force many women and girls to marry young, drop out of school, or seek an illegal abortion. An estimated two million abortions are performed in Indonesia every year, many of them in unsafe conditions.
Indonesia’s Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) is amongst the highest in the East-Asia Pacific region.
At 228 per 100,000 live births, Indonesia’s MMR is overall at least four times higher than in neighbouring countries, such as China (56), Malaysia (41) and Thailand (44).
According to official government figures, unsafe abortions are responsible for between five and 11 per cent of maternal deaths in Indonesia.
A woman or girl seeking an abortion (the legal age for criminal responsibility in Indonesia is eight), or a health worker providing one, may be sentenced to up to four and 10 years’ imprisonment respectively
Domestic violence in Indonesia is a serious problem. In 2010, Indonesia’s National Commission on Violence against Women reported a 263 per cent increase in the number of reported cases (143,586 cases) of violence against women compared with the previous year (54,425 cases).
Part of a longer article at http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=19068
See also: Abortion is about balancing rights – religious medics don’t get the final say
The religious rights of a small group of medical professionals do not trump those held by the remainder of the citizenry
As participants from the U.S. at the 25th National Gathering of Women (XXV Encuentro Nacional de Mujeres) in Paraná, Argentina we denounce the attacks by rightwing Catholics on feminists at the workshops on “Women, Contraception and Abortion” which resulted in a number of injuries and the hospitalization of one activist.
This gathering is an historic victory by Argentine women and is a crucial place for the sharing of experiences as well as for strategizing on how to advance the fundamental rights of women as full human beings. The infiltration of the huge meeting by religious fanatics, a provocative and dangerous assault on freedom of speech, was an outrageous violation of women’s right to engage in much-needed discussions on how to win the basic right to control their own bodies.
Over the last four decades, Latin American women have won great advances in access to contraceptives and abortion. The ultra-right Catholics apparently consider it their mission to turn back the clock and reverse women’s hard-won victories.
Rightwing religious fundamentalism increased internationally in the 1970s in reaction to the worldwide revolutionary upsurge. Today, it is spurred on by the global economic crisis and the reliance of capitalism on women’s free labor in the home and cheap labor in the marketplace for super profits.
The seemingly ever-growing number of religious reactionaries often has the full collusion of bourgeois governments, including that of Argentine President Cristina Kirchner. Through women’s sweat and sacrifices in the home, where they produce and care for the next generation of workers, and due to their drastically under-paid status in the workforce, untold wealth and global profits flow freely to keep capitalism and its crony governments afloat.
We stand with women all across Latin America who refuse to back down in the face of rightwing repression. At the enormous assembly in Paraná, feminists said “No more!” to the provocation of church-backed infiltrators and physically ousted them from the building where the workshops on “Contraception and Abortion” were being held. That same night, thousands of women mounted a march that stretched over 10 blocks singing chants against the dictatorship of the church and for women’s right to make decisions about their own bodies, including the right to abortion. The massive presence of police and military forces, posted in front of churches to “guard” them from protesters, was a display of government support for the anti-abortion fanatics.
As socialist feminists from the U.S., we are inspired by the militancy and tenacity shown by Argentine women this past weekend. We are engaged in a similar fight against the ultra-Catholics and evangelical Protestants on our own soil and are defending abortion clinics from attacks nationwide.
For forty years Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party have organized united fronts with other groups and individuals against similar campaigns by the right wing that target women, lesbians and gays, Blacks, Jews, and radical activists. We have learned that feminists, leftists, unionists and racial and ethnic minorities, representing wide-ranging political perspectives can and must work together to defeat our common enemies.
We support the call of Argentine feminists for legal, safe and free abortion and for the separation of church and state.
No more rightwing assaults on the Gathering of Women!
Long live global feminism!
