ABORTION LAW AND POLICY:
THE BAD NEWS AND THE SILENCES ************************ 24 February 2016
Draft law in Russia proposing abortion restrictions STOP PRESS: It has been withdrawn!
2016 is the year of Parliamentarian elections in the Russian Federation. Three senior anti-abortion politicians who stood for Parliament, all women, tabled a bill in the Russian Parliament for the fourth time in five years, even though bills with similar clauses have been rejected in the past, based on advice from the Ministry of Health.
Their justification for the bill states: “In order to rule out the uncontrolled use of pharmaceutical drugs destined for termination of pregnancy, we suggest the introduction of a direct ban on their retail sales and also to make a full list of organizations that will be given the right to buy them wholesale.”
Medical abortion pills have never been sold in pharmacies in Russia, however.They are purchased by clinics and hospitals and are then provided free or on a commercial basis to patients who have had the mandatory consultation with a doctor and under medical supervision only.
It is quite clear that if this bill had been passed, what would happen is that the products which would have been removed from pharmacies were emergency contraceptives, both those containing levonorgestrel and those containing ulipristal.
While it is quite a common mistake to confuse medical abortion pills with emergency contraception, it is worrying when this mistake ‒ if indeed it is a mistake ‒ was being made by legislators. The Russian Association for Population and Development (RAPD) believes that in this case, it is on purpose, because the anti-choice movement is not only opposed to abortions but also to modern contraceptives, especially emergency contraception.
The bill would also have banned abortions in private clinics and removed payment for them from state insurance policies. It would have allowed abortions to be covered by state health care only if the pregnancy threatened the woman's life.
We have just received word from RAPD that the draft law was removed from consideration in the State Duma of the Russian Federation until further notice. This was due to a strong advocacy campaign organised by RAPD, calling for withdrawal of the bill, in which a coalition of scientists, academics experts in reproductive health and rights, legal advisors, journalists, and young activists participated.
Sources: Russian Association for Population and Development, http://www.ranir.ru/, in Astra Bulletin 02 No.150, Feb 2016; Email from Anastasia Lomova/ Lyubov Erofeeva, Russian Association for Population & Development, 24 February, 2016.
Tags: Russian Federation, medical abortion pills, abortion law and policy
Abortion ban adopted in Abkhazia
9 February 2016
Despite opposition from members of the public and the medical community, who spoke out against it, the Abkhazian President signed a bill into law on 9 February 2016 banning abortions that had been passed by the Parliament on 29 January. It entered into force immediately.
The news was first reported by the executive director of the anti-abortion St Gregory the Theologian Foundation to Interfax-Religion, who hopes this law will encourage other Russian provinces to pass anti-abortion legislation as well. The law also calls for crisis pregnancy centres to be opened to provide “helpful advice and educational assistance in cases of unplanned pregnancy and/or depression associated with a desire to have an abortion”. One of the sponsors of the bill expressed concern about the already small population of the province and the high number of abortions per population.
The only woman member in the parliament voted against the bill (there are 35 members in total, 25 voted for it). The Ministry of Health was not involved in discussions, but they are also against it. However, due to the fact that there are only 700 abortions annually in the province, it seems that most Abkhazian women travel to Russian cities for abortions.
“This week, Protestant and Catholic politicians came together in a rare move of solidarity across the political divide at Stormont. In Northern Ireland’s divided society, there’s perhaps one thing on which ‘both sides’ can always agree: women do not deserve rights.”
After the Belfast High Court ruled that the ban on almost all abortions is a breach of human rights legislation in November 2015, the regional parliament was given one last opportunity to amend the law to allow abortions in the event of rape or incest, as well as fatal fetal anomalies.
“One politician, Anna Lo, who proposed the amendment in the case of rape or incest, told her colleagues her experiences of working as an interpreter for the Northern Irish police and coming face-to-face with the distress of vulnerable women immediately after being raped - a distress compounded by fears of being forced to give birth to the rapists’ babies.
Another, Basil McCrea, spoke of young couples devastated to learn that their much-wanted pregnancy involved an anomaly which meant the fetus could not survive outside the womb, and who were forced to travel to England for an abortion and bring their child’s remains home in a suitcase.”
“Among Stormont’s otherwise often macho-posturing and aggressive politics, the vote was a rare one of raw emotion. After hours of debate, on the cusp of midnight, they voted no to both amendments.
“It’s an extraordinary moment both for Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, whereby a UK legislature has voted to commit a human rights breach against its own citizens. We’re now in an unworkable situation whereby abortion is a human right according to the judiciary and a criminal offence according to the parliament.”
