Despite being predominantly online, International Safe Abortion Day, 28 September 2021 was as big as ever; a reflection of the tireless work and commitment of activists worldwide to mark the day with a huge and wide-ranging number of events.
We have now collected reports of activities, events and advocacy from across our global network of 1500+ members, all of which are compiled below, organised by region.
You can find out more about The Campaign’s theme and call to action for 28 September 2020 here.
WOMEN ON WEB
Research, crowdfunding, seminars, solidarity campaign, and 11 robots delivering abortion pills and more
Women on Web had a very eventful and successful International Safe Abortion Day this year. In addition to our own research release and our Take Back the Ban crowdfunding campaign, we participated in two live seminars – one in collaboration with IPPF ESEAOR and the other with Women’s Link South Korea
Our Take Back the Ban crowdfunding campaign ran on themes of solidarity and normalization, providing a series of cartoons depicting normal circumstances of abortion and support. We developed certificates that could be downloaded with the receipt of each donation as a way of demonstrating a celebratory approach to autonomy and self-care. The imagery associated with the campaign evoked a casual and compassionate message of taking care of each other as way of “taking back the ban”, referring to recent abortion law setbacks. Animation video Take Back the Ban Campaign
Our collaboration with IPPF ESEAOR also focused on solidarity, both in a webinar discussion and a social media campaign. The webinar discussion with Women’s Link in South Korea looked at medical abortion services in South Korea. Webinar with Women’s Link in South Korea
In Mexico, we helped choreograph the rAborta campaign alongside many local groups and services from all over the country. Throughout the day on September 28th, 11 robots attended organized demonstrations in 11 states to illustrate women’s ability to gain abortion access and exercise their rights through telemedicine, and demand legalization of abortion throughout Mexico. For a complete list of groups participating in the campaign, please click here.
The abortion robot is meant to symbolize women’s reliance on technology to meet their rights. The robot is operated in Mexico City where abortion is legal and then delivers abortion pills to women in the legally restricted states. By respecting the different laws in each state, the abortion robot sought to meet the needs of Mexican women without breaking the law.
For women living outside of the four Mexican states that have legalized abortion care, accessing safe abortion is difficult and requires support and accompaniment from other networks. The rAborta campaign aimed to shed light on the importance of equal access for all and demand all Mexican states legalize abortion. Each robot was controlled by a doctor in Mexico City and received by 11 states that have yet to legalize abortion care. We then held a press conference on September 29th at El Museo de Memoria y Tolerancia. It resulted in coverage by over 100 publications. Video: rAborta Campaign in Mexico
World Contraception Day, 26 September 2021 Every women and adolescent girl has the right to access contraception and family planning services, information and education, UN Experts say.
Under international human rights law, States must ensure sexual and reproductive health services, including modern forms of contraception, and information and education on family planning.
“Access to family planning and contraception services, free of coercion or impediment, is a component of the right to health that is central to women’s autonomy and agency and key in the realization of women’s rights to equality and non-discrimination, life, sexual and reproductive health rights and other human rights.”
States must respect and protect key principles of non-discrimination, equality and privacy, as well as bodily integrity, autonomy, dignity and well-being of individuals, especially in relation to sexual and reproductive health rights.
Contraceptives enable women and adolescent girls to exercise their right to decide whether to be pregnant, the number and spacing of their children and to have pleasurable and safe sexual experiences without the risk of unintended pregnancies. Contraception also improves the socioeconomic opportunities for women and open up more educational opportunities for adolescent girls.
Globally, more women (or their partners) are using contraceptive methods today than ever before. Despite great progress in extending family planning in the past decades, access to contraceptives is still insufficient and uneven.
One in ten women of reproductive age – some 270 million according to WHO estimates – have an unmet need for family planning and more than 200 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using modern contraception due to a range of barriers….
As demonstrated in several instances, contraception is not always as efficacious as indicated, and Governments and private companies should be held accountable in cases where defective contraceptives are circulated. Also, there are many cases where contraception methods fail, therefore, access to safe and legal abortion services is crucial to ensure women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health rights.
We deplore that emergency contraception is banned, highly restricted or simply not prioritized in many places.
Victims/survivors of sexual violence should automatically be provided with emergency contraception and safe abortion procedures when a pregnancy results. This should be a standard protocol and its absence represents a violation of women’s human rights.
We also regret that the lack of funding and investment in contraception is inadequate almost everywhere. Even in wealthy nations, unaffordability and lack of insurance coverage represents a major issue and affects access for many which represents blatant discrimination. In this regard, we commend those countries who ensure free and universal access to contraceptives, in particular for adolescents and young women.
On World Contraception Day (26 September) and International Safe Abortion Day (28 September), we call on States to live up to their legal obligations under current human rights standards, decriminalise abortion, repeal laws prohibiting access to emergency contraception and ensure respect for and protection and fulfilment of sexual and reproductive health rights, including through the systematic inclusion of comprehensive and scientifically based sexuality education in all school curricula, also in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Safe Abortion Day: WHO praises innovation driven by the context of Covid-19
Journée de l’avortement sans risque : l’OMS loue l’innovation entrainée par le contexte de la Covid-19
“On International Safe Abortion Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) celebrates global efforts to protect the continued provision of comprehensive abortion care, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to test the capacity of health systems to provide essential services.
“WHO says that while the pandemic exacerbates existing inequalities and jeopardises access to safe abortion without delay, it is also pushing sexual and reproductive health actors to cooperate on this crucial public health and human rights issue. The UN agency says Covid-19 has undoubtedly created unique opportunities to expand the range of means by which providers offer safe abortion services. These new ways could also improve the capacities of women and individuals to obtain comprehensive, good quality abortion care that matches their values, preferences and circumstances – during the pandemic, and beyond it.
“Globally, three in ten pregnancies end in induced abortion. According to global estimates nearly half of all abortions are unsafe, and developing countries disproportionately bear the burden of 97% of all unsafe abortions. Abortion is a health care service that saves lives and protects the health and well-being of women and girls.
“Digital technologies are shown to play a crucial role in responding to the challenges of Covid-19, for example, with the implementation of telemedicine solutions to enable self-management of abortion and expand the availability of safe abortion in rural and underserved communities.
“Other examples of successful digital interventions include virtual post-abortion follow-up meetings with clients to detect potential complications and maximise opportunities to provide post-abortion contraceptive information, as well as communicating remote information on abortion-related care products to doctors and pharmacists, in order to reinforce their correct use and avoid stock-outs.
Let’s make unsafe abortion history: SAIGE statement for International Safe Abortion Day
In commemoration of International Safe Abortion Day on September 28th today, ARROW calls upon governments in Asia and the Pacific region to recognise and ensure universal access to safe abortion. Here is the statement by the Safe Abortion Advocacy Initiative Global South Engagement (SAIGE).
The statement was also delivered by ARROW at the 48th Session of the Human Rights Council Annual discussion on the integration of a gender perspective throughout the work of the Human Rights Council and that of its mechanisms. Click on this video to watch the intervention.
SAIGE Statement Between 2015-2019, 73.3 million abortions occurred worldwide each year. Of these, 1 out of 3 were carried out in the least safe or dangerous conditions. Over half of all estimated unsafe abortions globally were in Asia, most of them in South and Central Asia. Likewise, 3 out of 4 abortions that occurred in Africa and Latin America were unsafe. In developing countries, about 7 million women are admitted to hospitals every year as a result of unsafe abortion. Each year, between 4.7 – 13.2% of maternal deaths can be attributed to unsafe abortion.
Laws and policies play a critical role in contributing to or alleviating the barriers in accessing safe abortion services. Safe abortion rights advocates and activists globally have articulated over and over that restrictive laws on abortion does not only have a negative impact on public health, but also on social justice. Rather than making abortion safer or improving health and lives, criminalisation of abortion leads to less safe abortions and worse health outcomes and thus perpetuates gender stereotypes and abortion stigma. The likelihood of ill-health and legal risk is greatly heightened for marginalised groups of pregnant persons. Despite the evidence of this harmful approach, criminalisation of abortion remains prevalent in the Global South.
Moreover, recognition of safe abortion as a part of essential healthcare has been under question since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Access to safe abortion services were severely impeded in many countries in the Global South. These conditions unfairly impacted the most vulnerable groups of pregnant persons. Positively, abortion was confirmed as an essential healthcare service by the World Health Organization (WHO) last June 2020, wherein governments can support SMA via telemedicine. Self-managed abortions (SMA) occur when a person chooses to perform their own abortion outside a medical setting. WHO has recognized SMA as important to the optimal use of healthcare resources and to the empowering role it plays, which is vital during a period when pregnant persons are otherwise facing higher levels of discrimination. Pregnant persons choose to self-manage their abortions for various reasons and this needs to be protected, in line with the principle of bodily autonomy and trusting women’s reproductive choices.
As advocates, we call upon all states and governments to recognise the reproductive health rights and ensure universal access to quality safe abortion services and post-abortion care for pregnant people. We call for abortion decriminalisation and the adoption of legal frameworks that enable pregnant persons to exercise their right to bodily autonomy, health and life.
