Abortion Law and Policy Reform

International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion

31 July 2015

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ABORTION LAW AND POLICY REFORM*****************************************JULY 2015

NEPALAbortion services at government-run health institutions will be free14 July 2015http://thehimalayantimes.com/latest/nepal-fin-min-mahat-presents-budget-for-fy-201516/Finance Minister Mahat of Nepal presented his budget for financial year 2015/16. As part of wide-ranging increases in spending on development, he announced that abortion services at the government-run health institutions will be free, and that newborns up to 28 days old will get free treatment.

CANADAMifepristone finally receives approval from Health Canada29 July 2015http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/abortion-pill-ru-486-approved-by-health-canada-report/article25769674/After years of delays, Health Canada has approved the use of the medical abortion pill mifepristone, bringing Canada into line with nearly 60 countries where the medication, which provides access to what is considered the gold-standard of medical abortion care, has long been legal, including the United States, Australia and most of Europe. It is hoped it will be available by the first quarter of 2016.Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, , which represents about 80 per cent of Canada’s abortion providers, said in an interview late Wednesday that NAF has long heard from women seeking access to the drug. “Some have even crossed the border to obtain a medical abortion in the United States,” Ms. Saporta said. “There was absolutely no reason, given the outstanding safety record of mifepristone throughout the world, that it was not available in Canada.”Health Canada, which had been reviewing the decision since December 2012, did not make anyone available for an interview late Wednesday. In a statement, the department said only that such approvals are “arms-length decisions made by Health Canada officials based on analysis by Health Canada scientists.”

COSTA RICACosta Rican women try to pull legal therapeutic abortion out of limbo24 July 2015http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/costa-rican-women-try-to-pull-legal-therapeutic-abortion-out-of-limbo/En español

Rafael Ángel Calderón Hospital, San José. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

The lack of clear regulations and guidelines on therapeutic abortion in Costa Rica means women depend on the interpretation of doctors with regard to the circumstances under which the procedure can be legally practised. Article 121 of Costa Rica’s penal code stipulates that abortion is only legal when the mother’s health or life is at risk. But in practice the public health authorities only recognise risk to the mother’s life as legal grounds for terminating a pregnancy.”The problem is that while there are many women who meet the legal conditions, when they ask for a therapeutic abortion it is denied them on the argument that their life is not at risk,” Larissa Arroyo, a lawyer who belongs to the Collective for the Right to Decide, an organisation that defends women’s sexual and reproductive rights, told IPS. “The problem isn’t the law, but the interpretation of the law. It’s complicated because in the interactions we have had with doctors, they tell us: ‘Look, I would do it, but I’m not allowed to’,” said Arroyo.”Many women don’t ask for an abortion because they think it’s illegal,” Arroyo said. “If both women and doctors believe that, there’s no one to stick up for their rights.” This creates critical situations for women like “Ana” and “Aurora”, two Costa Rican women who were carrying fetuses that would not survive, but they were not allowed to have an abortion.Costa Rican Judge Elizabeth Odio, recently named to the San José-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights, said in a 20 June interview with La Nación that “it is obvious that therapeutic abortion, which already exists in our legislation, should be enforced.” In March, Health Minister Fernando Llorca acknowledged that “a debate on developing regulations on therapeutic abortion is necessary.” Activists are calling for a protocol to regulate legal abortion, established by the social security system. But progress towards a protocol has stalled since 2009.”For several years we have been working on a protocol with the Collective and the CCSS,” said Ligia Picado, with the Costa Rican Demographic Association. “But once it was completed, the CCSS authorities referred it to another department, and the personal opinions of functionaries, more emotional than legal, were brought to bear.” Groups of legislators have begun to press the CCSS to approve the protocol, along with the parliament’s Human Rights Commission, who sent a letter to the president of the CCSS supporting the need to issue guidelines.