Tags: Northern Ireland, abortion law and policy, religion
Loi sur l'avortement au Maroc: Le docteur Chafik Chraïbi lance un "cri d'alerte" (The law on abortion in Morocco : a call for action)
Un an après le début de la polémique, Chafik Chraïbi fustige l'action des ministères de la Santé et de la Justice, estimant que le dossier est "tombé aux oubliettes". "Où en est l'adoption de la loi sur l'avortement, presque un an après avoir été annoncée?", indique-t-il au HuffPost Maroc, ajoutant qu'il a envoyé plusieurs courriers aux deux ministères pour organiser une conférence de presse afin de relancer le sujet, mais qu'il n'a reçu aucune réponse. (It has been almost a year since the issue was debated and Dr Chafik Chraïbi has condemned the inaction of the Ministries of Health and Justice, concerned that the dossier has "been consigned to oblivion". "Where is the new law on abortion, almost a year later?," he asks. He has sent several letters asking the two Ministries to organize a press conference in order to relaunch the issue, but there has been no reply.)
"J'ai rendu un rapport complet au ministère de la Santé sur la question pour préparer l'élaboration de la loi, comme il me l'avait demandé. Une source au ministère m'a dit que le ministre était prêt à l'accepter à 99%, et que le dossier était maintenant entre les mains de la Justice, mais je n'ai eu aucun retour depuis", explique-t-il. ("I sent a full report to the Ministry of Health elaborating the contents of the Act, as they asked me to do. A source at the Ministry told me that the Minister was prepared to accept 99% of it, and that the folder was now in the hands of Justice, but I have heard nothing since. ")
"Il n'est pas question que tout le travail que nous avons fait l'an passé parte en fumée", indique le docteur, qui estime que le débat est toujours d'actualité et appelle la société civile à se lever pour que le dossier ne reste pas lettre morte. ("Has all of the work we have done in the past year gone up in smoke ?" he asked. The issue is always topical. He called upon civil society to stand up and ensure the dossier does not become a dead letter.)
"Elargir encore la loi"(Expand the grounds) Si le médecin attend l'adoption de la loi promise l'année dernière, dans son rapport, le médecin préconise aussi d'élargir le droit à l'avortement aux mineures ou handicapées enceintes, ou dans le cas de trisomie 21 de l'enfant ou de certaines autres malformations. "Car si l’on fait juste les trois concessions annoncées l'année dernière, ce ne sera pas suffisant", estime Chafik Chraïbi. "Cela ne règlerait que 5 à 10% des situations. Les autres cas pousseront toujours les femmes à avorter de manière illégale". (While the doctor looks forward to the adoption of the bill promised last year, his report also advocates expanding the right to abortion to minors and for fetal malformations. "Because if it is just the three concessions announced last year, this will not be sufficient", he says. "It will resolve only 5-10% of cases. The other 90-95% will always mean the women must have an illegal abortion.")
Le professeur souhaite ainsi autoriser l’avortement jusqu’à douze semaines d’aménorrhée (en France et en Tunisie, il est autorisé jusqu’à quatorze semaines), sauf dans le cas des malformations fœtales, où le diagnostic ne peut être fait qu’à vingt semaines. "Rédiger le projet de loi pourrait se faire très simplement. Il suffit de modifier l’article 453 du Code pénal, en prenant simplement le terme ‘santé’ dans son sens large, tel que le définit l’OMS (Organisation mondiale de la santé, ndlr), à savoir le bien-être physique, mais aussi psychique et social de la personne", et en l’occurrence, de la femme. "Là, on aura gagné la bataille". (He therefore wishes to allow abortion up to 12 weeks of amenorrhoea (in France and in Tunisia, it is allowed up to 14 weeks), except in the case of fetal malformations, where the diagnosis may only be made as late as 20 weeks. "Drafting the bill could be done very simply. It is sufficient to amend article 453 of the Penal Code, simply by using the term 'health' in its broad sense, as defined by WHO, namely physical well-being and also the psychological and social development of the person" for women. "With this, we will have won the battle.")
Aujourd'hui, l'AMLAC estime entre 600 et 800 le nombre d'avortements clandestins pratiqués chaque jour au Maroc. (AMLAC - the Association to Combat Clandestine Abortion - estimates there are currently 600-800 clandestine abortions each day in Morocco.)
Tags: Morocco, abortion law and policy
Prime Minister and police in Tanzania threaten discipline and arrest of doctors and women for illegal abortions
Newly appointed Prime Minister Majaliwa of Tanzania is said to be in sync with President Magufuli as he threatens to sack and possibly imprison doctors who perform illegal abortions in the country. A CCTV-Africa article states that the government crackdown is a reaction to recent reports of doctors in both public and private hospitals accepting payments to perform abortions. At the same time, it states that there are increased cases of complications arising out of illegal abortions, but it does not indicate how the two are linked.
Abortion is only permitted in Tanzania to save the woman's life and to preserve her physical and/or mental health. Under Section 150-152 of the Penal Code of Tanzania (Cap 16), Section 150 states: "Any person who, with intent to procure miscarriage of a woman, whether she is or is not with child, unlawfully administers to her or causes her to take any poison or other noxious thing, or uses any force of any kind, or uses any other means whatever commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years."
