Abortion Law and Policy News ************************************** 15 June 2016
Changes in abortion regulations in Russian Federation
On 24 February 2016, we reported that a bill was tabled in the Russia parliament in January 2016 aimed to "rule out the uncontrolled use of pharmaceutical drugs destined for termination of pregnancy", introduce a ban on their retail sale and make a list of organizations with the right to buy them wholesale. It would also have banned abortions in private clinics and removed payment for them from state insurance policies, and allowed abortions to be covered by state health care only if the pregnancy threatened the woman's life. The bill was withdrawn after strong public protest, coordinated by the Russian Association for Population and Development (RAPD).
However, that was not the end of the story. The activities of anti-choice groups in the Russian Federation are again emerging. Strategies and tactics have been modified. This time they are using regulations, orders and by-laws, which can be implemented without public discussion or parliamentary debate.
First, a by-law was introduced that made it mandatory to do an ultrasound and listen to the heartbeat of the embryo before an abortion can take place. Moreover, the consent form that women must sign before an abortion now contains misleading, unscientific information about risks and consequences of abortion.
Their next objective is to introduce additional licensing requirements for abortion services. If this is successful, their intention is to remove abortion services from the State Mandatory Medical Insurance, which will create obvious financial and other barriers for women in accessing abortion care.
Tags: Russian Federation, anti-abortion activity, abortion law reform
El Salvador's vice-minister of health has questioned the country's abortion law
In an article about Zika virus in El Salvador, Dr Eduardo Espinosa, Vice-Ministro de Políticas de Salud, is quoted as saying in a recent interview regarding the country's abortion law: "It seems to me that this is a little archaic, and that it is not fair." He was also said to have called on women's rights groups to lead a pro-choice debate and put pressure on lawmakers to ease the country's ban on abortion. "It doesn't depend on us," he said. "I'm obliged to comply with the law and the law states we can't interrupt a pregnancy."
VISUAL: Democratizar la Salud, YouTube, April 2016
Limited grounds for abortion permitted in draft of revised penal code
The draft reform of the Penal Code, presented on 26 May to the government, contains new provisions on abortion, which will be allowed in three cases. The first permits abortion up to 90 days of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. However, a complaint must be filed by the woman and presented to the Attorney General, who will take into account the seriousness of the complaint.
Moreover, three days of reflection are required in case the woman changes her mind. She must also be counselled by a social worker, who must inform her of the alternatives (adoption of the child), and risks of abortion [sic].
The second ground is for women with mental health problems (troubles mentaux). According to a different article, the bill authorizes abortion to "protect the health of the pregnant woman" but does not specify mental or physical health. The definition of health has not been defined in the bill, but will be established later by the Minister of Health after consultation with the National Association of Doctors. Again, the abortion must take place before 90 days, with the prior authorization of the spouse if the woman is married, her parents if she is not married, or her legal guardian if she is a minor.
The third case is fetal malformation (genetic disease or serious malformation of the fetus which cannot be treated). Abortion may take place up to 120 days of pregnancy. If the malformation requires more time to be detected, the time limit may exceed 120 days, but not more than 22 weeks. The National Association of Doctors will also be asked to define the precise list of malformations.
In all cases, the abortion shall be carried out by a doctor in a public hospital clinic or other approved clinic. Fines of 10,000–100,000 dirhams for violating this, or if details of the abortion are not recorded by the doctor.
The bill must still go to Parliament, be discussed in committee and then voted on in plenary, once finalised.
The Association marocaine de lutte contre l'avortement clandestin (Moroccan Association against Clandestine Abortion (AMLAC) held a national seminar on 14 June in Rabat, bringing together NGOs and members of civil society to debate and make proposals to the government to further reform the bill before it is too late.
Abortion in dancehall music and the backstreets in Jamaica
Abortion is illegal in Jamaica except to save a woman's life or preserve her physical or mental health under a law dating back to 1864.
It is also the subject of dancehall music, according to a study by Sonjah Stanley Niaah, head of the Institute of Caribbean Studies, University of the West Indies. The study, entitled "DanceHall: From Slave Ship to Ghetto," finds that women who have had an abortion are shamed and shunned in this music. One recent song describes women who have had abortions as "haunted" and followed around by ghosts. Dancehall music has won a reputation both for extolling violence and playing a role in enforcing moral codes, especially about abortion or sexual orientation. Stanley-Niaah has traced the origins of attention to abortion in dancehall music to a hit song in the early 1990s entitled "Murder She Wrote" about a woman with a "pretty face and a bad character" who had an abortion.