MÉDECINS SANS FRONTIÈRES
My abortion story: 15 women share their experiences for 28 September 2021
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides safe abortion care and also treats people for the consequences of unsafe abortion, a leading cause of maternal mortality. In 2020, MSF teams provided more than 30,000 safe abortions in our health care facilities around the world. When our teams talk to people who are deciding to have an abortion, we often hear their personal stories.
To mark International Safe Abortion Day, September 28, we want to help break abortion stigma by sharing some first-person stories from women in the places where MSF works. We hear from women all over the world – from Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Greece, India, Middle East, Mozambique, and South Africa – including students, midwives, and people with and without children.
MSF is committed to using our voice to ensure that people everywhere have access to safe abortion care. Safe abortion care is essential health care.
This is a heartfelt collection of personal histories and the services provided by MSF.
It’s time to make unsafe abortion history International Safe Abortion Day this year brings an end to a month of highs and lows on abortion rights. While Mexico has moved to decriminalise abortion, the law in Texas that bans abortion as early as six weeks is a clear reminder that we can never be complacent in our fight for the right to choose.
Read our blog on why it’s more important than ever for us to raise our voices for choice, and make unsafe abortion history.
Every year since the Campaign began in 2012, both we and WGNRR have taken the leadership on promoting 28 September, developing the theme and hashtags with other INGOs and publishing reports of activities, statements, etc. Below is a list of activities and reports in 2021 that WGNRR organised and/or published on their website, with links to the full texts.
#MakeUnsafeAbortionHistory: A Global South Conversation on Safe Abortion
Speakers: Christina Boateng, International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion on this year’s theme; Nondo Ejano, WGNRR Africa, on abortion in the African region and the movement building in the region; Sai Rachela, SAIGE/ARROW, on what’s happening in Asia and Asian advocates’ demands; Grecia Lozano, on the successes, challenges and how to move forward in the Latin American region; Phyllis Mbeke, Women Spaces Kenya, and Judy Ann Miranda, Labor Sector in the Philippines, discussed the intersections of abortion rights advocacy with the disability rights and labour rights movements, respectively; Pushpa Joshi, Youth-led Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights Advocacy Nepal on the demands of young people to end unsafe abortion. In the synthesis, Jihan Jacob, Center for Reproductive Rights, highlighted decriminalisation, de-medicalisation, equity, inclusion and diversity, and intersectionality as the session’s themes. She also stressed that making unsafe abortion history is not just about access to abortion care but also about making care responsive to specific needs and realities. The conversation was moderated by Marevic Parcon from WGNRR.
Visual Notes from #MakeUnsafeAbortionHistory: Global South Conversation on Safe Abortion
Messages of Love, Kindness, and Support
for People Who Had an Abortion
WGNRR received messages of support from 33 countries and shared over 90 notes on WGNRR’s Instagram.
Regional approaches to safe abortion webinar
Organised by the Coalition to Stop Maternal Mortality from Unsafe Abortion/CEHURD, Uganda
AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS
Hon. Maria Teresa Manuela, Angola
Statement of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa:
Hon. Maria Teresa Manuela, Angola
“28th September every year is celebrated globally to recognize and reflect on the journey of realizing women’s right and access to reproductive health care services. It is also a time to reflect on the state of implementing various laws and policies that protect the rights of women and girls to have a quality reproductive health life.
“The sexual and reproductive health rights of many women and girls in Africa including access to safe abortion, which is one of the largest contributors to maternal mortality and morbidity in Africa have not been fully respected and promoted. According to the World Health Organisation, 3 out of 4 abortions carried out in Africa are unsafe and the risk of dying through these unsafe abortions is also the highest in Africa. It estimates that over 6 million unsafe abortions occur in Africa, resulting in 29,000 deaths and countless serious injuries and disabilities every year for African women and girls under the age of 25. It also indicates that unsafe abortion continues to be a public health crisis, accounting for up to 30% of maternal deaths in many sub-Saharan countries.
“The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic also exacerbated the restriction of women and girls to access health and reproductive health care services due to lock down measures imposed by many African Governments to stem the spread of the virus. Many women and girls were unable to access these services as it was not regarded as an essential service at the time. However, many of these African States have reversed this trend now.
“As the premier human rights institution in Africa, the Commission has, through the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa (The Special Rapporteur) embarked on many activities to promote and protect the rights of women including advocating for women’s right to safe and legal abortion as guaranteed in Article 14 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women (Maputo Protocol). The latter requires State Parties to ensure the realization of the right to health of women, including sexual and reproductive health including, by authorizing medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or the life of the mother or the foetus.
“In addition, the Commission adopted General Comment No. 2, which seeks to provide interpretative guidance of Article 14 on the general and specific obligations of States Parties to respect, protect, fulfil and promote the sexual and reproductive health rights of women and also launched in 2016, the Campaign to Decriminalise Abortion in African countries and undertake reforms on policy and abortion related laws. Targeted sensitization activities are also carried out during the Sessions of the Commission and in other fora in collaboration with its partners and stakeholders.
“Despite the above, women and girls continue to face legal and practical challenges in accessing safe and legal abortion in Africa. Out of the 42 State Parties that have ratified the Maputo Protocol, some have entered reservations on Article 14(2) (c) of the Maputo Protocol and thus prohibits or restricts access to safe and legal abortion, whilst in others, the process of domestication of the Maputo Protocol has been slow or non-existent thereby making their national laws non-compliant with its provisions. In some countries, abortion is also criminalized but its enforcement is discriminatory as it is mostly the poor, rural, uneducated and vulnerable women who are at the highest risk of police investigations, arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment for unsafe abortions. Some of the practical challenges also include, lack of access to information and education on sexual and reproductive health, lack of adequate allocation of financial and other resources to promote and protect the sexual and reproductive health rights of women and exorbitant medical fees to secure safe abortion, where available.
“On this important day, the Special Rapporteur would like to remind African States of their obligations under the Maputo Protocol and other international human rights instruments; including their obligations to put in place appropriate measures to realize women’s access to reproductive health care services. The Special Rapporteur also CALLS on States to decriminalise abortion in line with the Commission’ Campaign as well as empower women and girls to make their own choices about their reproductive health.”
The Special Rapporteur further calls on African States that have not yet done so, to ratify, domesticate and implement the Maputo Protocol and intensify their efforts to ensure the full realization of the rights of women in Africa.
Here are two resources published very recently by the Population Reference Bureau Safe Engage Project that are of interest in relation to International Safe Abortion Day. They are focused on Benin and Guinea respectively. The former was produced jointly with Medical Students for Choice – Benin. The latter jointly with Today’s Women International Network (Réseau International des Femmes d’Aujourd’hui).
Both reports are in French only. / Les deux rapports sont en français seulement:
Notre Santé, Notre Avenir: Outillons les jeunes professionnels de santé pour un meilleur accès à l’avortement sécurisé au Bénin est un livret de plaidoyer crée en collaboration avec Medical Students for Choice – Bénin. Le livret présente les enjeux de l’avortement non sécurisé au Bénin et fait appel aux décideurs dans le Ministère de la Santé d’investir dans les solutions réalisables pour adresser ce problème. En améliorant la connaissance du cadre légal de l’avortement sécurisé au Bénin, en investissant dans la formation de prestataires de santé en soins complets d’avortement, et en impliquant des jeunes étudiant(e)s et professionnels de santé dans les activités de plaidoyer et de sensibilisation, le Bénin peut assurer qu’aucune femme met sa vie à risque pour cause d’une grossesse non désirée.
L’accès à la santé sexuelle et reproductive en Guinée. En collaboration avec Today’s Women International Network/Réseau International des Femmes d’Aujourd’hui (TWIN/RIFA), Safe Engage a produit une fiche d’information et une vidéo de plaidoyer pour communiquer les enjeux de l’accès aux soins complets de la santé de la reproduction en Guinée, notamment la planification familiale et les soins après avortement. Avec un meilleur investissement dans la couverture sanitaire des soins au pays, surtout pour les jeunes, la Guinée peut assurer l’avenir et le bien-être de sa population.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
SOJFEP in Tanganyika
En marge de la Journée Internationale de l’Avortement Sécurisé, le 28 septembre, c’est ce jeudi 30 septembre 2021 que Solidarité des Jeunes Filles pour l’Education et l’Intégration Socioprofessionnelles – SOJFEP, en partenariat avec la Division Provinciale de la Santé du Tanganyika — ont convié l’Inspection provinciale de la santé du Tanganyika, les autorités judiciaires militaires et civiles, les présidents des chambres de conseils provinciaux des ordres nationaux des médecins, infirmiers, pharmaciens et sages-femmes, les partenaires techniques et financiers et quelques organisations féministes et partenaires de Girls First Fund, pour un plaidoyer afin d’accélérer les processus d’intégration des Soins Complets centrés sur la femme (SCACF) dans le système de santé.