Emily Woo Yamasaki, Radical Women
Laura Mannen, Freedom Socialist Party
Poor, rural, Quechua-speaking women in the Peruvian province of Anta who were victims of a forced sterilisation programme between 1996 and 2000 have filed a new lawsuit in their continuing struggle for justice.
In May 2009, Jaime Schwartz, the public prosecutor investigating the case against four former health ministers of the Alberto Fujimori administration (1990-2000), decided to shelve the investigation. He said the case involved alleged crimes against the victims’ life, body and health, and manslaughter, and that the statute of limitations had expired.
But the plaintiffs in the case had brought accusations of genocide and torture, which as crimes against humanity have no statute of limitation. The attorney-general’s office upheld Schwartz’s decision, overruling the complaint lodged against it by the victims and the human rights organisations providing them with legal advice.
Now the Women’s Association of Forced Sterilisation Victims of Anta, a mountainous province in the southern department of Cuzco, has decided to combat impunity with a new strategy: it is presenting a new lawsuit against those responsible for family planning policy in the last four years of the Fujimori regime.
The Association’s approximately 100 members are rural women whose testimonies have revealed the hidden side of the National Programme for Reproductive Health and Family Planning, imposed by coercion and deceit under the guise of an anti-poverty plan.
The study documented for the first time the systematic use of sterilisation practices that particularly targeted poor, indigenous, rural women.
As a result of the publication, Tamayo received threats from the government. She had to leave the country and went to live in Spain, but has now returned to Peru to advise the Anta Women’s Association on the new lawsuit.
The Peruvian state has admitted that 300,000 sterilisations were performed under the VSC programme. The ombudsman’s office has collected direct testimony from 2,074 women who were sterilised without their consent between 1996 and 2000.
In 2003, the Peruvian state signed a friendly settlement agreement before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in the case of Mamérita Mestanza, who died in 1998 as a result of a poorly performed tubal ligation procedure done without her consent.
The state acknowledged its responsibility, recognised the abuses committed under the family planning programme, undertook to investigate and bring to trial the government officials who devised and implemented the campaign, and promised to pay reparations to Mestanza’s family.
But the attorney-general’s office dragged its feet on the promised investigation, which made little progress before it was shelved by the public prosecutor in 2009. Meanwhile Alejandro Aguinaga, one of the accused, a former health minister and personal physician to Fujimori, was elected to Congress in 2006 and is now vice president of the legislature.
Fujimori is in prison for 25 years, convicted of several charges of corruption and human rights violations.
The state’s failure to carry out this part of the friendly agreement “is prolonging the pain of thousands of victims, because the accused are carrying on as respectable members of society when they really should be called to account in the courts,” said Tamayo, who is also a researcher for the Spanish chapter of the global rights watchdog Amnesty International.
“This time, those responsible for the forced sterilisation plan will be sued individually for crimes against humanity and torture,” she said.
Each of the accused will also be charged “for war crimes, because the coerced sterilisation was carried out in the context of the 1980-2000 armed conflict (between the military and leftwing guerrillas), when the armed forces were used to threaten and terrorise” the civilian population, Tamayo said.
Specifying international crimes (which include crimes against humanity, genocide, torture and war crimes) will allow “other countries to prosecute the accused, if the Peruvian state continues to protect them,” she said.
“The IACHR has already indicated that forced sterilisation is a matter of international law,” the rights activist said.
Tamayo said the lawsuit will be brought by the victims in Anta, because in that province “sterilisation was implemented door to door, the health authorities were given ‘quotas’ of sterilised women that they were required to meet, and all the victims belonged to the same indigenous ethnic group.”
This shows that “those who designed the programme defined its targets with abominable precision,” Tamayo said.
Part of a longer article at http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=53177
The outcome of a trial against a Cairns couple for procuring an abortion has turned the tables on the Department of Public Prosecutions and the Queensland government.
The Cairns jury swiftly returned a “not guilty” verdict on October 14 and the question now being asked is “what real crimes are exposed by this case?”
