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PERSONAL EXPERIENCES

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20 October 2017
EL SALVADOR
 

 
Beatriz, who brought El Salvador’s abortion ban to the world stage in 2013, has died following a motorcycle accident
 
"Beatriz was our friend, a warrior, who never stopped fighting for her life," said the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto, in a statement.
 
Beatriz Garcia, whose fight against El Salvador’s draconian prohibitions on abortion moved the country – and the world – in 2013, died on 8 October from complications after a motorcycle accident a few days earlier.
 
“Beatriz” had struggled to terminate a life-threatening pregnancy in 2013; she suffered from an auto-immune disease discoid systemic lupus erythematosus, which was aggravated by lupus nephritis, an incurable disease that affects multiple organs. According to the Salvadoran Institute of Forensic Medicine, the lupus, combined with hospital-acquired pneumonia, ultimately led to her death.
 
SOURCE:
Rewire,  by Kathy Bougher, 11 October 2017 ; PHOTO

 
SENEGAL
 


 
A young couple, both school students, sent to prison for a month for abortion
 
In Senegal, abortion is illegal in all cases except to save the woman’s life; approval for inducing “therapeutic abortions” must come from three doctors, one of whom is independently assigned by the courts. Giving advice on where or how to access abortion is a criminal offence. There were an estimated 51,500 abortions in Senegal in 2012, and virtually all of them were clandestine and unsafe, according to the
Guttmacher Institute. Seventy-three per cent of poor, rural women who underwent abortions had complications, compared to a third of non-poor, urban women.
 
According to the Senegalese Association of Women Lawyers (AJS), 16% of women in prison in Senegal are there for infanticide – including some who got pregnant following rape. One example is Ina, who was working as a domestic at the age of 16 and was raped by a security guard in the neighbourhood where she worked. She delivered alone in her mother's home and left the dead baby in an unfinished building nearby. The police knocked on her door a few days later. She spent five years in jail.
 
In September 2017, the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Dakar jailed a teenage boy and his girlfriend, both secondary school pupils, for the crimes of abortion and complicity in abortion. Without informing their parents, for fear of reprisal, the two ended their four-month pregnancy in August using a medication called "Sittotem" purchased from a clandestine pharmacy. The girl began to bleed heavily and was taken to hospital. In court, their lawyers asked for clemency so that they could continue in school. They were convicted, however, and given a month in prison each.
 
SOURCES:
Leral.net, by Kady Faty, Ousseynou Wade, 22 September 2017 ; New Yorker, by Allyn Gaestrel & Ricci Shryock, 1 October 2017 ; OHCHR/PHOTO, 13 March 2015 ; FIDH, 28 November 2014
USA
 


Hello, I’m Katie. We crossed paths briefly earlier this year
 
I’m Katie. We crossed paths briefly earlier this year outside of the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta. I was the Black woman, in all black with my hair in a bun: as if I were dressed for a funeral and a fight. I was afraid to walk past you, a large white man sporting a trucker hat and spewing hate through a megaphone.
 
“BABY KILLER!”
“YOU’RE GOING TO HELL!”
“BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS!”
 
Your companion, an older white woman with a kitten on her shirt, had a markedly different tone as she addressed patients. “Please … please don’t kill your baby, ma’am. We can help.”
 
Do you practice this routine? Good cop, bad cop: the harassing strangers edition. Is it effective? Do you protest at this clinic exclusively, or are you traveling propagandists?
 
As I got closer to you, you paused your chorus of general insults and dropped your megaphone to focus specifically on me: “You say ‘Black lives matter,’ and go kill your Black baby. Black lives matter more to me than they ever will to you.”
 
Fighting words – well-worn ones at that. Across the nation, your fellow anti-abortion protesters have tried to twist and contort the call to support Black lives into efforts to suppress Black autonomy. This is a tired tactic. After “Black Lives Matter” became a mainstream rallying cry, uninformed people like yourself increased the volume of existing rhetoric linking abortion to
slavery and genocide. We’ve been here before: Your comrades thought you were clever when you posted a billboard in New York stating that the most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb, and have continued to do so around the country. You and your ilk refuse to say “Black Lives Matter” in other instances, but effortlessly created the hashtag #UnbornLivesMatter.
 