[Following on from International Safe Abortion Day, 28 September, on 30 September, the group SOJFEP (Solidarity of Young Girls for Education and Socio-professional Integration), in partnership with the Provincial Health Division of Tanganyika invited the Provincial Health Inspectorate of Tanganyika, the military and civil judicial authorities, the presidents of the chambers of the provincial councils of the national orders of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and midwives, technical and financial partners and some feminist organisations and partners of Girls First Fund, for an advocacy to accelerate the processes of integration of Comprehensive Care Centered on Women (SCACF) in the health system.]
SOURCE: monmedia.net, by Ernest Mwana Kasongo, 30 September 2021 ; Sent by Giscard Mukucha, SOJFEP
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
Une journée sensibilisatrice, Salvatrice de la stigmatisation entourant l’avortement dans les carrés miniers !!!
Le 28 septembre, la journée mondiale de l’avortement sécurisé est célébrée à Misisi par l’organisation GFV-VIH/SIDA. En partenariat avec la CND (Coalition pour les naissances désirées), deux grandes activités ont été au rendez-vous : La marche publique et une conférence débat autour des actions et lutte pour un accès sûr et légal à l’avortement sécurisé dans les villages de Misisi, Nyange et Lulimba, de la pénalisation au protocole de Maputo et Normes SCACF (Soins Complet d’Avortement Centrés sur la Femme).
[In partnership with the Coalition for Wanted Births, we organised two big activities: a public march and a discussion about taking action and the struggle for legal access to safe abortion in three villages – Misisi, Nyange and Lulimba –the Maputo Protocol, and the norms described in SCACF (Complete Care for Abortion Centred on the Woman).]
60 femmes et filles professionnelles de sexes, 20 femmes et filles victimes de grossesses issues des violences sexuelles et 15 alliés féministes y ont pris part. A la fin de cette festivité, les manifestants ont recommandées aux autorités politico administratives de bien insérer dans le plan budgétaire annuel les questions liées aux SCACF à travers l’amélioration des conditions d’offre de services d’avortements et soins post avortement aux niveau des structures médicaux ; au GFV d’assurer la formation d’au moins un infirmiers et une accoucheuse des chaque centre médical des villages périphériques et lointain ; mettre à la disposition des femmes et filles les informations sur l’usage correcte de Misoprostol et Mifépristone et Permettre aux personnels soignants d’exercer leur métier dans un environnement juridiquement protégé afin d’espérer à zéro cas de décès due à l’avortement non sécurisé.
[60 professional women and girls, 20 women and girls victims of pregnancies resulting from sexual violence, and 15 feminist allies took part. At the end of this event, it was recommended to the authorities to properly include in the annual budget issues related to SCACF through the improvement of the conditions for offering abortion services and post-abortion care in medical facilities; the GFV to ensure the training of at least one nurse and one midwife from each medical centre in peripheral and remote villages; provide women and girls with information on the correct use of misoprostol and mifepristone; and enable healthcare workers to practice their profession in a legally protected environment in order to aim for zero cases of death due to unsafe abortion.]
Maputo 14, Norms SCACF, je suis enfin libre de choir maintenant. [I am finally free to choose now.]
#MakeUnsafeAbortionHistoryKE community dialogue for people with disabilities
Photos: before, during and after the dialogue
The Reproductive Health Network Kenya (RHNK) with partners Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), Rutgers, Ipas Africa Alliance, Gifted Community Center (GCC) and NenaNaBinti hotline reached 50 women and young people with disabilities. Our activities included: community dialogues on the dangers of unsafe abortion and the Kenyan legal framework on abortion. We also gave out free contraceptive information, services and commodity access.
In Kenya access to safe abortion is largely stigmatized despite existing laws, policies and guidelines that support access to abortion services for everyone in need of information and services. Persons with disabilities (PWDS) continue to be heavily neglected in matters related to sexual and reproductive health care in Kenya, on the assumption that they aren’t sexually active. Despite research by the Kenyan Ministry of Health in 2012 that showed that every day in Kenya seven women die from unsafe abortion, quacks continue to thrive by using crotchet needles, detergents, herbal concoctions, straws, hangers and even explosive bottles to illegally terminate pregnancies.
During our #MakeUnsafeAbortionHistoryKE community dialogue, PWDs shared their terrible ordeals of being kept hidden in houses and being survivors of sexual violence without access to reproductive health care or treatment. People assume they can never get pregnant, believing stereotypes that say they cannot engage sexually. When in need of abortion services, they are often stigmatized and shamed with questions like: “How did a person like you get pregnant?”
There are important gaps in medical care provision such as: health care providers lacking basic skills in sign language, and health care facilities not being disability-friendly, creating barriers to accessing safe abortion services even in an emergency.
At the community dialogue, participants were taken through abortion values clarification and attitude transformation exercises, using two main activities: crossing the line and the four corners seeking to understand how individual beliefs, values, religion and culture can be hindrance to accessing safe abortion services. There was a story-share session for them to listen to and share their abortion stories and with support from a legal expert. The Kenyan law on abortion Article 26(4) of the Constitution was broken down for all participants to understand what the government permits in terms of accessing abortion and who is legally recognised to be able to provide abortion services.
1. Participants acknowledged every woman has a right to accessing safe abortion care free of stigma, violence and discrimination.
2. Participants committed/pledged to be agents of change and champions for safe abortion within PWDS communities.
Let’s continue the legacy of Mireille Rabenoro: 28 September 2021
We celebrated International Safe Abortion Day on 28 September 2021 with great success! This was a joint effort. The press release below, published in English and French, recounts yesterday’s events as well as some data from the results of the quantitative and qualitative study conducted by the Nifin’Akanga Movement, which was presented yesterday.
28 September 2021, celebration of International Safe Abortion Day “Let’s continue the legacy of Mireille Rabenoro”
In December 2017, the Senate refused to rule on an article authorising therapeutic termination of pregnancy that was part of Law No. 2017-043 laying down the general rules governing Reproductive Health and Family Planning. Worse, Article 28 reinforces that “any natural person who will have practised the interruption of pregnancy for medical reasons, in disregard of the conditions provided by the law, will be punished by the penalty provided by the Penal Code Article 317”. The framework prohibiting medical and therapeutic termination of pregnancy in cases of rape or incest has thus been especially hardened. This marks a clear step backwards for women’s rights in Madagascar.
Mireille RABENORO, an incredible feminist and an icon of human rights, was one of the rare people of her generation in Madagascar who openly and relentlessly demanded the decriminalisation of abortion. As the patron of the Nifin’Akanga Movement, she never stopped sharing her thoughts, knowledge and experiences. Mireille Rabenoro died far too young on 20 June 2021. We celebrate her memory on 28 September 2021 to thank her and to work towards a better future.
This day of advocacy, under Mireille Rabenoro’s wings, is an opportunity for the Nifin’Akanga Movement to share the results of the largest national survey on abortion practices in Madagascar. It was carried out with a sample of 4,478 people including 3,568 women and 910 practitioners. This retrospective and descriptive quantitative study took place from 28 September to 28 October 2020 in the six former provincial capitals. Many of the results are surprising and break the stereotypes. Others darken an already morbid picture.
First of all, women have abortions at all ages. The age range recorded was between 14 and 50. It is therefore wrong to stigmatise young girls as the ones who have the most abortions. Women over age 25 make up 61.4% and those over 35 are 27.5%.
Women have abortions regardless of their level of education. Those with education up to secondary school represent 38.5% and university graduates more than 42%.
In terms of marital status, women who have/have had a stable relationship represent more than 51%.
In terms of religion, Christians have the most abortions, just over 81% of respondents. However, they are the ones who adopt the most virulent and closed discourse when it comes to the decriminalisation of abortion.
52% of abortions take place in inappropriate settings, such as women’s homes or the homes of practitioners. 31% are performed by people with no medical training, 29.5% by paramedics, 22% by doctors and 18% by matrons.
The study once again highlighted the major problem of family planning in Madagascar: 88% of women were not using any contraceptive method. The main reasons for abortion were: pregnancy too early (23.2%) and unwanted pregnancy (20.1%). The other main reasons (20.3%) included medical or therapeutic reasons (78.1%), rape (15.4%) and incest (6.5%). These findings reinforce our conviction of the importance of sex education at all ages and the importance of a strategy for promoting contraception. They also suggest that sexual violence is more widespread than we thought. But therapeutic cases are also very frequent.
“The law is supposed to protect us, not kill us.” Laws must evolve to protect citizens. Article 317 of the penal code, which criminalises abortion, is a cut-and-paste of the Napoleonic code of 1817, representing 211 years of delay, of human lives unjustly lost by a law that is unfounded. No law should impose death on a woman carrying a pregnancy that will inevitably kill her. No man should lose his wife, his daughter, his mother because of a law that forbids saving her. No doctor should have this sword of Damocles hanging over them when they have taken an oath to save lives.
It is time for the law to change and for therapeutic termination of pregnancy to be legalised in Madagascar.
