ABORTION IN 2019: A ROUND-UP

INTERNATIONAL SAFE ABORTION DAY, 28 September 2019

This was probably the biggest yet. We published five newsletters full of reports of activities and statements, on 9-16-23 October and 15-29 November, and a 12-page newsletter with statements and media reports on 4 December. There were several big Tweetathons and the number of posts on Twitter by Campaign members and others was beyond counting.

ABORTION LAW REFORM AND COURT CASES

India – abortion requests after 20 weeks become a major issue as courts fail to help girls and women; Delhi High Court pleads for raising upper time limit for abortion.

North Macedonia – passes new abortion law.

El Salvador – Supreme Court quashes Evelyn’s 30-year sentence for miscarriage and later commutes the sentences of three more women, some of whom have been in prison for 10+ years, who were all imprisoned after miscarriages, stillbirths and other obstetric emergencies.

Slovakia – threats to restrict abortion law throughout the year fail to succeed.

South Australia law reformed.

Malta – first pro-choice movement launched and national debate on abortion takes place around European elections.

Ecuador – national assembly debates a bill on allowing abortion in cases of rape and incest but votes it down later in the year.

Democratic Republic of Congo – abortion law reformed under Maputo Protocol and first training for doctors, midwives and nurses held.

Ireland – Implementation of the new abortion law closely watched and documented.

South Korea – Constitutional Court strikes down abortion law, calling for new law by end 2020.

Iceland – Parliament legalises abortion on request within the first 22 weeks of pregnancy regardless of circumstances.

Argentina – On International Day of Action for Women’s Health, thousands of abortion rights advocates marched in more than 100 cities as the Campaña Nacional por el Derecho al Aborto Legal, Seguro y Gratuito tables a new abortion bill in the Congress.

Niñas no Madres – files litigation against Ecuador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua at UN Human Rights Committee, demanding accountability, justice and reparation and protection of the sexual and reproductive rights of all women and girls denied abortion after rape.

France – bill to increase the abortion on request time limit from 12 to 14 weeks fails, in context of closure of a number of clinics providing abortions, forcing women to keep travelling to other countries.

Australia/New South Wales – bill decriminalising abortion is passed.

New Zealand – Abortion law reform bill passes first reading by wide margin, and public submissions on the bill called for.

Mexico – Four different moments: (1) Supreme Court rules that risk to health is grounds for the right to a legal abortion; (2) the governing Morena Party’s parliamentarians’ group tables a bill to legalise abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy; (3) Supreme Court orders all public hospitals to terminate any pregnancy due to rape at the woman’s request, without her having to obtain the permission; (4) the state of Oaxaca legalises abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Monaco – decriminalises abortion for women. Women must still seek abortions outside Monaco but doctors can help them find one.

Senegal – Laws on girls’ and women’s rights to be amended, including to allow abortion for girls on grounds of rape and incest.

Canada – removes access barriers to abortion with mifepristone + misoprostol. Federal Health Minister tells all provinces to fund abortion care.

Malawi, Mauritius, Jamaica, Burkina Faso – Advocacy for decriminalisation of abortion and provision of services by abortion rights supporters, but no actual changes yet.

Northern Ireland – The High Court rules that Northern Ireland’s abortion law is incompatible with UK human rights obligations. Due to action in the UK Parliament, the law was changed and abortion is no longer a criminal offence except after viability.

Malaysia, Senegal and Kenya – Abandonment of babies in the news, identified as an issue arising from being unable to obtain an abortion; abandonment of babies decriminalised in Namibia but abortion law not changed.

Zimbabwe – Ministry of Health Family Health Director calls for changes in the restrictive abortion law to address deaths from unsafe abortion at a national meeting.

Uganda – State Health Minister says the Ministry is seeking a post-abortion care management policy in hospitals to treat post-abortion complications.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Reproductive Health and Rights Coalition – formed in 2018 by experts from 12 countries. In 2019, members in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan carry out detailed situational analyses, evaluating access to and quality of abortion services and comparing their national protocols to international guidelines. Uzbekistan revises its national abortion protocol for submission to their Ministry of Health.

Cameroon – Society of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians launches three-year project “Advocacy for Comprehensive Abortion Care”, along with health professional, legal and women’s rights partners.

Belgium – Members of the Parliament’s Justice Committee re-open the debate on decriminalisation of abortion, but with 5 competing bills, nothing changes much.

Italy – seven doctors on trial for manslaughter in the death of Valentina Milluzzo in 2016, who began miscarrying when she was 19 weeks pregnant with twins and died of sepsis in circumstances similar to Savita Halapannavar in Ireland when doctors failed to do an emergency evacuation of the uterus.

Australia/South Australia – a bill to reform the abortion law is in development.

SOLIDARITY REQUESTS/PETITIONS

Northern Ireland – petition to reform abortion law signed by 62,000 people.

Kenya – protest and solidarity following the death of Caroline Mwatha.

Universal Health Coverage – Petition to support inclusion of sexual & reproductive health and rights.

Catholics for Human Rights – call for Vatican’s status at the United Nations to be revoked.