Black lives matter to me beyond birth. Black lives haven’t ever mattered to self-important white men like yourself. Black women have been making hard decisions for themselves and their families’ well-being for a long time. Most of these decisions wouldn’t exist without the omnipresent foot of white supremacy pressing on our backs.…
 
If you cease to care about Black lives after birth, you’re not for Black lives…. In other words, don’t you ever profess to care about Black lives. Those are fighting words.
 

Rewire, by Katie, 13 October 2017 ; PHOTO

FULL REPORT
 
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Immigrant minor held ‘hostage’ by Texas because she wants an abortion
 
An unaccompanied immigrant aged 17 at a Texas shelter is being prevented from accessing abortion care by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the federal agency overseeing migrant youth crossing the US-Mexico border without a guardian.
 
Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Reproductive Freedom Project, is seeking a temporary restraining order today to allow her to access an abortion. She had been granted a judicial bypass from a Texas judge, allowing her to have an abortion, because her parents were not willing or able to provide consent. However, the girl has had to cancel two abortion appointments because officials are refusing her transportation to the medical facility and refusing to allow her to leave the shelter with her guardian for the purpose of obtaining an abortion.
 
The federal government also stepped in to block her from being transported to a clinic, according to the ACLU. They instead required her to visit a religiously affiliated crisis pregnancy centre to undergo counseling to continue the pregnancy. She was required to have a sonogram conducted by non-medical personnel against her will.
 

Rewire, by Tina Vasquez, 11 October 2017
 
MALAYSIA
 

 
Getting the message across
 
WHEN parents find out that their 17-year-old school-going daughter is pregnant, the reaction would most probably be anger followed by murderous rage, more anger and then a feeling of failure before they finally settle down to decide how to deal with the situation and the stigma that comes with it.
 
Every year, between 13,000 and 17,000 teenage births are recorded in Malaysia. For every live birth, there is an equal number of abortions or miscarriages, hence the total number of teenage pregnancies would most certainly be higher than the figures recorded.
 
According to police statistics, nationwide one baby is dumped every three days. In 2016, the number of abandoned babies recorded was 115.
 
The Fifth Malaysian Family and Population Survey conducted in 2014 showed that 2.3% of young people aged 13-17 years and 8.3% of those aged 18-24 were already sexually active. It was also noted that basic sexual and reproductive health knowledge was at best mediocre even in age groups of up to 24 years old. Knowledge about contraceptive methods was limited with less than 50% being aware of condoms, pills, or the rhythm procedure.
 
Adolescent pregnancies, which are mainly unintended, are shown to be associated with poorer outcomes for both the mother and baby. Pre-term labour, fetal growth retardation and delay in infant development are among some of the adverse outcomes.
 
SOURCE:
The Star, Letter by Dr John Teo, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Kota Kinabalu, 27 September 2017 ; PHOTO


FULL REPORT
 
UK
 

 
Teenage pregnancy: The choice that changed my life
 
‘I can’t be pregnant,’ I said to the doctor who had just examined me.
 
‘But you are sexually active,’ he pointed out.
 
I met my boyfriend when I was 14... We believed that nothing bad could happen as long as we were together. But at 16, pregnant was about as bad as it got.
 
We left the doctor’s surgery that day in shock. Neither of us knew what to say so we didn’t speak. We just sat on a bench smoking cigarettes in the rain, our young minds desperately trying to process the news. I couldn’t understand how it could have happened. Girls like me didn’t get pregnant. I had only ever slept with one boy. I wasn’t stupid. I knew about contraception and I thought I’d been careful. I had plans – I was going to finish college, move to London and be an actor. Having a baby was not part of my plan.
 