Gender Equality Club Safe Abortion Awareness Day
A strong, independent and sustainable advocacy campaign for safe abortion can contribute significantly to the awareness of sex workers and schoolgirls of the importance of safe abortion and sexual and reproductive health and rights in Gboko, a town in the Benue State of North-Central Nigeria.
The Gender Equality Club Nigeria (GECN) is a non-profit, civil society, non-sectional, non-religious, non-political and non-governmental organization which was founded in October, 2020. It has multiple roles, including: information creation, training and mentoring, leadership development, project exhibition and research/planning.
GECN is also a women-led organization which focuses on promoting gender equality by educating children and teachers in schools and people in the community about gender inequality and providing a forum to discuss issues related to gender violence.
International Safe Abortion Day was marked by a GECN awareness-raising campaign for a safe abortions bill with schools in Gboko, with posters about safe abortion.
To mark International Safe Abortion Day on Tuesday 28 September 2021, DKT WomanCare held a roundtable discussion exploring the use of Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) in South Africa. The session, in line with this year’s theme ‘Safe abortion is essential healthcare’, had speakers engaging audiences on demystifying MVA as a key component of abortion care. Our experts spotlighted the impact of Covid-19 on abortion services in South Africa and the advantages of the Ipas MVA method during the pandemic. #InternationalSafeAbortionDay #SafeAbortion4All
On 28 September, the morning session was to sensitise new audiences, mainly young women, on the use of MVA as part of abortion care. This conversation focused on demystifying and dismantling the fear factor associated with MVA and included a demonstration of the use of MVA.
The afternoon session provided more technical information, with a focus on the use of MVA in abortion care, especially for healthcare providers. It also included a demonstration of the use of MVA.
The speakers were: Prof Eddie Mhlanga, abortion expert, trainer and SRHR activist, who recently retired as Provincial Specialist of Obs/Gyn for the Department of Health of Mpumalanga Province, South Africa; Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health and founder of Disa Health Care Clinic; Caroline Mbi-Njifor, Ipas Country Director, South Africa; and as moderator Pontcho Pilane, a communications consultant, journalist, editor, and media lecturer and trainer.
As you may know, in recent years, the abortion landscape has undergone massive transformation—some good, some bad. The global south in particular has seen the majority of these changes reflected in their vicinity—from legislation to accessing abortions themselves.
In the same regard, safe2choose.org organised a Liberalise Abortion Webinar on 24 September 2021 – a three-part session in honour of International Safe Abortion Day on:
Mobilisation and Community Action – to touch upon the power of protest as a means to demand legislative change as it pertains to abortion services.
IEC: Information Curated Effectively – to cover the process of creating informational content that can be used to inform populations about their rights, how to exercise them and what services are available to them.
Abortion Self-Care – to provide the tools to provide care for those seeking abortions, as well as taking care of ourselves as we work in a space often fraught with criticism and opposition.
To watch the webinar now, check safe2choose on Twitter or contact @safe2choose
FRENCH WEST AFRICA
En français : Rejoignez-nous pour célébrer le lancement du Centre ODAS (Organisation pour le Dialogue pour l’Avortement Sécurisé), un mécanisme innovant visant à renforcer le mouvement pour l’avortement sécurisé en Afrique francophone. Dans l’ensemble de la région francophone, des médecins et des sages-femmes, des groupes de jeunes, des réseaux féministes, des associations professionnelles et des organisations non gouvernementales travaillent déjà à démanteler la stigmatisation de l’avortement, à mettre en lumière les conséquences de l’avortement clandestin et à défendre la santé et les droits sexuels et reproductifs. Le Centre réunira ces acteurs dans un réseau ODAS couvrant le Bénin, le Burkina Faso, la Côte d’Ivoire, la Guinée, le Mali, la Mauritanie, le Niger, le Sénégal, le Togo et la République démocratique du Congo.
In English : Celebrating the launch of Le Centre ODAS (Organisation pour le Dialogue pour l’Avortement Sécurisé), an innovative mechanism to strengthen the movement for safe abortion in Francophone Africa. Across the Francophone region, government officials, physicians and midwives, youth groups, feminist networks, professional associations, and non-governmental organizations are already working to dismantle abortion stigma, highlight the consequences of unsafe abortion, and advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights. Le Centre will unite these actors in a formalized ODAS Network spanning Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Togo, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Le Centre will provide technical and operational support to the Network – offering training opportunities, sharing best practices, coordinating strategies, and mobilizing funding – to equip members to pursue an ambitious regional agenda that will expand abortion access in the region. Le Centre and the ODAS Network will be explicitly feminist, building strong social movements around the broad issue of reproductive choice and developing new intersectional alliances.
Drawing attention to the right to safe abortion on 28 September
Youth participant in Kabwe Video of a cultural dance (mp4)
This year’s International Safe Abortion Day in Zambia was unique. The Zambia Association of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians (ZAGO) organised activities in three districts: Kafue (Lusaka Province); Kabwe (Central Province); and Chipata (Eastern Province). The events were organised in a way to draw stakeholders’ attention, including the government and civil society, to a realisation that safe abortion is a human right.
The commemoration started with a Breakfast Show on Crown Television entitled “Safe Abortion Practice in Zambia”. Two ZAGO obstetrician-gynaecologists, Dr Jean Chirwa and Dr Whyson Munga, were featured on the show in the context of International Safe Abortion Day.
Further, activities in various towns were characterised by march-pasts, traditional cultural dances, drama, poems, artistic painting display, drama entertainment and speeches:
In Kafue, the District Commissioner was the guest of honour. Other invited guests included, a Kafue Member of Parliament, Kafue Council Chairperson, and officials from the Ministry of Health.
In Kabwe, there was a march-past, brass band entertainment, poems, and speeches. Invited guests included, the District Commissioner, Kabwe Council Town Clerk and District Health Director, among other officials.
In Chipata, the event was graced by the young, charismatic Mayor of Chipata. Other invited guests were representatives of the office of the District Chiefs and Traditional Affairs, District Health Director, and District Education Board.
Participants in all the activities came from the community, youth groups, health, education and civil society sectors. Youth Organisations such as the Youth Development Foundation (Chipata), Itufika (Kafue), and Medical Council of Zambia (Kabwe) played key roles in organising events under the auspices of ZAGO.
Prior to the day, ZAGO had lined up a number of activities on its radio programme (INSIDE HEALTH) currently airing in Lusaka (Millennium Radio) and Kitwe’s Flava FM, as well as on Kabwe’s KNC radio. The programmes were filled with awareness-raising discussions on various aspects of sexual and reproductive health and rights. The primary focus was on safe abortion, the legal framework for termination of pregnancy, and access to safe abortion services. So far, there has been overwhelming buy-in from the sensitisation activities ZAGO is carrying out across the country. Many stakeholders are looking to ZAGO to intensify awareness campaigns, especially in rural areas.
Participants in Chipata
Chipata mayor giving a speech
Traditional healers and marriage counsellors
Health workers in Mansa after a training workshop
Participants in Kabwe
ASIA & PACIFIC
International Safe Abortion Day Japan 2021
In Japan, “spousal consent” is required by law for a woman to have an abortion. For this year’s International Safe Abortion Day, our group – Action for Safe Abortion in Japan (ASAJ) – has been supporting a petition campaign calling for the abolition of the spousal consent requirement. The petition – “We demand that JAPAN abolish the male permission requirement for abortion care!” – was initiated by Kazane Kajiya, pro-choice and contraception access activist. It says: “We demand that Japan abolish the law that deprives women of bodily autonomy and forces them to continue unwanted pregnancies and give birth against their will. Japan is one of only 11 countries in the world where pregnant women need to seek ‘permission’ from their husband for abortion, which means Japanese women cannot make their own decision to terminate a pregnancy.” On 14 September, we submitted 40,000 signatures and two letters of request to the Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, and also issued two statements on the subject of women being forced to give birth against their wishes due to the lack of access to abortion.
On 27 September, we held a press conference (also at YouTube) at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Tokyo, entitled: “Let Women Decide: Pro-Choice Activists Call on Japan to Allow Women to Make Independent Decisions on Abortion”. This was to let the world know about the spousal consent requirement for abortion (photo). Speakers included Kazane Kajiya, who initiated the petition campaign, and Riza Haslam, WEI GK (Women Empowered Institute).
On 28 September, we held a 2½ hour commemorative online talk event called “Let’s Talk About Abortion,” led by Kumi Tsukahara, with a range of speakers. Most of it was in Japanese. It was watched live on the day by some 300 people. In addition to introducing the campaign to eliminate the spousal consent requirement, in the first part of the event, we outlined the history and current safe abortion activism around the world, introduced some women’s own experiences which we had gathered through an online survey prior to the event, introduced some films and books which deal with abortion, shared the voices of people who signed petition and some statements calling for change in a society that is punitive towards women. Messages of support were read out from Korea. Three guest speakers gave presentations on trends in the use of abortion pills today: Marge Berer, International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion, UK; Prof Lesley Hoggart, Open University and Abortion Talk, UK; and Dr Daniel Grossman, University of California San Francisco, USA.