Section 152 states: "A woman being with child, who with intent to procure her miscarriage own miscarriage unlawfully administers to herself any poison or other noxious thing, or uses any force of any kind, or uses any other means whatsoever, or permits any such thing or means to be administered or applied to her, commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for seven years."
The maternal mortality ratio in Tanzania was 418 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014 according to World Bank data. CCTV-Africa states that studies have shown that 60% of women admitted to hospitals with suspected miscarriages had had an abortion. While it is correct that a substantial proportion of maternal deaths were due to abortion-related complications, the “solution” is not to sack and/or arrest doctors and women having abortions. Yet the Prime Minister has reportedly instructed local health authorities in Tanzania to investigate and identify doctors involved in secret abortions and take disciplinary action against them.
AllAfrica.com reports this month that the Kilimanjaro regional police commander Mungi has warned “women with the habit of procuring abortion” to stop the behaviour [sic], saying the long arm of the law would soon catch up with them because under Tanzanian laws, abortion is illegal.
He gave the warning when addressing reporters following the arrest of a barmaid, held allegedly for procuring an abortion. He said whoever was caught doing such an act would be arrested. Mr Mungi alleged that on 8 February this year, the woman travelled to her home town in Arusha and when she reported back to her workplace, one of her colleagues suspected her of having had an abortion after noticing her pregnancy could no longer be seen.
Tags: Tanzania, unsafe abortion, trials and imprisonment
No Minister, we don’t need pregnancies to be policed and women criminalised
Kavita Srivastava, National Secretary, Peoples Union for Civil Liberties
Maneka Gandhi, a senior minister in the Narendra Modi government has suggested… that the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act be abolished and that all pregnant women be subjected to a sex determination test on their fetus, the results of which would be disclosed and the expectant mothers themselves subjected to government tracking and monitoring.
If implemented, the minister’s proposal would violate the right to privacy and women’s right to decide whether they want to be pregnant or not or continue a pregnancy or not, ensured by Article 19 of the Constitution, and the right of pregnant women to have an abortion, enshrined under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. It would move towards criminalising the woman and absolving the medical industry of any responsibility for the skewed sex ratio in the country.
By allowing the sex of the fetus to be revealed in a society where there is an absolute ‘desire’ for having sons and a widespread aversion to daughters, such a policy would open the flood gates for more sex selective abortions, strengthen the female feticide industry and further ensure the drop in sex ratios…
[But] we would like to ask her how the government would monitor the approximately 2.5 crore pregnancies – which is the average annual number of children born in the country? The same minister has failed to show in her 21 months in office how to use better monitoring to combat malnutrition in children, which was called a national shame by an earlier prime minister, or promote breastfeeding, which is so essential for the nourishment of a child.
The idea of policing pregnancies will only further take away women’s freedom and the control over their bodies, and end up absolving doctors and hospital establishments, leading to criminalising women, and further offsetting the sex ratio in an already imbalanced situation. It is imperative for the government to have an informed debate on the issue before it lets a minister derail the effort of 20 years of implementation of the PCPNDT Act.
Tags: India, sex selection, policed pregnancies, prenatal diagnostic test act, PNDT
Anti-abortion politicians in Brazil are said to be drafting plans to stiffen existing abortion laws and give jail terms of four-and-a-half years to women who abort fetuses with microcephaly. The move by members of the powerful evangelical caucus in the country’s Federal Congress comes as it faces international pressure to liberalise its abortion laws - including from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the face of the Zika epidemic. It serves as a blunt reminder that conservative forces against abortion in Brazil are far stronger than those seeking to liberalise the law.
Tags: Brazil, Zika virus, abortion law and policy
Still waiting for President Koroma to sign the Safe Abortion Act into law
Report from Charlotte Hord Smith, Ipas, 23 February 2016
There is continued silence from Sierra Leone. The Safe Abortion Act has been in danger since the President, under pressure from religious leaders, failed to give his assent to the bill in early January 2016 and sent it back to Parliament with a recommendation that Parliament consult with the Inter-Religious Council. The Inter-Religious Council did present its position of opposition to the law to Parliament, but so did a wide range of supporters of the Act, who provided a robust defence of the Act during the hearing and via the media and social media, and through contact with high level officials. Their efforts were effective at changing the public narrative around the Act and convincing the Parliamentary leadership to return the Act to the President without amendment.
The Act was returned by Parliament to the President on 8 February, which was made public on 11 February. The President had 14 days to sign, which means that the deadline for his signature was 22 February. There is no information at this writing as to whether or not he has signed or will do so. If he does not sign, the Act potentially goes back to Parliament once more. At this point, all we have are rumours, and no one has any confidence in these one way or the other. Efforts are continuing to engage traditional leaders, influential youth coalitions and strategic media partners to continue the forward momentum in support of the Act.