CHILEChile’s ruling coalition split over abortion reform20 July 2015http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/20/chiles-abortion-reform-ruling-coalition-split

LaRepublica.pe, Foto EFE, 20 July 2015

President Michelle Bachelet’s push to reform the law on abortion in Chile has created a rift inside her ruling coalition, threatening key elements of the reform. Bachelet’s bill would allow an abortion if a woman’s life is in danger, the fetus is unviable or when the pregnancy is a result of rape.Leaders in the Christian Democrat party, the coalition’s senior partner, told Reuters that fewer than a third of its 21 legislators in the lower chamber of congress fully support the proposed reform, while other support only one or two of the grounds, meaning the Socialist party would be short of the votes needed to pass the current bill. It has been reported that the Christian Democrats will try to eliminate rape as a grounds and ensure that fathers have a say in the termination of an unviable fetus.Juan Luis Castro, a Socialist party lawmaker who is president of the lower house’s health committee and supports the reform, says he believes the rape clause will pass after debate. He added that the bill would be modified but that an amendment on paternal consent would be “difficult to accept”.Supporters of Bachelet’s plan oppose the idea of a woman needing permission to terminate a pregnancy.”Fathers, brothers, doctors, how can they tell you what to do with your body if they haven’t experienced what they’re talking about,” said Andrea Quiroga, an accountant who said she was forced to wait until a terminally ill fetus died in her womb before doctors induced delivery.Abortion in Chile is punishable by up to five years in prison although most women receive non-custodial punishments such as fines.

USAReproAction: New group taking action on abortion22 July 2015http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2015/07/22/meet-new-left-flank-reproductive-rights-movementThe founding theory of Reproaction is that the pro-choice movement is losing. Not because most Americans oppose reproductive rights, but because pro-choicers have been on the defensive for decades and too focused on defeating anti-choice politicians and legislation to actually work on advancing rights. Some states may actually have worse abortion access today than before the law was changed in 1973.When one of ReproAction’s founders travelled to Mississippi to work on the successful campaign to defeat a fetal “personhood” bill, she said it didn’t really feel like a victory as so much time, energy, and resources had to be spent just to keep the state from going backwards.During interviews and sessions with activists to discuss how to not just “protect choice,” but to actually expand reproductive rights and justice, the idea for the new group was formed. The sessions hit a nerve, and started a spark.The founders hope to create a “culture of direct action” in the pro-choice movement that will spread beyond what they do with ReproAction, although they acknowledge that this will not be easily possible for health-care providers nor lobbyists. Part of the reason the pro-choice movement is “stalled”, one of them said, is because it has “deep divisions, especially related to race, but also related to geography, who’s inside, who’s outside, too much focus on national when the real problems are in the states”.Reproaction’s official launch is on August 19. “We need to start talking about abortion with the kind of respect that we should hold for health care, instead of apologizing for it and acting as if it’s this godawful horrible thing nobody wants to talk about.”

USANo, Planned Parenthood isn’t selling ‘aborted baby parts’15 July 2015A heavily edited video that claims Planned Parenthood is “selling aborted baby parts” is spurring a new round of controversy over the national women’s health group – leading at least two presidential candidates to call for an investigation into the organization. In the video, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, is explaining how her organization handles tissue donation from aborted fetuses.http://thinkprogress.org/health/2015/07/15/3680714/planned-parenthood-controversy/In fact, Planned Parenthood legally helps people who wish to donate abortal tissue to do so. “Some Planned Parenthood affiliates have programs for women and families who want to donate tissue to leading research institutions that will use it to help find treatment and cures for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s,” said Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications at Planned Parenthood, in a statement.http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2015/07/15/profiting-fetal-body-parts-gop-sure/

Congress Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) speaks at rally on Capitol Hill sponsored by Planned ParenthoodAP PHOTO / J SCOTT APPLEWHITE