The second part of the event was about the petition, which by then had been signed by 43,000 people. Chiaki then spoke how our society perceives abortion. For example, she described some of the language used by the media to describe women who were accused of abandoning newborn babies – women who gave birth on their own after failing to get an abortion, which was denied to them. The negative images of abortion reproduced by the media only make it harder for women who need an abortion. Kumi spoke about reproductive health and rights in the 21st century. She pointed out that women in Japan are still forced to have a D&C as an abortion method in our hospitals, even though the World Health Organization recommends medical abortion pills and MVA, and has not recommended D&C for many years.
There was also a Q&A in English.
The event was well attended and listeners were enthusiastic. We were very pleased that the whole webinar was broadcast nationally the next day on the Japan Broadcasting Cooperation (NHK) news, which is equivalent to the BBC in Japan. NHK also published an article on their website about the webinar. This was all great publicity and it will definitely help us draw more attention to the issues, successfully promoting the importance of safe abortion to the public. The presentations and Q & A in English can be watched at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hA1Yak1PB9Q
We will put the second part of the webinar in our archive so that it will be available to the public.
Report by members of Action for Safe Abortion in Japan: Kumi Tsukahara, Kazane Kajiya and Junko Ozawa
In 2021, the abortion law that was published 64 years ago has been amended. Now, women with unintended pregnancies are legally able to terminate their pregnancy within 12 weeks, according to Article 301 of the criminal code. Termination of pregnancy is, therefore, one of health care in the health system.
In order to celebrate abortion rights, civil society organisations and public health departments organised the following events online from 18 to 29 September 2021:
(1) Saturday, 18 September 2021, 19.00-21.00 hrs. @Clubhouse Tamtang Talk Episode 23: “Sex, Period, and Abortion” organised by Tamtang Group
(2) Thursday 23 September 2021; 9.00-16.00 hrs. Online Seminar for One-Stop Crisis Centre (OSCC) workers throughout the country on “Guideline on Referral System for Safe Abortion during Covid-19 pandemic” organized by Health Administration Division, Ministry of Public Health and RSA Thai Network
(3) Saturday 25 September 2021; 19.00-21.00 hrs. @Clubhouse Tamtang Talk Episode 24: “Make unsafe abortion history” organised by Tamtang Group
(4) Monday 27 September 2021; 13.30-15.00 hrs. Press Release for 2021 International Safe Abortion Day @rsathai Organised by Choices Network, Thailand; RSA Thai; Tamtang Group; Department of Health*, Ministry of Public Health, National Human Rights Commission of Thailand*; Hotline 1663 for Unintended Pregnancy; and more!
(5) Tuesday 28 September 2021; 13.30-15.30 on Facebook live @rsathai Online Seminar on “Women Practitioners and Termination of Pregnancy” organised by RSA
(6) Wednesday 29 September 2021; 13.30-15.30 on Facebook live @rsathai Online Seminar on “When the laws let the door open for safe abortion: Where do medical schools go?” organised by RSA
Best regards, Kritaya pp. Choices Network, Thailand Thai Referral System for Safe Abortion (RSA) Tamtang Group
National Safe Abortion Week, 20-26 September 2021
Nepal celebrated national safe abortion week this year, and as our first event we disseminated our Global Gag Rule (GGR) impact study findings for 2020-21 (we have been conducting this study since 2018) in a meeting organized by the Ministry of Health and Population (MOH,P) yesterday. Here are some excerpts from the report:
SRHR is one of the priority programs of the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) of Nepal, including family planning and safe abortion services. Since 2016, the MoHP has been providing safe abortion services free of charge in approved public health facilities.2 However, over half of abortions that occurred in 2014 were illegal according to the most recent available data. Lack of awareness of the availability, location, and cost of services; lack of transport to approved facilities; and gender norms and religious beliefs are hindering women’s ability to access safe and legal abortion services. Due to numerous other social and cultural factors, such as a patriarchal society, limited SRHR autonomy and knowledge, geographic isolation, as well as abortion stigma, many Nepali women remain unaware of the legal status of abortion and have limited or no knowledge of where to access safe abortion services.
Though the MoHP has committed to ensuring that at least five modern contraceptive methods are available in public health facilities, not all facilities are providing five methods because of lack of trained health care providers and essential commodities.2 As a result, there is a high level of unintended pregnancy across the country according to the most recent available estimates; more than 50% of women in Nepal experienced an unintended pregnancy in 2014 and there has been no significant decrease in the unmet need of modern contraception among women in Nepal since 2006.
In addition, following decades of political uncertainty, Nepal has moved on from the unitary system of governance to the federal system with new roles and responsibilities for local, provincial and federal governments. This has initiated a significant restructuring of the country and provides an enviable opportunity to reorganize the health system around the principle of universal health coverage. The way Nepal delivers health services will need to change. Hence, financial and technical support to the health sector from external development partners and other donor agencies is crucial.
Since 2018, CREHPA and the International Women’s Health Coalition have carried out annual studies to assess the impact of PLGHA on SRHR services in Nepal. This brief summarises the findings of the data that we have collected from 2020-21.
Disruptions in SRHR services continue, mostly affecting marginalized populations and adding challenges to sustaining the work of civil society organizations (CSOs) in Nepal.
Quality of health care services has been compromised and women are still dying because of unsafe abortion.
Double threat to SRHR services and declining trend in new acceptors of family planning and safe abortion – the Covid-19 pandemic on top of the Trump-Pence administration’s expanded GGR and the defunding of UNFPA.
Defunding of organizations and restriction of use of funds.
Challenges to operating CSOs and lost partnerships that could be re-established.
Organizations are struggling to obtain alternative funds.
Silencing of voices continued throughout 2020.
Almost all stakeholders welcomed the revocation of PLGHA by the current US President Biden but want to see a permanent solution to this issue.
Very few organizations are continuing to implement PLGHA since it was revoked.
No formal communication about the revocation of the PLGHA policy was received, however; most information was received from mass media.
The revocation of PLGHA will have positive impacts on SRHR programs in Nepal
Asia Safe Abortion Partnership (ASAP): building inclusive movements
SRHR concepts in sign language On 23rd September which is marked as International Day of Sign Languages across the world, ASAP along with our Country Advocacy Networks, took the opportunity to try and make SRHR-related concepts like feminism and safe abortion more accessible to the communities of deaf and hard-of-hearing persons, with the aim of building a long-term, cross-movement solidarity, where we all stand together in our fights, with each other and for each other.
So far, we have published three videos (titles linked) on ‘Reproductive Rights‘, ‘Feminism‘ and ‘Sexual and Reproductive Rights‘, created by Vietnam Youth Action for Choice (VYAC), Druk-Youth Initiative for Sexual Advocacy, Bhutan (D-YISA) and India Safe Abortion Youth Advocates (ISAY).
International Safe Abortion Day – #WhatsMyCrime
Along with our Youth Champions this year on 28th September, we ran a photo campaign called #WhatsMyCrime, where we focused on the need for decriminalization of safe abortion. Through our statements we raised questions around why terminating an unwanted pregnancy is considered a criminal act in many countries, when unsafe abortions still remain one of the biggest reason for maternal mortality. With this campaign and through our Youth Champion’s hard hitting quotes, we wanted to highlight an individual’s perspectives on ‘criminalizing abortion’ as opposed to just having technical conversations that often alienate people from the politics of why safe abortion is our right and an important health service.
You can see all the images by visiting our Facebook page here.
SAMYAK activities: social media posters, a press conference, abortion training, contact with private and government health care providers
SAMYAK means ‘the actual truth’. We are a communications and resource centre in Pune and a secular, democratic organisation that believes in the values of social justice, equity, equality, diversity, inclusiveness and non-violence. SAMYAK celebrated this International Safe Abortion Day with the following activities:
Posters were circulated on different social media platforms conveying messages for Safe Abortion Day. 2. In the evening a press conference was organised at Patrakar Bhavan, Pune, to declare a state-wide campaign on SRHR in collaboration with the State Transport Workers Union, the only registered trade union in public transport in Maharashtra. Through this campaign representatives of the State Transport Workers’ Union will get training on gender, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and safe abortion concepts. 3. Activities were carried out by partner NGOs in their respective regions across the state. One of these field base activities was conducted by Pritam Potdar, PhD Scholar, TISS, in collaboration with the Family Planning Association India in a community in Pune with 32 women on the topic of Safe Abortion and the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. 4. News/articles were published by rural journalists (see media report). 5. We reached out to 347 private health care providers and government health care providers in Maharashtra and 435 providers in Rajasthan by email with a note of appreciation for being part of the workshops by SAMYAK.
Gerak 28 September Movement
Gerak 28 is a group of individuals and groups in Indonesia. Together with Benang Sulam, Gerak 28 September conducted a Craftivism Workshop: Embroidering Spirit and Solidarity, to support people who have had an abortion and for accessible and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights that are safe and free of stigma. Art is an effective way to send your messages. “Craft is a way to connect with people, a way to create a community that you are inspired by.”
Talk Show: Make Unsafe Abortion History, Is Decriminalisation the Way?
