Abortion pills will be crucial in a post-Roe world. But they’re not the magic fix many think they are. Let me repeat: equity, equity, equity
by Becca Andrews, Mother Jones, 7 June 2022
I write this while staring at my “ABORTION PILLS FOREVER” poster (above), courtesy of Shout Your Abortion. But for the past couple of years, I’ve been asking activists: What about the people I know who could never access the medication?…
There are the rural folks who don’t have reliable access to broadband internet…estimates range from 14.5 million, to 30 million to as high as 42 million. Then there are countless people who simply can’t risk getting caught – maybe a teenager, or someone with an abusive partner, not to mention anyone fearing prosecution in a rapidly changing legal environment that is eager to target abortion pills….
To this end, people of color, who are disproportionately prosecuted unfairly under a criminal justice system that targets them for Blackness above all else, may understandably hesitate before trying to illegally – or even legally – acquire abortion pills….
The truth is, a one-size-fits-all solution to abortion access simply does not exist because of the deep, lasting inequalities that exist in this country….
Outrage in Poland over new ‘pregnancy register’ on the back of near-total abortion ban
Poland’s government is facing criticism over a new provision that requires doctors to record each pregnancy in the country. Opposition MPs have labelled the medical data list as a “pregnancy register” and an infringement of women’s rights.
Poland has placed a near-total ban on abortion and activists are concerned that women will face unprecedented surveillance from the ruling conservative party.
Under the order by Health Minister Adam Niedzielski, doctors must now record information about pregnancies, including any past or current illnesses, medical visits, treatments and blood type… Opposition lawmakers say this register could be a “new tool of repression” against women that was aimed to detect possible illegal abortions. The register can also be accessed by the Polish prosecutor’s office, subject to a court ruling.
The government register was also denounced by Poland’s opposition leader and former EU Council President Donald Tusk. “Polish women need care, not control,” Tusk said during a press conference.
The new measure could see many Polish women seek private treatment or travel abroad, even for prenatal care. Government plans to report pregnant women who were seen drinking or smoking were withdrawn after widespread demonstrations.
SOURCE: Euronews, with AFP, AP, 7 June 2022
New law on the comprehensive guarantee of sexual freedom
-Consent as a criterion to distinguish abuse from rape. Until now the law determined that without violence or intimidation there is no rape, but simply abuse. The new law recognizes the existence of rape or sexual assault whenever there is no consent, in accordance with the Istanbul Convention. Consent exists “when it has been freely manifested by acts which, having regard to the circumstances, clearly express the will of the person.”
-Consent by chemical submission. Until now the use of drugs, which can override the will of the victim, was considered only abuse. The new law establishes it as an aggravating circumstance for the crime of sexual aggression.
-Femicide due to sexual violence. This specifically addresses the murder of women linked to sexual violence and defines sexual femicide as “the most serious violation of human rights linked to sexual violence, which must be made visible and to which a specific response must be given”, starting with the collection and publication of separate statistical data on this form of violence.
-Street harassment and digital violence. The new law also criminalises other forms of violence, such as street harassment, which will be a misdemeanour offence, and sexual violence in the digital sphere, including sexual extortion and non-consensual pornography.
-Crisis centres. At least 50 crisis centres will be opened, one in each province, which will operate 24 hours a day and will provide psychological, legal and social care to victims, family members and people around them in person, by telephone and online.
-Reparation and financial aid. The new law recognises the right to reparation to “achieve the complete recovery of the victims and the guarantees of non-repetition of the violence”. Victims of sexual violence will be able to access, like other victims of gender-based violence, income support. Those with incomes below the minimum inter-professional wage will receive financial assistance equivalent to six months of unemployment benefit, which will be increased if they are disabled or have other dependents.
-Sex and gender equality education. The law on minors will be modified so that, in the case of aggressors under 18 years of age, the penalties will always include the obligation to carry out sex and gender equality education programmes. These subjects will also be included in all stages of the public education system, as well as in university courses in the teaching, health or judicial fields.
SOURCE: E-mail. Filomena Ruggiero. SEDRA: Federación de Planificación Familiar, Spain. 7 June 2022
Safe abortion within the Venezuelan complex humanitarian emergency: understanding context as key to identifying the potential for digital self-care tools in expanding access
by Génesis Luigi-Bravo, Roopan Kaur Gill
Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, 2022;29(3) (Open access)
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines “complex humanitarian emergencies” as significant disruptions in livelihoods, the product of a combination of political instability, violence, social inequities, and underlying poverty that lead to large-scale displacements. Several human rights organisations have used this term to define the Venezuelan situation, given the complexity of the political crisis that turned the country’s economy into one of the most volatile in the world…. [M]ore than half of the Venezuelan population live in conditions of extreme poverty, or heavily dependent on remittances in $US…. Women’s, adolescents’ and young girls’ health is disproportionately affected by the crisis…. The adolescent fertility rate coexists with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the region (125 deaths per 100,000 live births). Data gathered by civil society suggests that 13% of all maternal mortality in Venezuela is due to unsafe abortion….