For many, the real crime is the fact that the anti-abortion laws from 1899 have not been repealed.
Judge William Everson at one stage in the trial referred to the archaic nature of the laws and defence barrister Kevin McCreanor explained in his closing statement “like most things designed by mankind, the law is not perfect”.
McCreanor said the laws under which the Cairns couple was charged began in 1861 in England and were enacted in 1899 in Queensland. Safe terminations of pregnancy by medical means were unknown at the time, he explained.
He said politicians have not changed the law in 111 years and now the state government had persisted in prosecuting this young couple.
But he said the state government did not control the courts. It would be the combined wisdom of 12 women and men of the jury that would determine the couple’s fate. And they did. They found that the couple was not guilty of a crime for making this choice.
A real crime is that access to abortion drug RU486, which is listed on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines, was severely restricted in Australia for 10 years while many other countries made it available.
In 1996, the government of former prime minister John Howard, in exchange for Senator Brian Harradine’s vote to privatise Telstra, removed RU486 from Australia’s standard drug approval process. The use or import of RU486 was prohibited without the personal permission of the federal health minister.
It took 10 years and concerted campaigning until, in February 2006, a private members’ bill across party lines in the federal parliament overturned the Harradine amendment.
Doctors in Australia could now apply to the Therapeutic Goods Administration for approval to prescribe and supply RU486.
But no Australian drug company has tried to market RU486 in Australia.
Women seeking to terminate pregnancies have been denied access to safe drugs that are used around the world.
It is a crime that, depending on where a woman lives in Australia, her choices regarding both medical and surgical termination of pregnancy varies widely. If RU486 were available nationally, it would help reduce unequal access to abortion services for Australian women — especially rural women.
By criminalising drugs and services that only women need to access, the Queensland government upholds the idea implied by the 19th century law makers, all of whom were men, that women must be protected from themselves.
Prosecutor Michael Byrne used similar arguments in his closing statement in the Cairns trial. He said the law was required because some people needed to be protected from themselves.
Byrne compared the crime of taking the abortion drug and its potential complications to someone shooting a gun in a crowded room — even if it did no harm, it is still a crime.
The courtroom public gallery groaned at this.
It was an analogy that tried to criminalise women who make the decision to not continue with a pregnancy without “authorisation, justification or excuse”, as outlined in the criminal code. Byrne described the young woman’s decision as a “lifestyle choice”.
The prosecution’s distinction between illegal “lifestyle” and legal “life threatened” abortion drew heavily on conservative views about women’s sexuality and reproductive rights. But the right of a woman to control her own fertility is not a “lifestyle” choice: it is a fundamental human right.
Restrictions on abortion, such as those in the Queensland criminal code, can easily become forms of intimidation.
Anti-abortion laws make women’s choices more difficult to realise. They are in direct opposition to the idea that women can be trusted to make autonomous decisions about what happens to their own bodies. They say the state knows better about what should happen to a woman’s body than she does.
This is why these laws should now be repealed. Women’s choices about what happens to their own bodies must be respected if women’s equality and autonomy is to be respected.
In fact, the real crimes in this case are too many to list. They also include the nightmare that the young couple has endured from when they were charged in April 2008 until their acquittal on October 14. They include the fact that a Queensland government Taskforce on Women and the Criminal Code recommended in 2000 that these laws be repealed and the government took no action for the past 10 years.
One of the disappointing aspects of the trial was that there was little cross-examination of the police witnesses. No one asked who decided, between discovery of the evidence of the empty blister packs by a police search in early February 2008 and the interview of the couple on March 30, to proceed with anti-abortion charges in April 2008.
A deciding factor in the verdict was Everson’s direction to the jury about the meaning of “noxious”. Under the Queensland Criminal Code, it is an offence for a woman to “administer to herself any poison or noxious thing” to cause a miscarriage.