Restriction and disharmony in the law in Indonesia makes abortions illegal, making it almost impossible access to abortion, whether for medical emergencies or for rape victims, and even more for everyday people. The restrictive law alongside criminalisation manifests as an obstacle to safe, accessible abortion. Regardless of the safety and legality, people are still going to have abortions, which exposes them to social, psychological and health-related vulnerabilities in their lives.
Live-streamed on YouTube, we made a talk show “Make Unsafe Abortion History in Indonesia. Is Decriminalisation the Way?”. It included three interviews with representatives from the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, SCW & Partners (a law firm), and Women on Web, trying to discuss unsafe abortion in the context of Indonesia, and placing abortion decriminalisation discourse into the Indonesian social context.
Talk Show: Toward more Inclusive Reproductive Justice for LGBT+
For long periods of time, narrative about reproductive justice was focused on heterosexual women and excluded the LGBT+ community, who are also vulnerable to reproductive health problems. This show raised concerns about the mutual idea of reproductive justice and queer justice – that everyone should have the authority with their freedom and own determination to decide about their body, their health and their life. This talk show had three interviewees from the NGOs Sanggar Swara, Transmen Indonesia, and Samsara, to discuss reproductive justice in a more inclusive context and pulling the red thread of layers of intersection that has been overlapping and making the LGBT+ community an oppressed group.
A complete report of our activities to celebrate 28 September 2021 can be found here:
Contact: Instagram: gerak28september ; Twitter: gerakseptember ; Facebook: Gerak 28 September ;
PINSAN & WGNRR Call-to-Action: Decriminalise Abortion Now, Save Peoples’ Lives!
WGNRR and the Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network – Pinsan held an online rally on decriminalisation of abortion. The activity was joined by various sectoral organisations and individuals supporting the campaign to decriminalise abortion in the Philippines since its launch last September 28, 2020.
And we held Telling Truer Stories art workshops to collect feminist narratives in various art formats. The art workshops showcased abortion rights issues as social justice issues. The gallery can be accessed here.
Young People and Abortion Rights Skills Building Sessions
Participated in by young people from Asia and Africa. A skills-building workshop that strengthened young people’s capacity to campaign for safe abortion, especially on maximising the use of social media for advocacy work. WGNRR also provided small funds for September 28 mobilisation of youth organizations from Nepal, Philippines, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Kenya.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: EUROPE
Change is inevitable: people demand the human right to access safe abortion across Europe
Europe has been at the forefront of the global trend towards the liberalization of abortion laws for more than 60 years. But there is still work to do to give all women and people who can become pregnant access to safe and legal abortion.
Almost all EU member states have now legalized abortion on request or on broad socio-economic grounds and, in the last few years, several European countries have enacted important progressive reforms or taken steps to remove harmful procedural and regulatory barriers that can impede access to abortion.
Every positive reform on abortion around the world is hard fought. They are first and foremost achievements of women who courageously break their silence about their experiences of unsafe abortion, as well as women’s rights movements and their allies; people who have taken action, started petitions, gone to court, organized protests, lobbied governments and run workshops to demand their human rights. But they have not stopped there; they have formed groups to provide solidarity, information, practical and emotional support and health care to people in need. People do this despite enduring stigma, threats, harassment and even criminalisation.
In Andorra – one of the few remaining states with a total ban on abortion – the president of the women’s rights organization Associació Stop Violències, Vanessa Mendoza Cortes, faces criminal charges for normal, legitimate and vital work conducted regularly by human rights defenders around the world; that of presenting her expert opinion on the situation before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (UN CEDAW). She is currently fighting the charges, which could see her fined 30,000 euros.
“What [the Andorran authorities] are trying with me is to set a warning example, to silence others who want to fight for this or for other human rights. Our achievement is that, not only have we not kept quiet, but we have continued our work.
We can’t keep quiet. If you keep quiet, you are on the side of the oppression and the oppressor. And we decided a long time ago that we were no longer silent. We are not the first to fight for rights in Andorra, but we are the first ones to have raised this much international awareness, and that has worked well.
Through our work, we have seen that women in Andorra now realize that we have no rights, we are not considered equal to men but second-class citizens and cannot decide about our own bodies – creating this understanding that, as women, we are also part of society and we also have rights, is positive: people begin to question the status quo. We want violence to end for all women in the world. And in the world there are also the women who live in Andorra, who live here totally silenced. This has to end and that is what keeps us going.
The report continues with Malta, Poland, Covid-19, Ireland and San Marino. It concludes:
The amazing activists fighting for reforms – and increasing numbers of women courageously speaking out about the harm and pain they have endured as a consequence of being denied their right to safe abortion services – give us hope about the possibilities for change.
Joint Statement delivered by RFSU on behalf of the organisation’s members of the European Safe Abortion Networking Group
Safe Abortion: States must ensure that safe abortion is available and accessible to everyone who needs it
Delivered at the UN Human Rights Council Forty-eighth Regular Session 13 September – 8 October 2021 by Ms Kristina Castell
RFSU delivers this statement on behalf of a group of NGOs, most of them in consultative status with ECOSOC, members of the European Safe Abortion Networking Group. The full list of co-sponsors will be available at the extranet.
Abortion is essential healthcare and a human right. Access to abortion is key for achieving gender equality and social justice. The Covid-19 pandemic affected disproportionately women and girls, and marginalised populations. It highlighted that societies still must address gender and intersectional discrimination and other structural factors that underscore social inequalities to ensure everyone can fully exercise their human rights.
The pandemic highlighted the highly unequal access to safe abortion across countries. States responded in different ways to the challenges posed by the pandemic with regards to access to safe abortion. While some countries introduced measures such as telemedicine and access to abortion pills at home to facilitate access, others have put services on hold or delayed implementation of new laws allowing for their provision.
Some countries took advantage of the situation to further restrict access to abortion in law.
This unequal picture across countries shows the urgency of States taking steps to make safe abortion available and accessible to all women, girls, and everyone else who needs it. The time is up for governments to address gender and other intersecting forms of inequality and ensure everyone can exercise their sexual and reproductive rights and have control over their bodies and lives through access to safe abortion. This is particularly important in the post-Covid recovery period when women and girls are the driving force as they were in the response to the pandemic.
We, the undersigned organisations, are calling on the States to ensure safe abortion is available and accessible to anyone who needs it in accordance with the guidance of the World Health Organization (WHO). We are especially calling on States to:
Recogniseabortion as essential, time-sensitive healthcare and fully decriminalise abortion. 2. Guarantee access to safe, legal abortion, with particular attention to under-served and marginalised populations, and with as little disruption as possible in times of crisis. 3. Simplify abortion regulations, removing all medically unnecessary requirements and other barriers to facilitate access to abortion without delay. 4. Allow telemedicine and use of abortion pills at home to facilitate access. 5. Ensure there is a sufficient number of trained and willing providers to meet demand.
Denial of care by healthcare professionals due to their personal beliefs, must not delay or restrict access to abortion care for everyone who needs it.
Thank you, Madam President.
Signatories: 1. Amnesty International (ECOSOC status) 2. International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion (ECOSOC status) 3. Ipas (ECOSOC status) 4. IPPF EN (ECOSOC status) 5. Federation for Women and Family Planning, Poland (ECOSOC status) 6. FOKUS, Forum for Women and Development, Norway (ECOSOC status) 7. Le Planning Familial, France 8. MSI (ECOSOC) 9. Médecins du Monde, France (ECOSOC status) 10. RFSU, Sweden (ECOSOC Status) 11. Rutgers NL, Netherlands (ECOSOC status) 12. Women’s Link Worldwide, Spain
European Abortion Policies Atlas
On the occasion of International Safe Abortion Day, EPF and IPPF EN jointly launched this atlas in a webinar on 28 September.
The Atlas is an online interactive map that scores 52 European countries and territories on access to safe and legal abortion, similarly to the earlier Contraception Atlas and drawing on IPPF EN’s survey on abortion care and the WHO Global Abortion Policies Database. The Atlas represents an in-depth benchmarking tool analysing abortion policies in Europe, and clearly shows that Europe is not as progressive as it might seem. For example, it shows that:
31 countries don’t include abortion in the national health system’s financial coverage
19 countries, including several known for progressive stances, force women to endure medically unnecessary requirements before accessing abortion care
16 countries in Europe regulate abortion care primarily through their criminal and/or penal code
26 countries allow health workers to deny care on the basis of their personal beliefs or convenience
18 European countries fail to provide clear and accurate information about abortion care.
The launch was hosted by the Hon. Fred Matić, MEP (Croatia) rapporteur of the recent European Parliament’s “Matić Report on Sexual and Reproductive Health” and the Hon. Sophie In’ t Veld, MEP, (Netherlands), the co-chair of MEPs for Sexual and Reproductive Rights. The launch also featured interventions from the World Health Organization, activists and abortion care providers working in challenging contexts.