Illegal abortions happen in Jamaica as often as elsewhere, based on the same double standard as elsewhere, that those with money are able to get access to safe abortions illegally, while according to Lisa Hanna, a member of parliament, in a newspaper interview last year, the poor "get mutilated and botched by clinics that are not satisfactory".
According to doctors and those with knowledge of the illegal market, an abortion typically costs about $120 to $200 in Jamaica. Women who cannot afford this may buy misoprostol on the black market for self-use, but possibly without knowing the proper dosage and without medical support, experts say.
Michael Abrahams, an obstetrician who has been outspoken with his view that Jamaica's abortion laws should change, said he has seen patients with unsuccessful and botched abortions throughout his career: "Between 10 to 20 percent of my patients have had at least one [abortion]… It's an archaic law and it's unfair to women."
Other medical professionals spoke about seeing life-threatening, botched abortions in public hospitals, e.g. following the use of herbs such as "dog's blood" and "guinea hen weed". These were mentioned by Steve Weaver, head of the nursing school, University of the West Indies, who has studied traditional medicine.
The stark contrast between public standards and private acts are a symptom of the complicated relationship many Jamaicans have with the topic of abortion, Stanley Niaah said. "I call that complexity, in some quarters, dishonesty because there is a total hypocrisy around how we treat issues in terms of the private domain versus the public domain… Where a family has a young teenager and they don't want her future to be blighted by this occurrence, they immediately find the resources (for an abortion). It is completely supported in the private domain."
Public opposition has made discussion of changing the law difficult. But the Jamaican National Family Planning Board said it was reviewing its position on abortion after appointment of new board members in May.
Federal election 2016: Greens pledge $15 million to make abortions easier
The Green Party has pledged to make it safer, cheaper and easier for Australian women to get abortions in a $15 million election commitment, including support for the decriminalisation of abortion at state level and cutting out-of-pocket expenses through a review of rebates.
They would also introduce "truth in advertising" laws for pregnancy counselling and collate accurate data on terminations in order to meet demand. It would also "increase access via public hospitals by establishing a task force on abortion and contraception to clear the roadblocks to public provision".
Queensland Green Senator Larissa Waters, the party's spokeswoman on women, said abortion across Australia should be "legal, accessible and affordable". There are affordability and accessibility problems across Australia, she said, particularly in regional areas. Abortion was also still considered a crime in some circumstances in both Queensland and New South Wales.
"In Queensland, just 1% of terminations are carried out in the public system so many women face hundreds or even thousands of dollars in costs in the private system," she said. "There are only three private abortion clinics north of the Sunshine Coast, leaving women in some rural Queensland areas to travel over 1000 kilometres or up to eight hours.
Dr Sandra Bayley, a GP and Greens candidate in Brisbane, said that "as well as improving the accessibility and affordability of abortion, our plan would review public funding of contraception to improve accessibility." Some counselling providers did not disclose their pro-life stance and provided "discredited, false information" to women, she said. "The Greens will introduce national legislation to ensure counselling services are upfront about whether they support a woman's right to choose… Deciding whether to have an abortion should not be made more difficult by misleading information from vested interests."
SOURCE: Cameron Atfield, and PHOTO: Michelle Smith,SMH, 24 May 2016
Tags: Australia, Green Party, abortion law reform
Brazil: gang rape shocks the country
A 16-year-old Brazilian girl reported she had been raped by more than 30 men around 21 May. A video of the rape was posted on Twitter several days later by an alleged perpetrator, which set off a wave of outrage in the country. The video showed the girl nude, bleeding and semi-conscious with several men insulting her and laughing, and even showing their faces. One was heard to say: “More than 30 impregnated her!” Before the Twitter account could be suspended and the video removed, 500 people had already liked it. The crime took place a day after another rape of a 17-year-old girl by five men in the state of Piauí in the Northeast of Brazil.
In response, people marched in several cities to demand justice and decry sexism in Brazilian culture. Supreme Court Justice Carmen Lucia said: "Each and every woman is a victim. Our bodies are tormented, our souls are trashed… These criminals must quickly be held accountable." .
The original lead investigator was removed from the case at the request of the girl's solicitor, because in an interview he had asked the girl if she had participated in group sex parties. A policewoman has been appointed in his place who calleda news conference and launched a massive search for the men in the neighbourhood where the rape took place.
The cases sparkled intense debate on social media platforms about the rape culture, macho behaviour, the naturalisation of violence against women within male peer groups, and talking to children about consent. However, there have also been comments on social media blaming the girl herself, including death threats.