Byrne had argued for a more old-fashioned definition of “noxious” as “injurious, hurtful, harmful or unwholesome” and that a noxious substance would be intended to cause the expulsion of the fetus from the woman’s body and change the state of the woman’s body. In contrast, the judge defined “noxious” as “harmful or injurious to health or physical well-being”, but said that it must be “noxious” to the woman, without reference to a fetus that may or may not be present.
The jury had to decide if the prosecution had proved beyond reasonable doubt that the drugs taken by the young woman were harmful or injurious to her health or physical well-being. The judge cited the evidence of an expert witness Professor Nicholas Fisk, who had stated that RU486 was not harmful to the person taking it.
The dust is settling from the Cairns trial and the lay of the land is a little clearer for all to see.
The Queensland government has avoided its responsibility for repealing the anti-abortion sections of the state’s crimes act. It said the Cairns case was not about legal abortion and tried to mask the real issues by lying about drug importation and unsafe medications.
The government says it can’t win support for repeal on the floor of parliament. But a jury drawn from a small regional city in the far north of the state saw through these lies, as do many more Queenslanders.
A protest outside the Cairns courthouse, where a vigil tent had been set up, provided a place for many in Cairns to show their support for a woman’s right to choose. And many hundreds did.
The community campaign bodies that have been active over the past 18 months in Queensland — Pro Choice Cairns, Pro Choice Queensland and Pro Choice Action Collective in Brisbane — have all vowed to continue the campaign to completely decriminalise abortion.
See earlier postings https://womensphere.wordpress.com/?s=Queensland%2Babortion
See also: Queensland doctors call for abortion law certainty
Queensland’s abortion laws are a barrier to a doctor’s first duty – best patient care, the Australian Medical Association says.
A group of women on delivered to the Nicaraguan government thousands of signatures collected in Europe by Amnesty International to demand the restoration of therapeutic abortion in this Central American country.
The signatures were turned over at the offices of the governing Sandinista party by leaders of the Strategic Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic Abortion and accepted by a representative of President Daniel Ortega.
The group of women handed over a sample of the 37,000 signatures and also another sample of 6,000 postcards sent in by AI activists acting in solidarity with Nicaragua.
“We hope that President Ortega takes measures … to comply with the recommendations of international entities that have ordered the Nicaraguan state to adjust legislation regarding abortion to be able to save women’s lives,” one of the group’s leaders, Wendy Flores, told Efe.
Flores said that in Nicaragua women had died because “abortion (is) prohibited, (and) by being denied access to health services” and she accused the government of not releasing data about such deaths.
“We hope that the government, with its spirit of solidarity and respecting Christian (behavior), as it says it does, decriminalizes therapeutic abortion to save the lives of a lot of women and so that more children are not orphaned,” Mayte Ochoa, also a leader of the group, told Efe.
Amid the 2006 electoral campaign, which Ortega won, the Nicaraguan Congress heard the petitions of the local Catholic and Protestant churches and prohibited therapeutic abortion, which had been permitted under the Penal Code for more than a century in cases where the mother’s life was in danger.
That decision was criticized by the physicians’ association of Nicaragua, women’s groups, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations and the European Union, which demanded a broader discussion of the matter.
Nicaragua’s Supreme Court has yet to rule on a 2007 legal challenge to the constitutionality of the abortion ban. EFE
Heartened by the passage of a same-sex marriage law in Argentina, women’s organisations in this South American country stepped up their demands for the legalisation of abortion, on the Day for the Decriminalisation of Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Some 1,000 members of the Juana Azurduy Women’s Collective, better known as Las Juanas, filed a “collective and preventive” writ of habeas corpus at different courtrooms around the country, demanding that the criminalisation of abortion be declared unconstitutional.
They also asked the courts to press the legislature to bring the law that penalises abortion into line with international norms that recognise a woman’s right to make decisions about her body.