Abortion rights campaigners gather for 10th annual March For Choice
The 10th annual ‘March for Choice’ took place the afternoon of 25 September 2021 and called on the Government to tackle barriers to abortion in Ireland. Campaigners gathered outside the Dáil (Parliament) to demand the Government take urgent steps to address gaps in care. Only half of maternity hospitals and just a small number of GPs offer access to an abortion. This is despite the landslide victory to repeal the 8th amendment in 2018.
Campaigners say people are still travelling abroad for services which should be available in Ireland. “It is still very difficult to get an abortion in this country, there are still far too many barriers,” says Abortions Rights Campaign convener, Helen Stonehouse. “We have mandatory three day waiting periods, it is just as difficult to get an abortion after 12 weeks as it was underneath the 8th Amendment and that has to change.”
A review of the Termination of Pregnancy Act is due this year.
The protest heard calls for safe access zones around clinics, and accused anti-abortion groups of intimidating patients. Yvie Murphy from Together for Safety outlined what kinds of issues those service users are faced with. She said: “White crosses, graphic images, chanting, vigils, interception, recording, congregations and name calling are just some of what people have had to deal with when accessing healthcare.”
Alliance for Choice Pro-Choice dancing billboard on Twitter Watch the video!!
A call to the members of the Polish Parliament for 28 September
The Federation for Women and Family Planning followed by women’s rights organisations in the Great Coalition for Equality and Choice addressed a strong call to the members of Polish Parliament, in which they demand the restoration of freedom to decide about their body, pregnancy and the future of the family.
To the Members of the Polish Parliament, all political parties!
Today, on International Safe Abortion Day, the Federation for Women and Family Planning reminds you that your duty is to make laws that serve all individuals, regardless of your personal views.
All of you, members of Parliament, are responsible for making laws in the field of health protection and public safety, which ensure healthy development and the well-being of every person. You must not neglect these responsibilities for your own convenience, opportunism or for personal reasons. By taking up the mandate, you become our representatives and this means that you have to make decisions FOR US, not INSTEAD OF US. Your worldviews or beliefs do not count here, you are in the service of the general public. The good of us all requires from you to respect diversity of all views and lifestyles, and to respect the autonomy and private life of every person and every family.
It is not up to you to judge if and how many children, women and families will have.
It is not up to you to decide when a woman should continue or terminate HER pregnancy. You don’t know her feelings, needs, experiences, emotions. You don’t know what’s best for her. You do not live the consequences of the situation in which she finds herself.
Your responsibility is to ensure that the laws you adopt provide us all with fair, empathetic and appropriate health care thanks to which everyone would feel safe. And this duty is on you, regardless of whether an individual decides to give birth to several children, to treat infertility, to postpone parenting or to terminate a pregnancy. We all deserve adequate protection in a democratic state.
The law serves to provide all citizens with a safe space for making our own decisions relating to our private lives, without the interference of the State. When the State interferes with our intimate spheres, it becomes violence. The law is there to protect women here and now, women we know, whose needs are real, not abstract.
This is why we expect from you today to give us back what you have taken away for political interests in 1993. Give us back the freedom to decide about our bodies, pregnancy and the future of our families. We want access to legal, safe, free abortion without anyone asking us why. We need access to modern contraception, high-quality gynaecological care and comprehensive sexuality education.
We demand the immediate adoption of the rescue draft bill on decriminalisation of abortion (drafted by MP Magda Biejat). We also ask you to support the draft bill on access to safe abortion and other reproductive rights (prepared by the Committee of the civic initiative “Legal Abortion Without Compromise”).
Two reports: from Women’s Strike and the Abortion Dream Team
Women’s Strike are focusing on the collection of signatures for the bill, Legal Abortion Act, in the Sejm (Parliament) to legalise abortions. International Safe Abortion Day is seen as the most important day for getting signatures.
In Warsaw, the Abortion Dream Team organised a public event, with testimonies from women on problems accessing abortion. There was concern there might be repercussions. The group invited people from the Friends and Neighbours Anti-Domestic Violence Programme to act as anti-violence contact persons during these activities in over 200 cities. This helped to make sure women were not only protected in big cities but in smaller towns and villages too.
Here is what they wrote on Facebook, translated to English: Today we did the 3rd abortion coming out! We were standing in a very crowded place – a frying pan in Warsaw – and we talked about abortion, about our experiences, about how we felt lonely and lost, about what relief came right after, about what it would be like to have an abortion if the pregnancy test showed two dashes. We also read out real stories of people who send us their experiences.
There were a lot of emotions and emotions. Stories that often happen in secret were told aloud. We were catching and catching each other with knowing eyes, some of us with angry emotions. It was a magical event – thank you for helping us regain space for abortion experiences. Because these experiences were, are and will be ours – regardless of the law or anti-abortion propaganda.
Thank you for the joint International Safe Abortion Day! For each signature supporting the Legal Abortion Act . No compromises, for every sticky sticker with a mark on safe abortion.
Thank you for every “I had an abortion” said aloud and in your mind. For each experimenting with the truth. Thank you for each of today’s events on the occasion of Safe Abortion Day. Today they were held all over Poland! We just thank you!
Women’s Rights Organizations Claim Back the Right to Abortion
“We demand the restoration of freedom to decide about our bodies, pregnancy and the future of the family.
“Today, on International Safe Abortion Day, the Federation for Women and Family Planning reminds you that your duty is to make laws that serve all individuals, regardless of your personal views.
“All of you, members of Parliament, are responsible for making laws in the field of health protection and public safety, which ensure healthy development and the well-being of every person. You must not neglect these responsibilities for your own convenience, opportunism or for personal reasons. By taking up the mandate, you become our representatives and this means that you have to make decisions FOR US, not INSTEAD OF US. Your worldviews or beliefs do not count here, you are in service of the general public. The good of us all requires from you to respect diversity of all views and lifestyles, and to respect the autonomy and private life of every person and every family.
“It is not up to you to judge if and how many children, women and families will have. It is not up to you to decide when a woman should continue or terminate HER pregnancy. You don’t know her feelings, needs, experiences, emotions. You don’t know what’s best for her. You do not live the consequences of the situation in which she finds herself.
“Your responsibility is to ensure that the laws you adopt provide us all with fair, empathetic and appropriate health care thanks to which everyone would feel safe. And this duty is on you, regardless of whether an individual decides to give birth to several children, to treat infertility, to postpone parenting or to terminate a pregnancy. We all deserve adequate protection in a democratic state.
“The law serves to provide all citizens with a safe space for making our own decisions relating to our private lives, without the interference of the State. When the State interferes with our intimate spheres, it becomes violence. The law is there to protect women, here and now, women we know, whose needs are real, not abstract.
“This is why we expect from you today to give us back what you have taken away for political interests in 1993. Give us back freedom to decide about our bodies, pregnancy and the future of our families. We want access to legal, safe, free abortion without anyone asking us why. We need access to modern contraception, high-quality gynaecological care and comprehensive sexuality education. We demand the immediate adoption of the rescue draft bill on decriminalization of abortion (drafted by MP Magda Biejat). We also ask you to support the draft bill on access to safe abortion and other reproductive rights (prepared by the Committee of the Civic Initiative “Legal Abortion Without Compromise”).”
We have today released five films featuring well-known Polish actors who tell different abortion stories that at the Federation we have been hearing from women over the years. For the time being, the films are available only in Polish and with Polish subtitles. We will soon make English subtitles available too. If you are interested, please read the Polish entry on this campaign and watch all 5 films here.
Activists organised protests in some 60 German cities
Activists organised protests in around 60 German cities for International Safe Abortion Day on 28 September 2021 to demand the full legalisation of abortion. Abortions are still considered to be a criminal offense in Germany according to section 218 of Germany’s criminal code. This piece of legislation was introduced in 1871, which is why this year’s day of action will take place as part of the campaign “150 years of resistance against § 218 – enough is enough!”
As part of the campaign, some 165 civil society organizations have signed a call to action. The list of these groups and the full statement can be found here. The campaign is run by the volunteer-led Alliance for Sexual Self-Determination together with many activists and organizations from across Germany.
Follow the activities on social media using the hashtags #safeabortionday #wegmit218 and #MakeUnsafeAbortionHistory.
(Auf Deutsch) In Deutschland sind Schwangerschaftsabbrüche nach §218 StGB eine Straftat. Die Regelung im Strafgesetzbuch entmündigt Betroffene und verweigert ihnen eine würdevolle, selbstbestimmte Entscheidung. Auch die medizinische Versorgungssituation wird immer kritischer, da immer weniger Ärzt*innen Schwangerschaftsabbrüche durchführen. Ärzt*innen dürfen zudem auf ihren Websites nicht ausführlich über Schwangerschaftsabbrüche informieren, weil der Paragraf 219a StGB dies verbietet. Wir rufen die Politik auf, die Streichung von § 218, § 219 und § 219a aus dem Strafgesetzbuch und eine Neuregelung des Rechts auf einen selbstbestimmten Schwangerschaftsabbruch in ihren Wahlprogrammen zu verankern.
See Campaign website “150 years of resistance against § 218 – enough is enough!” A petition calling for abortion to be removed from the criminal code has gained almost 84,000 signatures as at 12 October 2021. Watch the video !!