INDIABut first, let me take a selfie…by Suchitra Dalvie13 July, 2015http://asap-asia.org/blog/but-first-let-me-take-a-selfie-1/#sthash.Lr8chZ5m.XtIDhT94.dpbsAddressing the nation over the radio on 28 June 2015, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a nationwide social media campaign urging fathers to take selfies with their daughters, and post them on Twitter with the hashtag #SelfieWithDaughter. Having launched the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save the daughter, Educate the daughter) campaign in January, this was meant to build more support towards it.Very laudable efforts, one might think, but remember that this is a politician whose election campaign included holograms promising toilets in every household and accumulated enough Facebook fans to put him second only to Barack Obama among political leaders on the site. Meanwhile, anybody could submit a selfie and see it included in a mosaic of similar photos that added up to an image of Narendra Modi.People took up his call with great enthusiasm, took selfies with their daughters and posted them. But there were a few who criticized this, which should be fine in a democracy, isn’t it? However, social media is a universe unto itself and those who speak out, especially women, are often trolled and abused. One of these was actress Shruti Seth, who was extensively abused for expressing her views criticizing the campaign.An excerpt from the note she wrote in response:“On the morning of 28th June, I made the grave mistake of expressing my views on an initiative called #selfiewithdaughter which had been blessed by our PM. I then made a graver mistake of posting this opinion on Twitter. So not only did I dare to think, I also dared to place my thoughts in the public domain. And then, at the risk of sounding overly-Shakespearean, the floodgates of hell opened. I was subjected to a tsunami of hate tweets. 48 hours of non- stop trolling. The tweets were targeted at me, my family, my ‘Muslim’ husband, my 11 month old daughter and, of course, my non-existent, dwindling, no-good career as an actor…Men who were busy hash-tagging their selfies with their daughters one minute called me slanderous names the next. Asked me if I knew who my real father was. Questioned if I had been sexually abused as a child and hence was opposed to the idea of a selfie with my father… Well done, gentlemen. Your daughters must be so proud.How will taking a photograph nullify the misogyny and patriarchy that is so deeply entrenched in our society? Why bother to increase the number of girls being born when you choose to treat them with such indignity and disrespect? All those who trolled me incessantly for 48 hours, did you for once stop and think that I, too, am someone’s daughter? Did you ever ask yourselves how you’d feel if it were your daughter at the receiving end of all that hate? I’m guessing the answer is a big, resounding “No”. Because, you know, you were too busy pouting for the camera & getting ‘likes’ and ‘RT’s to your #selfiewithdaughter.”… So, this campaign which wants to ‘save’ the girl child and educate her probably needs to educate society first and save her from them! As usual it is about saving her to fulfill her role as a ‘good’ girl and daughter and wife. She deserves to be saved only if she will be ‘well-behaved’. Women face threats and abuse on social media on a regular basis but attacking them while pouting and posting photos with one’s daughter is just too ironic and pathetic.Rather than a selfie, perhaps Indian society needs to look in the mirror and ask why daughters need to be saved and from whom??!

INDIAIndian court denies late abortion to girl of 14 allegedly raped by doctor24 July 2015http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/24/indian-court-denies-late-abortion-girl-14-doctor-rapeAn Indian court has denied a 14-year-old girl a late-term abortion after she was allegedly raped by a doctor in the western state of Gujarat, her lawyer has said. In a decision that emerged on Friday, the Gujarat high court rejected a petition filed by the girl’s father, saying India’s abortion law does not allow termination of pregnancy after 20 weeks. The girl was more than 24 weeks pregnant. The parents had not yet decided whether to approach a higher court.The judge said it was a difficult decision but added that “whatever be the circumstances in which the child was conceived, whatever the trauma of the young mother, the fact remains that the child is also not to blame for being conceived. It did not ask to be born.”The father’s petition claimed his daughter became pregnant after she visited a doctor who injected her with sedatives and then raped her in February. The police subsequently arrested the doctor and he is being held in custody. In April, the same court denied an abortion to a 24-year-old gang rape victim, who was more than six months pregnant. The woman later refused to keep the baby, giving it up for adoption.