In Argentina, abortion is a crime punishable by prison, except in cases where the pregnancy is the result of rape, the expectant mother’s life is in danger or she is mentally ill or disabled.
But every year some 460,000 to 600,000 women resort to abortion in this country of 40 million people, according to the report “Estimate of the Extent of the Practice of Induced Abortion in Argentina”, prepared by experts from the University of Buenos Aires and the Centre for Population Studies.
In Latin America, abortion is only legal in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Mexico City. With the exception of Chile, El Salvador and Nicaragua, where abortion is illegal under any circumstances, in the rest of the countries in the region “therapeutic” abortion is legal in certain cases, such as rape, incest, fetal malformation or risk to the mother’s life.
Nevertheless, more than four million illegal abortions a year are practiced in the region, according to different sources, and 13 percent of maternal deaths are caused by abortion-related complications.
In Argentina, unsafe abortions are the main cause of maternal mortality, the Juana Azurduy Women’s Collective reports.
Against that backdrop, Las Juanas presented their legal action on Tuesday Sept. 28, observed as the Day for the Decriminalisation of Abortion by the women’s movement in Latin America and the Caribbean since 1990.
For years, women’s groups in Argentina have been campaigning for the decriminalisation of abortion, but have continually run up against the fierce resistance of the powerful Catholic Church and other conservative sectors of society.
However, this year the situation looks more favourable. Since March, the lower house of Congress has been studying a draft law that would decriminalise abortion, which has the backing of around 50 lawmakers from different parties.
The bill, which may be debated in October, was introduced by Cecilia Merchán, a legislator with the left-wing movement Libres del Sur, and would legalise first-trimester abortion on demand, similar to the law in effect in the Federal District of Mexico City.
None of the nearly 20 earlier bills on abortion introduced in the Argentine legislature over the years progressed. But the current draft law has already made it through several committees and is on its way to a full session debate in the lower house.
However, while the legislators are preparing their offensive in the lower house, another bill has been presented in the Senate, which would merely expand the circumstances under which therapeutic abortion is legal.
The idea underlying the initiative by several women senators is that legal abortion would also be made available to women facing risks to their health, a concept that would be broadly defined as physical and mental health.
The women’s organisations do not have the support of President Cristina Fernández, who has spoken out against the legalisation of abortion. But Merchán is confident that the president’s position will not impose itself in the legislative debate. (END)
Part of a longer article at http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=52989
Believe it or not, abortion is still illegal in most of Australia! And a young couple in Cairns, Queensland is being prosecuted for “procuring” an abortion through the use of RU-486, a drug that is commonly prescribed in the U.S. For decades, Australian officials didn’t take action against women who chose to terminate a pregnancy. But under pressure of the international “Right to Life” movement, including groups that originate in the U.S., the right of women to control their own bodies is under tremendous attack.
Radical Women in Melbourne, Australia is part of a nationwide organizing effort to get the charges dropped against the Cairns couple and to get anti-abortion laws off the books. You can help by signing the online petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/Stop-the-abortion-prosecution/. Please forward this message to your friends and promote it on your Facebook and MySpace pages and Twitter account. The deadline for signatures is October 1.
To read more about this issue and the October 9 National Day of Action Rallies in Australia, please visit the Radical Women website at http://www.radicalwomen.org/Oct_9_Callout.html. There you can download a petition to circulate, endorse the nationwide Day of Action, and read more about the Cairns case.
See also: Happy Women’s Rights Day!
Seven women in Mexico serving prison terms of up to 29 years for the death of their newborns were freed last week after a legal reform enacted in the state of Guanajuato lowered their sentences.
The women’s cases case drew national attention in Mexico and their release is unlikely to staunch the fiery debate about whether some conservative states are trying to overzealously enforce bans on elective abortion by charging women who may have suffered miscarriages.
The women are largely poor and uneducated, and they claim they suffered miscarriages — not viable births — and did nothing to harm their unborn children.