‘Well, I’m not having a baby,’ I finally said feigning nonchalance and bravado. ‘I can’t keep it. We can’t.’ ‘Are you sure?’ he asked weakly, struggling to work out how he was supposed to react. ‘I think so,’ I replied, and we did the ultimate walk of shame home to tell my parents the big news. I spent the next few weeks leading up to the operation in denial about the fetus growing inside my body.
 
SOURCE:
Metro, by Emily-Jane Clark, 28 September 2017

FULL REPORT
 
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I regret having an abortion, but that doesn’t mean I’m against it
by Rachel, in her twenties, from the south-east
 
I had two abortions as a teenager. They were both early on, both with the same abusive boyfriend. One happened in horrible circumstances which I will not repeat here. I consider them to be the most devastating events to have happened in my life.
 
I’ve always worked hard because I wanted more than the lot my mum, herself a single parent who had children with an abusive man, was given. The thought of repeating that cycle, of being so angry, for she was so very angry as we grew up, and alone – and I really would have been alone, my partner at the time made that crystal clear – just made me feel so empty. Like life was done – that was it. I’d reached its peak, and it hadn’t been great up until that point.

I made the decision, in part thanks to some serious pressure from him, and cried so much throughout the day I had people approaching me in the hospital corridors to ask if I was OK. I probably looked like I was having a total breakdown and I suppose in some ways I was. That was the worst day of my life. But I know access to abortion needs to exist for various reasons. If anything, my experience has only strengthened that belief, because I desperately needed it to exist at that time…

SOURCE:
inews, 10 October, 2017  

FULL REPORT

 
AUSTRALIA
 
QUEENSLAND

 

 
Prisoner with mental health problems and high risk pregnancy refused an abortion
 
A reproductive rights group raised concerns last month about Queensland's health system after a mentally ill prisoner with a drug problem was barred from having an abortion. The 33-year-old woman applied to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) for special consent to terminate her high-risk twin pregnancy at 20 weeks because she cannot look after the children.
 
The woman has a history of mental illness and drug use, has outstanding criminal matters and is hepatitis C positive. She was taken into custody at the Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre in June 2017 for breaching a bail order and has since been living at a Brisbane mental health facility to treat her relapsed schizophrenia. She is thus a classified patient under the Mental Health Act and requires ongoing psychiatric and professional health care to manage her mental illness, and her complex care needs, including her pregnancy.
 
The QCAT can decide whether an adult without legal capacity can make a decision to have an abortion. The woman's parents did not oppose the approval of the termination, mainly because they do not think she is capable of looking after children. In her decision, however, QCAT member Joanne Browne said the woman could not be granted an abortion because she did "not have the capacity to make complex decisions about all of her personal matters due to her diagnosed mental illness". 
 
SOURCE:
ABC News, by Isobel Roe, 4 September 2017 ; PHOTO

FULL REPORT 

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NEW SOUTH WALES
 
Sydney woman convicted after taking abortion pills
 
A mother-of-five was 28 years old when she fell pregnant in September 2015. Nineteen weeks into the pregnancy her partner told her he didn't want to have the child. At about 26 weeks into the pregnancy her boyfriend again urged her to terminate. The woman then contacted a number of clinics in New South Wales and interstate, but was told they would not help as it was past 20 weeks. She eventually found someone she believed was in Darwin, known as 'Patrick', who was prepared to facilitate a termination. 'Patrick' told her a termination was possible up to 30 weeks and he would send her pills for the payment of $2,000.
 
Thereafter she received a package originating from South Africa which contained a blister pack of ten pills each containing 200mg of misoprostol. The next day 'Patrick' provided instructions for inducing an abortion with the pills, which she swallowed and inserted vaginally. She began to feel unwell and was taken by a friend to Blacktown Hospital... The woman was convicted of self-administering a drug with the intent of procuring her own miscarriage, which is a criminal offence under the NSW Crimes Act (1900). She was given a three-year good behaviour bond.
 
SOURCES:
Buzzfeed, by Gina Rushton, 14 August 2017 ; Sydney Morning Herald, 14 August 2017 ; Daily Telegraph Australia, by Jamie Walker, The Australian, 28 June 2010


FULL REPORT
 
Editor: Marge Berer

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