ABORTION LAW AND POLICY - AND IN THE COURTS
CHILE, SRI LANKA, USA, AUSTRALIA, INDIA, MALAWI ************************************** 7 September 2016
Health Commission approves abortion bill
On 6 September, the Health Commission of the Chilean Senate approved the abortion law reform bill. A date has not yet been set for it to be voted upon by the Senate as a whole but according to the Government, it will be tabled by January 2017...
The first attempt at liberalizing Sri Lanka's abortion law (which allows abortion only to safe a woman's life, in Penal Code of 1883) took place in 1995, when the subject was debated in parliament. This attempt failed due to the "strong male moralist domination" that prevailed at the time. Today, the Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (SLCOG) is spearheading a campaign to decriminalise abortion for three indications: severe congenital abnormalities in the fetus incompatible with life up to 22 weeks of pregnancy, and pregnancy resulting from rape and incest up to 20 weeks.
Consultant Obstetrician Dr Mangala Dissanayake, chair of the SLCOG sub-committee on abortion, put forward reasons for the need to liberalize the law. However, he also said the decision to allow an abortion would be made on an individual basis following "scrupulous scrutiny" by a "competent technical committee comprising experts from various medical specialties in hospital settings above base hospitals. "These cases will be further monitored and evaluated by a central monitoring station...
In 2013, Purvi Patel was arrested after she sought treatment at a hospital emergency room for heavy vaginal bleeding. While being examined by medical personnel, Patel told doctors she’d had a miscarriage and had disposed of the remains. Investigators located the remains and later charged her with both feticide and felony neglect of a dependent, based on their theory that she had self-induced an abortion and delivered a live infant, which then almost immediately died post-delivery.
In February 2015, a jury convicted Patel of both counts. In July 2016, the Indiana Court of Appeals vacated Patel’s feticide conviction, holding the statute was not designed to be used to criminally charge people for their own failed pregnancies. However, the court largely upheld Patel’s felony neglect of a dependent conviction, deferring to controversial medical testimony offered by the state that claimed Patel’s fetus was on the cusp of viability and had taken a breath outside her post-delivery.
She had initially been sentenced to serve 20 years. On 1 September, she walked out of prison, a day after a judge re-sentenced her to less time than she had already served and ordered her immediate release...
Queensland rejects bill to decriminalise abortion as not good enough
Doctors’ professional bodies have spoken out loud and clear in favour of the decriminalisation of abortion in Queensland. Moreover, a recent survey found that 87% of Queenslanders say abortion should be lawful in the first trimester: 61% unconditionally and 26% depending on the circumstances. There is also community support for abortions after the first trimester being a woman’s choice. A majority of Australians support women’s access to lawful termination even after 24 weeks when there is good reason.
On 26 August 2016, the report of the bipartisan committee of the Queensland Parliament inquiring into abortion law reform in the state was released. Pyne’s bill was the first attempt in history to remove offences that make abortion a crime for doctors, women and any person assisting with an abortion procedure from the Queensland Criminal Code (QCC) of 1899.
This particular committee produced a 117-page report that deals comprehensively with every aspect of termination of pregnancy in Queensland. However, the committee found itself unable to make a recommendation that the Pyne bill be passed by Parliament as “it failed to address a number of important policy issues and to achieve a number of its own stated objectives”. However, the report also notes that a second bill Health (Abortion Law Reform) Bill 2016, introduced by Mr Pyne, proposes “to regulate some of the matters that have been raised during the committee’s current inquiry” as an add-on bill to his first bill...
Teenage girl says she was forced to undergo abortion after rape
Just a month after the brutal gang rape in Uttar Pradesh, a teenage girl was allegedly forced to undergo abortion by the culprit’s family after being raped. The incident took place five months ago when the victim was allegedly raped by a boy in Bhaipura village. According to the victim, the accused threatened her not to disclose the incident to anyone. Days after the incident, the victim was admitted to a nursing home when her health deteriorated. It was then found that the victim was pregnant. “I did not tell anyone out of fear. The mother of the rapist told me that she would pay me Rs 1,000 if I undergo abortion,” the girl said.
A police official said the girl told them that she was raped by a person who lived in her neighbourhood five months ago. “She had an abortion at the nursing home last night. We have the aborted fetus with us and have started the investigation,” he said. The police have also started searching for the accused and have arrested the nursing home officials for doing the abortion. The state’s health department has seized the nursing home...
COPUA highlights major gaps in proposed government bill to amend the abortion law
The government bill to amend the current abortion law proposes reform to ensure that women and girls, mostly from poor families, are not dying of unsafe abortions complications. However, in interview with the Nyasa Times during a two-day media orientation meeting in Mangochi, Malawi, the Chair of COPUA (Coalition to Prevent Unsafe Abortion), Juliet Sibale, noted that the new bill has failed to provide enough grounds on which women and girls could seek safe abortion services. Sibale, who is also a lawyer in the Ministry of Gender, said the currently bill has left out grounds such as social and economic reasons, which will force most women and girls to continue use unsafe abortion methods, the very thing the bill is fighting against.
The proposed bill provides three grounds on which abortion will be permitted: risk to the woman's life from the pregnancy, rape or incest, and when there is a malformation of the fetus. Findings of yet-to-be-released Ministry of Health research indicate that the problem of unsafe abortion continues to worsen in the country. Recently, the Malawi Council of Churches expressed optimism that the faith community will endorse the new bill yet to be tabled in Parliament...