“They are innocent, they all suffered miscarriages,” said women’s rights activist Veronica Cruz, who championed their cases.
State prosecutors maintained to the end that the women’s trials were fair, that their babies were born alive but died because of mistreatment or lack of care, a crime defined under state law “homicide against a relative.”
The women were not absolved, but rather released under a legal reform passed after the state government concluded that their sentences “were inappropriate, given that they were excessively punitive and ranged from 25 to 35 years.”
The reform reduced the sentences to 3 to 8 years, the time already served by the women.
“The important thing was to have them freed,” Cruz said. “They will talk and decide if they want to undertake any other action,” to pursue a reversal of their sentences.
The Guanajuato state government said it will help the women get on with their lives after some spent as long as 8 years in prison.
However, the state’s reputation for conservatism made many suspicious.
While Guanajuato still allows abortion under very limited circumstances, like rape, rights activists say that in practice even that possibility is often denied women.
Activist Rosalia Cruz Sanchez says doctors fearing prosecution often require a woman impregnated by rape to produce a letter from prosecutors confirming that. She said authorities often delay until the window for such an abortion — 12 weeks in most states — has passed, forcing the woman to bear the child.
Abortion on demand in the first trimester is legal only in Mexico City, under a 2007 law that has enraged the country’s conservatives and sparked a wave of state right-to-life laws.
While the “Guanajuato Seven” have received largely favorable media coverage, not everyone was cheering about the legal reform that led to their release.
In a statement, two pro-life groups — the Yucatan Pro Network and The Center for Women’s Studies — said that “homicide against a relative will never be a woman’s right.”
It is “worrisome that now a woman attacking the life of her child would be considered a non-serious crime, as long as she does it within 24 hours after it is born.”
More Polish women are travelling abroad to have an abortion to bypass strict laws outlawing the practice in their overwhelmingly Catholic country, a pro-choice group said last month.
Poland, a country of 38 million where the Catholic Church retains considerable clout, has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the 27-nation European Union.
It allows terminating pregnancy only at an early stage and when it threatens the life or health of the mother, when the baby is likely to be permanently handicapped or when pregnancy originates from a crime, for example rape or incest.
Official statistics show only several hundred abortions are performed every year, but pro-choice campaigners say underground abortions are very common.
“We estimate… that on average 150,000 abortions are performed per year,” Wanda Nowicka, head of the Federation for Women and Family Planning, told lawmakers at a meeting in the Polish parliament on Thursday.
“Of this number, some 10-15 percent of abortions are performed abroad and this number is definitely growing.”
Doctors from Germany, Austria, Britain and the Netherlands who terminate the pregnancies of Polish women every day also attended the meeting.
“Several thousand Polish women terminate pregnancies in Germany every year,” said Janusz Rudzinski from a clinic in Prenzlau in Germany, near the Polish border.
The doctors said women sought abortions abroad because they were illegal at home and often performed in poor conditions. They also fear social ostracism if they undergo an abortion in Poland, the doctors said.
An illegal abortion in Poland costs 2,000-4,000 zlotys ($640-$1,270), compared to 400-600 euros ($510-$760) in Germany, 280 euros in the Netherlands and 450-2,000 pounds ($700-$3,120) in Britain, they said.
In Prenzlau, visits take 3-4 hours, while in Vienna they take two days.
Poland lost a case in the European Court of Human Rights in 2007 to Alicja Tysiac, who nearly went blind after giving birth to a third child following failed attempts to find a doctor who would perform a legal abortion for her.
Abortion regulations are even more strict in Ireland and they also force thousands of women to terminate their pregnancy abroad, mostly in Britain.
“Officially, abortion tourism (into Britain) in 2009 stood at about 7,000 women … Probably more than a thousand, maybe several thousands of them, were Polish,” said Ann Furedi, head of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.
Many of the Polish women who decide to terminate their pregnancy admit also to using contraception regularly despite declaring themselves Catholic, the doctors said.