Morocco – Solidarity with journalist, her partner, gynae clinic staff, all arrested for abortion and sex outside marriage, later freed and all charges dismissed.

Brazil – letter to protest Minister’s statement against Jacqueline Pitanguy – 628 signatures.

ABORTION RIGHTS ACTION TO COUNTER ANTI-ABORTION ACTIVITY

Latin America – Anti-gender politics, publications and protests. Sexuality Policy Watch monitors / reports.

Chile, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Argentina, Europe – Conscientious objection challenged / countered.

Belgium, South Africa – Attempts to pass laws recognising fetal deaths in miscarriages.

USA – Fetal heartbeat laws in three USA states passed and struck down as unconstitutional. #StopTheBans: National Action day called by 60 national and state abortion rights groups with 500 demonstrations in most states and Puerto Rico. Six US states pass liberal abortion laws.

Turkey – Public hospitals in 53 of Turkey’s 81 provinces reject an abortion request if it comes only from a woman, even though this is legal. Health professionals reject government demand for names of women who have had abortions as part of “terror investigations”.

Poland, Kenya – Images of dismembered fetuses in public places, which distort the truth about abortion and disgust the public are removed after protests against them.

Italy – 10,000 pro-choice protestors outside large anti-abortion conference.

Croatia – pro-choice doctors condemn the fact that 6 out of 10 gynaecologists and 5 of the country’s 27 public hospitals refuse to do abortions. First March for Freedom held.

Australia – Safe access zones outside clinics providing abortions established in law in Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales, Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory, and their legality confirmed by the High Court.

Hungary – passes a range of pro-natalist, anti-women policies.

Argentina – An obstetrician-gynaecologist is found guilty of obstructing a legal abortion.

Canada/Ontario – Top court rules that religious doctors must offer patients an ‘effective referral’ for assisted dying, abortion and birth control

Georgia – Association HERA XXI presents the life stories of 91 women, identifying socio-economic barriers and emotional and psychological obstacles that women face trying to access abortions, at a meeting attended by medical professionals and representatives of INGOs, national NGOs, the Public Defender’s Office and Parliament.

South Africa – Abortion providers face negative judgment from colleagues, while others provide services and training, and the government slowly, slowly moves national abortion guidelines towards approval.

Morocco – Three different moments: (1) Progressive abortion law reform bill tabled while six people go on trial for clandestine abortions; (2) Government Council asked to approve a covenant about children’s rights in Islam that would prohibit most abortions; (3) Aa new bill tabled to decriminalise abortions.

Google – continues to allow anti-abortion clinics to post deceptive adverts, in spite of campaigns against them.

Indonesia – Proposed new highly conservative criminal code, covering far more than abortion, leads to mass demonstrations and is withdrawn

Brazil – A feminist journalists’ collective publishes an article online about how to abort safely. An online hate campaign is launched against them, and they are reported to the police and other authorities, accused of condoning crime. Solidarity statements published.

Poland – Bill in parliament to ban sex education and criminalise “promotion of under-age sexual activity” is sent to a committee, where it will hopefully disappear, after major protests.

Armenia – The Women’s Resource Center in Armenia is facing legal prosecution after months of receiving threats from Armenian nationalists and far-right movements.

FAILURE TO PROVIDE ABORTION SERVICES OR CARE

Yemen – Unfulfilled pledges of humanitarian aid will result in the discontinuation of life-saving reproductive health services for women and girls.

India – Although some 80% of abortions are with medical abortion pills,  a survey of 1,008 pharmacists found that in Rajasthan, none of the chemists interviewed provided MA pills, only 1.2% in Maharashtra, 37.8% in Bihar, and 66% in Uttar Pradesh due to over-regulation, legal barriers, the requirement of collecting prescriptions, frequent visits by drug inspectors, and concerns about side effects of the pills.

Nepal, India – Young, unmarried girls resorting to unsafe abortions because of the failure of health services to provide them with information and confidential abortion care, and in India because abortion under age 18 must be reported to police as arising from rape.

PUBLICATIONS by the Campaign and three of our Associated Regional Networks

Developing an Advocacy Agenda for Abortion in the 21st Century and Making Change Happen, An International Forum, 5-6-7 September 2018, Lisbon. Report in English

Right and Access for Women to Safe Abortion in the Middle East & North Africa (RAWSA MENA) Capacity Building and Regional Advocacy Strategy on Safe Abortion: A Meeting to Launch the RAWSA MENA Regional Network, 15-17 April 2019. Report in English, French, Arabic

Regional Conference on Bringing the WHO Recommendations on Safe Abortion and Family Planning Closer to Women in Countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, organised by the Reproductive Health Training Centre, Moldova, 15-16 November 2018. Report in Russian

Discursos en tiempos de amor y odio. Libertad de expresión, cambio social y discursos contra el género en América Latina: CLACAI Seminario, 4-5 Septiembre 2019. Report in Spanish

International Conference on Population & Development at 25. Nairobi, 12-14 November 2019.

History and analysis of the meeting. 22 November 2019. Report in English, Portuguese, Spanish

Health and Human Rights Journal: Special Section on Abortion Law Reform – Progress towards decriminalization and universal access. In: HHRJ 25th anniversary special edition, December 2019