SPAINAbortion rights movement calls for suspension of law reform that will harm 16-18-year-old girls seeking abortion16 July 2015Full statement in SpanishThe Spanish Federation of Family Planning and the following members in the Spanish Society of Public Health and Health Administration: Spanish Society of Epidemiology, Society of Public Health of Cataluña y Baleares, Association of Public Health of Madrid, Spanish Society of Environmental Health, Spanish Society of Psychiatric Epidemiology, Andalusian Society of Public Health and Health Administration, Health Economy Association, Spanish Primary Care Network and the Society of Public Health of Canarias, call for suspension of the abortion reform in Spain.Under this reform, intended to be approved in September, girls aged 16-18are required to secure parental consent before terminating their pregnancy. This bill undermines women’s legal autonomy, ignores that almost 90% of minors who have had an abortion have done it informing their parents and being accompanied by them. It puts at risk a small but very vulnerable group: those girls at risk of abuse or social exclusion whom this legislative reform could drive to clandestine abortions, helplessness and legal insecurity. The reasons given by the Executive to amend the law confuse public opinion by concealing the objective reality, and do not take into account the recommendations of international bodies.The medical and health entities signing this statement have signed a public statement in which, besides the suspension of this bill, we call for a full implementation of the national strategy of sexual and reproductive health, with emphasis on training teachers in comprehensive sexuality education, improving access to sexual and reproductive health and family planning services, especially for the most vulnerable groups of the population, and increasing funding to ensure the availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of health services, information and education in the area of sexual and reproductive health, including modern and reliable contraceptives.

AUSTRALIALegislation tabled to ban anti-abortion protests outside Canberra’s abortion clinic20 July 2015http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/shane-rattenbury-prepares-to-ban-antiabortion-protests-outside-canberras-abortion-clinic-20150719-giefil.htmlThe Green Party leader is moving to outlaw protests near Canberra’s abortion clinic. He released draft legislation today aimed at putting an end to the regular vigils held outside the clinic, and prevent anti-abortion protesters handing out material to women coming and going from the clinic. The legislation does not set a specific distance around the clinic for the exclusion zone, leaving it to the health minister to declare an area “sufficient to ensure the privacy and unimpeded access for anyone entering”, but no bigger than necessary.The exclusion zone would be based on the footprint of the building, including the footpaths and roads outside and on the opposite side of the street.The legislation would also ban events such as prayers outside the clinic.Penalties are hefty, with fines of up to $3750 for protests or other kind of intimidation in the exclusion zone, and up to $7500 or six months in prison for publishing video or photographs of people entering or leaving a clinic. Mr Rattenbury hopes to have the bill debated in the Assembly by the end of the year. “This is about a woman being able to go down there and have this medical procedure without being harassed or intimidated,” he said. He had limited the scope as much as possible, with the “privacy zone” applying only to a small area and to the hours of 8am till 6pm on days the clinic was open. The ban on protest only applied to abortion and related health services.The legislation outlaws “harassment, hindering, intimidation, interference with, threatening or obstruction” designed to stop someone entering a clinic or having an abortion, or providing an abortion. It bans protests, and while it doesn’t define “protest”, Mr Rattenbury said silent vigils would not be allowed. Mr Rattenbury said that the extra pressure on women at a vulnerable time was not warranted. He was “very mindful of not impinging on people’s civil liberties” and keen to hear back on the proposal.Tasmania, which has similar legislation, imposes an exclusion zone of 150 metres.The director of the Women’s Centre for Health Matters said protests were held at least once a week, and women had sometimes tried to reschedule appointments to avoid protesters. Women entering the building for other appointments were also made to feel uncomfortable, along with staff, who felt they were “walking through a wall of people who were making judgements… We often get emails, we often have conversations with people that work in that building, and …what we hear is they do feel considerable distress in response to having those people there. Women feel ashamed and judged when they’re already feeling anxious… This is a legal health service and about the right to privacy.”

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