The Catholic Church strongly opposes contraception as well as abortion. There has been a lot of public debate on these issues, to the dismay of Polish liberals who say this undermines the country’s secular constitution.
“The abortion law in Poland is a perfect example of how the state is unable to liberate itself from the powerful influence of the Catholic Church,” said independent MP Marek Balicki, who served as health minister in a previous leftist government.
More and more women would die from complications arising from unsafe abortions in the Philippines, warned the country’s women’s groups, as they called for abortions to be legalised.
According to the Centre for Reproductive Rights, more than half a million Filipino women undergo illegal abortions every year. Of these, an estimated 90,000 women suffer complications with about 1,000 dying eventually.
The women’s groups said it is time for the predominantly Roman Catholic country to allow for safe and legal abortion, to save thousands of women from undergoing crude and unsafe procedures.
“The criminalisation of abortion has not prevented the procedure, but made it unsafe. In all cases, the ban leads to one frightening direction – that of painful risky and potentially fatal methods of pregnancy termination,” Centre for Reproductive Rights Melissa Upreti said.
Although abortion is illegal in the Philippines, government hospitals are mandated to provide post-abortion care treatment to women.
In the Dr Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital for instance, more than half of the women who seek treatment are for complications arising from illegal and unsafe abortions.
Dr Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital Dr Emmanel Ganal said most abortion cases were due to unwanted pregnancy.
“Those that are induced are usually unwanted pregnancies. It’s either they don’t want the pregnancy, or they have reasons like they want to go abroad so they induced it. They take some medications to remove the pregnancy,” he said.
For now, women’s rights groups are hoping that the new Congress would be able to pass a controversial Reproductive Health bill, that the influential Catholic Church opposed last year.
That piece of legislation would uphold the use of artificial contraceptives and institutionalise sex education in schools.
That would hopefully help prevent more cases of unsafe abortion in the country.
Part of a longer article at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/southeastasia/view/1075675/1/.html
A U.S.-based rights group has urged the Philippines to reform a tough anti-abortion law that it says has spawned widespread underground procedures that kill about 1,000 women each year in the predominantly Roman Catholic country.
An estimated 560,000 women in the Philippines in 2008 sought abortion involving crude and painful methods such as intense abdominal massages by traditional midwives or inserting catheters into the uterus, said a report by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights.
About 90,000 women suffer from abortion complications and an estimated 1,000 die each year, the report said, adding that complications are among the top 10 reasons women seek hospital care.
The Roman Catholic church in the Philippines has stridently opposed the use of contraceptives and abortion. The existing law forbids abortion and is unclear about any exceptions in which it might be permitted, effectively making it a total ban, the report said. The law imposes up to six years imprisonment for women who commit intentional abortion and for doctors or midwives who help them.
And while post-abortion services are legal, women who seek them are often harassed or stigmatized even by health care workers, the report said.
The Center for Reproductive Rights is an advocacy group that says it works to advance reproductive freedom as a human right. It said its report was based on interviews with women who had had abortions, hospital authorities, political leaders, law enforcers and secondary data. A 2008 report by the U.S.-based nonprofit Guttmacher Institute in cooperation with the University of the Philippines Population Institute, cited the same figures as Monday’s report.
Philippine health and justice officials did not immediately respond Monday to requests for comment.
Melissa Upreti, one of the new report’s authors, said the Philippines is among a handful of countries including Nicaragua, Chile and El Salvador to prohibit and criminally punish abortion without providing clear legal exceptions including when a pregnancy poses a risk to the woman’s health, if the woman is a victim of rape or incest, or in cases of fetal impairment.
Even Spain, whose 1870 Penal Code provision on abortion became the basis of the Philippines’ 1930 law, has reformed its laws to recognize abortion on several grounds, said Upreti, the Center’s Asia program regional manager.