Fundraising by Rutgers NL and an Instagram Live Event by She Decides!
Between 2018 and 2020, the Reproductive Health Network Kenya (RHNK) helped more than 120,000 women and girls with safe abortions, thanks to donations, which continue to be needed. Among others, Rutgers NL calls for donations.
Rutgers colleague Aida Bilajbegovic explains in this video below how Rutgers has helped thousands of girls and women in Kenya, Ethiopia and West Africa with our Dream Fund: She Makes Her Safe Choice since 2018 with safe abortion care, quality products, and good online and telephone information and referrals to trained healthcare providers. Aida talks about Emily who accidentally became pregnant by her boyfriend and didn’t know what to do. The National Postcode Lottery will stop funding for this programme in 2022. Rutgers NL is also collecting donations for this fund.
On SheDecides Day 2021, #PoliticsIsPersonal, youth leader Dunya Veenhof discussed contraception and abortion with statements from the Political Sex Guide with youth ambassador Lisa de Pagter and activists Sioejeng Tsao and Tijn de Jong. Instagram Live event: The Dutch SheDecides movement wants to make young people aware that their personal experiences and feelings also determine their political choices. SheDecides encourages everyone to vote for a political party that has their best interests at heart and those of young people worldwide. Watch the live event on Instagram.
SOURCE: Rutgers NL email, 28 September 2021
RFSU Social media campaign
The RFSU social media campaign was fantastic, see examples below. All party leaders except for the Swedish Democrats Instagrammed that they #standupforabortionrights and thousands of celebs and others did as well. We also launched a comic novel on abortion and moderated a conversation with the author and a midwife in Malmö. We also screened the movie “Fly so far” on the situation in El Salvador. So it was a hectic schedule to say the least.
More than ever participated in the Campaign for the Right to Safe Abortion
CONSORTIO LATINOAMERICANO CONTRA ABORTO INSEGURO (CLACAI)
Report of activities in six Latin America countries for 28 September, prepared by CLACAI:
1. Mexico: Dialogue on the Supreme Court ruling – Clacai together with Ipas organized a dialogue on the impact of the Supreme Court ruling in Mexico on Tuesday, 21 September. This was a space for reflection on the lessons learned from the legal, health and social perspectives. The steps to take after this significant achievement for the rights of women and pregnant people in Mexico were also shared.
2. Ecuador: It’s a law! Webinar –A look at the victories that made the decriminalisation of abortion on grounds of rape possible: Planned Parenthood Global together with Fundación Desafío, Surkuna and Clacai presented the document, “It’s a law: An analysis of the advocacy process for the decriminalisation of abortion for rape in Ecuador”. The leaders involved in this achievement, as well as policy specialists, members of the media, and other institutions addressed the challenges and achievements of advocacy to promote access to safe, legal abortion in the region.
3. Argentina and the world – Challenges and findings in the implementation of legal abortion: In the week of 28 September, Amnesty International invited organisations to reflect on the challenges and lessons learned in the implementation of legalising abortion. With the recent approval of legal abortion in Argentina, the organisation proposed to share strategies and lessons learned both locally and in the world:
4. Second Festival for Abortion Freedom in Latin America and the Caribbean: The Red de Salud de las Mujeres en America Latina y el Caribe (RSMLAC) held a festival from 29 September to 1 October, which included music, cinema, poster-making, workshops, and the following talks:
– “Attacks on legal abortion in the Bolsonaro administration and the Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil”
– “Care pathways among women who decide to have an abortion in Ecuador”, and
– “The role of journalists and feminist media in the fight for abortion: the keynote address.
You can see the details of the whole event and read the keynote address here.
5. 28S “Beatriz Reform”: On 28 September, Day of Action for the Decriminalisation of Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean, various Salvadoran social organisations presented the “Beatriz Reform” Law initiative to the Legislative Assembly. This initiative seeks to incorporate exceptions to the criminalisation of abortion in the Penal Code of El Salvador. The name of this reform proposal honours the memory of Beatriz, a young woman who shocked the world in 2013 by requesting to end her pregnancy to save her life. El Salvador is one of six countries that still maintain total criminalisation for abortions, putting the lives and health of girls and women at risk. The #Beatriz Reform proposes to include three exceptions to the criminalisation of ending a pregnancy:
– When it puts the health and life of the woman or pregnant person at risk
– When the fetus has a condition incompatible with extra-uterine life
– When it is the result of rape.
In El Salvador, women can be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison for suffering a spontaneous miscarriage and other obstetric emergencies. Those who are imprisoned with these sentences are, for the most part, those living in extreme poverty in rural areas. The absolute criminalisation of abortion constitutes a violation of the international obligations acquired by the Salvadoran State to protect and respect the right to life, health, integrity, dignity and equality of women. More details from the Agrupación Ciudadana.
Salvadoran women marched in support of the “Beatriz Reform Bill” and #28S.
6. #LegalizarParaAvançar (#LegalizeToMoveForward): Católicas pelo Direito de Decidir launched a new campaign for legal abortion in Brazil: The central idea of the campaign is to draw attention to the fact that, even in 2021, there is a morality – religious and conservative – that got stuck in time and is a great obstacle to the advancement of women’s rights in Brazil, as in the case of the criminalisation of abortion. The organisation released a video on You Tube that describes prohibitions and historical measures that, based on sexism, excluded women from public life and denied their right to autonomy – which today no longer make sense. For example, the prohibition of the vote for women and the use of the “legitimate defence of honour” thesis. To support their argument, the organisation included offensive comments that they constantly receive on their social networks and included them in the video. The political moment of the campaign not only marks the date of the struggle in the feminist calendar, but is also timely given that, recently, bills both from federal and municipal government administrations have been tabled that aim to deny all access to abortion, guaranteed by law since 1940, and in addition create dates to celebrate the “National Day of the Unborn” and “Weeks to Combat Abortion.” Their videos and other work can be found here.
Women march against abortion laws amid planned Latin America-wide protests
Scores of people in El Salvador waved green flags and marched through the capital San Salvador en route to Congress to demand loosening of the country’s “strict” abortion laws, which are some of the strictest in the world and prohibit the procedure even in cases of rape or when the woman’s life is at risk, with similar protests planned across Latin American cities. Abortion is banned outright in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
“We are asking for minimum measures to be added to the Penal Code to guarantee the life and integrity of women,” Morena Herrera, a prominent Salvadoran feminist, told reporters. Holding up banners saying “It’s our right to decide” and “Legal safe free abortion” the mostly women marchers met as part of International Safe Abortion Day, being marked around the globe.
SOURCES: AlJazeera, 28 September 2021 ; WHBL, by Ana Isabel Martinez, Gerardo Arbaiza /Reuters, 28 September 2021
Online video in Creole on Facebook, 14 September 2021
Uruguay will not be the republic of the Handmaid’s Tale
We celebrated 28 September – Global Day of Action for Legal, Safe and Free Abortion – by calling for a feminist intervention in front of the Legislative Palace. This action was organised by the youth group Gozarte in collaboration with Mujer y Salud en Uruguay (MYSU) and in coordination with LAS LILAS – the network of feminist accompaniment for abortion.
Gozarte’s actions are inscribed in the concept of “artivism” – where the body, sensitivity, consciousness and feminist demand are expressed through art. Since 2020 we have been carrying out a performative action of “The Handmaids”, an intervention based on the novel by Margaret Atwood. In the dystopian reality of Atwood’s fiction, all the mechanisms of patriarchal domination towards women, gender dissidences and sexual diversities, are quickly restored, sweeping away the rights conquered in the emancipatory struggle of feminisms. Women once again become objects of exploitation and reproductive control at the service of the petty and ambitious interests of powerful men.
More than a year and a half since we met for the first time for the performative activity as “The Handmaids” on 28 May, the situation in the country has worsened and inequalities have increased. Sexual and reproductive health services left many women and people with the capacity to gestate outside the system. Violence during pregnancy, childbirth, the puerperium and abortion had a serious impact, resulting in the death of a teenager in the process of a legal abortion and the deaths of 10 women from Covid-19 during pregnancy.
The Ministry of Public Health not only failed to announce goals and objectives in the area of sexual and reproductive health, but also formed a working group to PROMOTE NATALITY, made up of the most reactionary representatives and opponents of the human rights agenda.
An open call was made, with prior registration, in which about 40 women and gender dissidents of different ages and social contexts participated. We mobilised in front of the Legislative Palace under the slogans:
“FEMINISTS IN FIGHT AND RESISTANCE – THESE ARE YOUR RIGHTS, MAKE THEM VALID – THEY WILL NOT PASS OVER OUR RIGHTS”.
Once the intervention was over, we handed out 1,000 information leaflets about 28 September, how to have a safe abortion in Uruguay and how to access sexual and reproductive health services.
The preparation of the performance activity included a workshop on 25 September, in which a reflection on the current context was carried out by Gozarte and MYSU. In order to express our demands politically through the body, we worked with a feminist artistic director.