Due to our three-week break in publication, there are far more news reports to share than we can provide in full. Here are eight reports in brief, with links to the full reports – all well worth reading.


Vaticanstruggles to keep up with clergy abuse cases

TheVatican office responsible for processing clergy sex abuse complaints has seena record 1,000 cases reported from around the world this year, including fromcountries it had not heard from before – suggesting that the worst may be yetto come in a crisis that has plagued the Roman Catholic Church.

SOURCE:Al Jazeera, 20 December 2019



Four sets of guidelines on access to safe abortion withdrawnbetween 2012 and 2018

In Uganda, 60% ofwomen will experience sexual and gender-based violence in their lifetimes, and26% of maternal mortality is from abortion-related causes. The law on abortionis very restrictive, but what is authorised by law remains poorly understood. TheSexual and Reproductive Health Service Standards and Guidelines (2017) werepulled at the last minute due to disagreements on the age at which young peoplecould be offered contraception. The Ministry of Health’s Standards and Guidelines for theReduction of Maternal Morbidity and Mortality from Unsafe Abortion in Uganda,issued in June 2015, were also later withdrawn. And the Sexual and Reproductive Health ServiceStandards and Guidelines 2012, also allowing safe termination ofpregnancy to victims of rape, defilement and incest, in consultation withlawyers, are out of date and not usable. Fear of breaking the law is so deeplyentrenched that some health service providers shy away from providingpost-abortion care, which is completely legal.

SOURCE: FIGO News, by Dr Kayondo SimonPeter, Project Coordinator, FIGO Advocating for Safe Abortion Project, 3December 2019



It’stime to act: deaths and morbidity from unsafe abortion

InTanzania, contraceptive prevalence has remained low – only 38% of married womenare using the services. According to the Tanzania Demographic & HealthSurvey 2010, only 9% of sexually active youth who want to avoid pregnancy usemodern contraceptives, while 23% of young women aged 15 to 19 are mothers.

SOURCE:IPP Media, by Kenneth Simbaya, 30 December2019



Sale of illegal abortion pills is increasing

The illegal sale of abortion pills online isproliferating in Malaysia through platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitterand WeChat, which appear and disappear quickly, and are also smuggled into thecountry using postal and courier services. The Health Ministry isunsuccessfully trying to clamp down on such sales. The Health Director-GeneralDatuk, Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, fearmongering, said that unsupervised use ofabortion pills could result in uterine rupture, abnormal bleeding and fatalinfections if left untreated, or birth defects if the pills didn’t work. Butthis is a gross exaggeration. Dr John Teo, of the Federation of ReproductiveHealth Associations of Malaysia said prevention, support, destigmatisation ofabortion and better access to safe and legal termination of pregnancy wouldaddress the online sale of abortion pills effectively.

SOURCES: FreeMalaysia Today, by Bernama, 27 December 2019 ; NST, by SarahRahim, 27 December 2019 ; FreeMalaysia Today, by John Teo, 29 December 2019 ; NST, by TehAthira Yusof, 6 January 2020



Presidentsays therapeutic abortions will be allowed

On paper, a 50-year-old law allows abortion “toavoid a threat to the mother’s life or health”, but it is not applied. On12 December 2019, President Carlos Alvarado issued a technical decree to allowfor therapeutic abortions at public hospitals and private clinics withinsix months.He claims this will save women’s lives and protect their health. HealthMinister Daniel Salas said therapeutic abortions can be carried out if threerequirements are met: if there is no other medical alternative (already in thelaw), if the woman gives consent, and after mandatory evaluation by three medical professionals. A new poll foundthat some 58% of Costa Ricans are in favour of these legal changes.

SOURCE: Thomson Reuters, by Anthony Esposito et al, 13 December 2019



Abortion protocol battle pre-election; promiseof law reform by new government afterwards

Frustration boiled over on both sides of the aisleafter former President Mauricio Macri revoked the Health Secretary AdolfoRubinstein’s new protocol for non-punishable abortions, calling its imposition aunilateral decision. This caused the debate over abortion in Argentina to seizenational headlines once again, but the week ended with the Health Secretary’sresignation. The protocol was intended as a guide and to guarantee access,especially in cases where the law already allows for the termination of pregnancy– as the result of rape and when the mother’s health or life is in danger – butis not consistently implemented. It also said girls aged 13-16 years would no longerneed authorisation from parents or guardians to seek abortion, unless itinvolved a high level of risk. Those under 13 would still need such permission,but if this was refused, a health professional could allow it. Then there werenational elections, and under the new president, a new protocol was passed,which it seems only guarantees access to abortion in cases of rape.

SOURCES: BuenosAires Times by Carly Graf, 23 November 2019 ; BuenosAires Times, 23 November 2019 ; National Post, by Hugh Bronstein, Reuters, 12December 2019



Half of Irish GPs ready to giveabortion pills, says Limerick university study

Abortion services are available in 10 out of 19maternity units in Ireland, and through 347 GPs in the community. Overall, less than 15% of GPs signed up toprovide abortion services in the first year of the new law. But those providingservices, the majority of whom are prescribing abortion pills, have an overwhelminglypositive view. A new study of 222 non-providing GPs by researchers at LimerickUniversity found that 48% would be willing to prescribe abortion pills. A lackof training was one reason why many others were reluctant. Of 105 doctors whoresponded, only four felt they had sufficient training in the area. A Health ServiceExecutive clinical lead for abortion (part-time), Dr Aoife Mullally, anobstetrician at the Coombe hospital in Dublin, has been appointed. Her maintask will be to ensure the roll out of termination of pregnancy in morematernity units, GP surgeries and other community settings.

SOURCES: SundayTimes, by Colin Coyle, 15 December 2019 ; IrishTimes, by Paul Cullen, Jennifer Bray, 30 December 2019 ; IrishTimes, by Paul Cullen, 30 December 2019 ;



Over 350 lawyers and legal professionals who have hadabortions have filed an amicus brief in an upcoming Supreme Court case

The legal professionals who signs the brief includeattorneys, law professors, public defenders, prosecutors, retired judges,current law students and a senior attorney with the Department of Justice. Thelatter joined the brief anonymously and “on behalf of herself and all theother lawyers working in the highest echelons of government who have hadabortions”. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case on 4 March2020 about a Louisiana law that requires abortion providers to have admittingprivileges with a nearby hospital. A similar law in Texas, was struck down in 2016 by the thenSupreme Court as unconstitutional.

SOURCE: ABC News, by Alexandra Svokos, 2 December 2019

TOP PHOTO: US Supreme Court; credit UpstateNYer