The World Health Organization says worldwide, the impact of unsafe abortion was “a major health concern” that claims the lives of 67,000 women yearly. It has urged countries to deal with the preventable problem that stems from reasons including unmet family planning needs and restricted access to safe abortion services.
“Access to safe, legal abortion is a fundamental right of women,” a WHO journal added.
“The Philippine government has created a dire human rights crisis in the country,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights
She said it was “time to break the silence around abortion in the Philippines and for the human rights community to put pressure on the government to decriminalize abortion and immediately improve the medical care that women receive.”
Florence Tadiar, a physician who heads the Institute for Social Studies and Action, said the ban has scared doctors and health workers from performing abortion even for medical reasons. Women who have had unsafe abortion, meanwhile, “will not go to the hospital unless they are dying.”
Alfredo Tadiar, a former judge and adviser to an international lawyers’ group said while women have been charged for abortion in the country, he has not heard of anyone actually sentenced or sent to jail.
Women’s health and rights advocacy groups responded immediately to the announcement that President Obama would exclude abortion coverage from the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (the temporary high-risk insurance pools created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to transition us into the new health care plan). Obama has decided that women in these pools simply don’t need insurance coverage of abortion care even though there is nothing in the new law that dictates this.
From the ACLU press release on this:
Even using their own private funds, individuals would not be able to buy policies that cover abortion in these pools. The only exemptions would reportedly be for women who have been raped, who are the victims of incest or who will likely die if they carry the pregnancy to term.
What is perhaps most perplexing about this is that this plan was created to offer temporary insurance coverage to those who cannot afford coverage due to particulary serious health conditions. Women with serious health conditions may be some of the most affected by a pregnancy – the pregnancy may not cause her death but is a woman’s life of so little consequence that it matters not to President Obama if a pregnancy bears an immense burden on her already ill body? As NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Nancy Keenan puts it, “This policy means that women who are part of these pools because they have significant health problems, such as diabetes or cancer, will not be able to access abortion care, even if their health is at further risk.”
Planned Parenthood’s press release calls the rule “harmful to women”:
“The very women who need to purchase private health insurance in the new high-risk pools are likely to be more vulnerable to medically complicated pregnancies. It is truly harmful to these women that the administration may impose limits on how they use their own private dollars, limiting their health care options at a time when they need them most. This decision has no basis in the law and flies in the face of the intent of the high-risk pools that were meant to meet the medical needs of some of the most vulnerable women in this country.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights notes:
“Contrary to assertions by the White House, there’s no current legal basis for the policy. The executive order issued by the President on abortion only addressed rules for segregating funds for abortion coverage in the healthcare exchanges and limits on community health centers. The Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan policy similarly furnishes no legal basis for exclusions in the new high risk pools.
“The proposal would not even permit policyholders to use their own private dollars to purchase coverage, as the Nelson compromise allows, and instead applies a Stupak-type ban like the one rejected by Congress. Healthcare reform was a tightly bargained piece of legislation – and with this, the White House is threatening to renege on a fundamental part of its bargain with American women and families who truly need coverage. Excluding abortion coverage from the high-risk insurance pools was not part of the negotiations during healthcare reform, and nothing in the bill compels this result.”
Kelli Conlin of the National Institute for Reproductive Health says:
Considering that the women in high-risk pools are already more vulnerable to medical complications it is outrageous that their coverage will not include – at the bare minimum – abortion care for health emergencies.
This latest ban goes even further than the objectionable Nelson provision (which became law during health care reform) in that it does not give states the option of deciding to cover abortion nor does it allow a woman to buy abortion coverage . This is not acceptable.
We all know that many things can happen in pregnancy that are beyond even the healthiest woman’s control; coverage of abortion is an important part of ensuring that all women can access and afford the health care procedures they may need.
NARAL Pro-Choice America has started a letter writing campaign to urge President Obama not to exclude abortion coverage from the high-risk pools.