Abortion Law and Policy in the Rest of the World:
Call for Solidarity Action, Chile, Malaysia, Ireland,
Dominican Republic, Europe (shorts), Kuwait
GLOBAL GAG RULE
CALL for SOLIDARITY ACTION: Please write to your International Development Minister
We would like to encourage Campaign members in countries that provide funding for international development, and specifically for contraception, abortion and/or post-abortion care, to write a joint letter signed by national groups to their Minister for International Development and contacts in foundations to urge them to contribute to the Netherlands-initiated fund to support NGOs and governments affected by the Global Gag Rule and other US restrictions on funding safe abortions.
Lilianne Ploumen, the Dutch Development Minister who initiated the fund idea, was reported by Reuters on 28 January to say the Netherlands could put $10 million into the fund, and that she was "confident after early discussions that fundraising would go a long way toward plugging the gap" of $600 million.
Canada's Minister for International Development, Marie-Claude Bibeau, hassaid that her government is considering what they will do as they prepare their annual budget. Bibeau said: "The government's approach will ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every girl and woman is treated with the dignity and respect she deserves."
In the UK, the International Planned Parenthood Federation has launched a petition addressed to the UK Development Minister Priti Patel, calling on the UK to support the Dutch fund. More than 10,000 people have already signed.
Senate agrees to prepare the abortion bill for a final vote
In the last two days of their just-ended legislative session, the Chilean Senate debated the abortion law reform bill, which legalises abortion on three grounds: risk to the woman's life, rape, and fatal fetal anomaly. The proposal on the floor on 25 January was to allow all three clauses of the bill to go forward. The most disagreement was over the wording of the rape clause. One Senator said that if that clause were not amended, he would take it to the Constitutional Court, which was noted. The vote on whether to take the bill forward as a whole in its current wording to the next legislative session, which begins in March, was 20 in favour, 15 against, and 2 abstentions.
In March 2017, both the Senate's Health and Constitution Commissions will finalise the text of each clause of the bill. The final text will hopefully be agreed and then taken to the floor of the Senate for a vote.
We understand President Bachelet has made this one her priorities before leaving office, so people are hopeful of the outcome.
A statement by the Minister of Health of Malaysia, in which he threatened investigation and prosecution of anyone selling or purchasing medical abortion pills online, was widely reported in the press. In response, the Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia's said: "We recognise the proliferation of many unethical sellers of medical abortion pills, but the proposed action by the Minister may also end up threatening the provision of genuine non-profit suppliers such as Women on Web, Women Help Women and Safe2Choose.
"Mifepristone has not been approved in Malaysia. But off-label use of misoprostol for medical abortion and for softening the cervix before manual vacuum aspiration abortion is common. Six months ago, the Ministry pressured Pfizer to stop supplying misoprostol in Malaysia, thus preventing abortion providers from using it. We are uncertain how effective the Customs department will be, but we expect most of the supplies will still get through. But if a prosecution takes place, it will be a real threat to continuing access."
The Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia's says: "The only logical and effective step to cut out the demand for online abortion pills... is to fast-track the approval and supply of both these medications to doctors so that they can be legally prescribed to clients after a proper assessment, as proposed by the Minister."
Strike4Repeal National strike called for 8 March, while Customs seizes more abortion pills
An ad-hoc, non-affiliated group of activists, academics, artists and trade unionists are preparing a nationwide strike for repeal of the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution on 8 March 2017. Their statement, signed by 22 groups, says: "Our demand is that the Irish government call a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment by the 8th of March. If not, Ireland will strike.
Aoife Frances says “We call upon the Government to take direct responsibility for what is a violation of human rights. We believe a national strike is not only possible, but an incredible opportunity to show the sheer power of our movement, and to put pressure on the government to call a referendum. In the past 5 years, support for repeal has grown to a level that the government can no longer ignore.”
The action by Strike4Repeal follows in the footsteps of the national strike in Poland last year.
On 7 December 2016, Broadly.Vice reported that Irish Customs were seizing an increasing number of medical abortion pills that had been sent in the post. Women on Web confirmed to Broadly that they had stopped shipping to the Republic of Ireland in 2009, when customs began intercepting their packages. Safe2Choose also confirmed that they are no longer able to post to women living there.
Observatory on the Universality of Rights UN rights experts urge legislators to back President Medina’s stand on abortion
GENEVA (25 January 2017) – A group of United Nations human rights experts* today urged all Dominican Republic legislators to protect women and girls’ rights to sexual and reproductive health in the country by supporting President Danilo Medina’s position against regressive amendments of the Penal Code regarding abortion.
The call comes as the Commission appointed to examine the presidential observations to the amendments proposed by Congress prepares to issue its report, which the Senate will subsequently vote on. Under the Congress proposed amendment, terminating a pregnancy would only be available in one case: when there is a risk for the life of the pregnant woman or girl. However, the 2014 version of the text partially decriminalized the access to abortion services under three circumstances, including when the life of a pregnant woman or girl was at risk, when the fetus could not survive outside the womb and when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.
The UN experts also warned that restrictive abortion laws exacerbate the risks to the health and safety of the affected women, driving them to undergo sometimes desperate life-threating solutions. “It has been demonstrated that countries with easy access to information and to modern methods of contraception and where abortion is legal, have the lowest rates of abortion,” they noted.
The human rights experts pointed out that this is the last chance, under the current Government, for the situation of women’s sexual and reproductive rights to be improved since President Medina had rejected a similar reform proposed in 2014.
Team of Women Health & Family Planning, Ukraine, ASTRA Member of the Month Short reports from Russia, Macedonia, Georgia, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man
Russia – The Russian Government has included the termination of pregnancy in the list of services for which it is necessary to obtain additional medical license. The new rules will come into force a year later. Until now, abortions were included in the list of types of obstetric and gynaecological care. Macedonia – Going into elections on 11 December 2016, H.E.R.A. and the Gender Equality Platform asked candidates to sign a pledge to reform or replace the current restrictive abortion law, which has been in place since 2013. Eleven political parties signed. The ruling conservative coalition and one other party did not sign.
Georgia – On 20 December 2016, HERA XXI held a conference to present national research in 2015-16 on an “Assessment of Abortion Services and Readiness”. The study included 100 medical institutions, health providers and care takers. The findings indicated lack of quality of care in abortion services in Georgia and that many women had insufficient knowledge about contraceptive methods. Northern Ireland – On 26 January, a mother who was due to go on trial last year for buying abortion pills online for her young, pregnant daughter was granted leave to seek a Judicial Review into the decision to prosecute her. Isle of Man – Member of the Isle of Man Parliament Dr Alex Allinson's request for leave to introduce a Private Members Bill to reform Isle of Man abortion law was passed 21 votes to 3 on 24 January 2017. The Campaign for Abortion Law Modernisation first launched a campaign to table a bill last spring. His speech and a fascinating discussion of the issues can be accessed at Tynwald.org, the Hansard record of all parliamentary debates in the Isle of Man, at pages 207-234.