Venezuelans have been turning increasingly to digital tools to find information, supplies, and healthcare services, including SRH. Digital health is an umbrella term that refers to the use of information and communication technologies for health to advance access to universal health coverage. According to Váyalo Foundation, 51% of adolescents and young people in Venezuela use the internet and social media as primary sources to access SRH information. In addition, a diverse network of abortion hotlines in Venezuela provides information on safe medical abortion and virtual accompaniment through digital means (phone and instant messaging platforms), and the demand is considerable. In 2019, the hotline Faldas-R received a total of 1142 calls with information requests. Digital self-care tools could have a prominent role in facilitating information provision and strengthening accompaniment models, considering that one of people’s first contacts with SRH content, including abortion, is through the web or mobile devices.
This commentary aims to highlight the importance of understanding the context when designing digital tools for SRH self-care in humanitarian settings. We draw insights from the contextual analysis that was essential to the design process of Aya Contigo, a digital self-care tool that provides information and virtual accompaniment during the medical abortion process up to the first trimester. The overall research and design process included the following phases: (a) contextual analysis and stakeholder engagement and mixed-method exploratory research, (b) user-centred design principles to design and develop the mobile-based digital tool, and (c) mixed-methods feasibility and acceptability pilot study. We focus on findings from the exploratory research. In this phase, we conducted a contextual analysis through a desk review of Venezuela’s complex humanitarian emergency; a mapping of national SRH and abortion legislation, policies, programmes, and main stakeholders; and in-depth interviews with local activists, SRH service providers, and prospective users. We also facilitated workshops where stakeholders shared their inputs on the pertinence of digital self-care tools in the Venezuelan context.
The main takeaway from the contextual analysis and stakeholder interviews was that community members (grassroots organisations, collectives, local providers, and prospective users) must be at the centre of each digital SRH self-care development phase. Digital health implementers must acknowledge that these tools function within an ecosystem of already existing networks of care, providers, and community activists that deliver SRH information and services. Likewise, the overall research and design process of digital health tools should be flexible to adapt to the rapidly changing environment of humanitarian settings, which often have poor communications infrastructure and electrical supply, deficient public transportation to mobilise, and a political environment that hinders open advocacy for reproductive justice, including abortion rights.
Pushing past the tipping point: Can the Inter-American system accommodate abortion rights?
by Patricia Palacios Zuloaga
Human Rights Law Review 2020;00:1–36 DOI 10.1093/hrlr/ngab014 (Open access)
While anti-abortion activists have been successful in pushing to restrict access to abortion across the USA, reproductive rights activists have been mobilizing across Latin America to push for the easement of strict anti-abortion policies. These opposing directions of travel have renewed interest in which human rights arguments would best support the expansion of access to abortion in Latin America. To date, progress in this area has mostly relied on understanding that the prohibition of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment requires states to allow abortions in the direst of circumstances. However, the vast majority of women in the region who seek abortions do not qualify for the small exemptions contained in the law. Activists looking to expand abortion provisions beyond the cruelty paradigm therefore need to find arguments that can stand firm in a generally conservative Latin American region. In this search, the Inter-American System could, somewhat surprisingly, provide keys to constructing a new discourse surrounding reproductive rights based on a nuanced understanding of structural discrimination and a willingness to visibilise the suffering of women.
Illegal abortion and reproductive injustice in the Pacific Islands: A qualitative analysis of court data
by Kate Burry, Kristen Beek, Lisa Vallely, Heather Worth, Bridget Haire
Developing World Bioethics, 2022;1–10. (Open access)
The Oceania region is home to some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws, and there is evidence of Pacific Island women’s reproductive oppression across several aspects of their reproductive lives, including in relation to contraceptive decision‐making, birthing, and fertility. In this paper we analyse documents from court cases in the Pacific Islands regarding the illegal procurement of abortion. We undertook inductive thematic analysis of documents from eighteen illegal abortion court cases from Pacific Island countries. Using the lens of reproductive justice, we discuss the methods of abortion, the reported context of these abortions, and the ways in which these women and abortion were constructed in judges’ summing up, judgements, or sentencing. Our analysis of these cases reveals layers of sexual and reproductive oppression experienced by these women that are related to colonialism, women’s socio-economic disadvantage, gendered violence, limited reproductive control, and the punitive consequences related to not performing gender appropriately.