Abortion Law and Policy and the Involvement of the Courts: Brazil, Chile, Uganda, India, Ireland, Spain

25 November 2016


Supreme Court to rule on Zika on 7 December 2016
"It has just been announced that the Brazilian Supreme Court is set to rule on the preliminary injunction in the Zika case on 7 December 2016. The preliminary injunction request refers to all the demands in the case: access to information, access to a wider choice of contraceptive methods, access to termination of pregnancy for pregnant women infected with Zika and experiencing mental distress, access to free transportation to rehabilitation centres and inclusion in the disability cash transfer programme for all children with congenital Zika syndrome.
"At this point it is hard to anticipate how votes will go, although it is expected that the Court may deny the injunction regarding abortion by saying they need more in-depth debate on the issue."...



Enough of criminalising women
MILES (Movement for Sexual and Reproductive Rights) denounces the detention of a woman accused of having an abortion
The Movement for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (MILES) today denounced the fact that a Colombian woman of 32 years of age was detained at Antofagasta by the Sexual Crimes Brigade of the IDPS for allegedly aborting a fetus of 18 weeks. She was said to have taken three doses of misoprostol and then gone to the Medical Center North (CAN), where she was arrested and detained by the Office of the Prosecutor.
"This situation is inhumane. Women are treated like criminals because the State has been unable to regulate and facilitate the termination of pregnancy, even for women at risk of losing their lives by the absence of this care," said MILES. "Instead of being helped, the woman was put in the pillory in public, without any concern about the deep psychological and physical unease that she must be feeling. This is a flagrant violation of her human rights."
"The government and legislators must show the decency to adopt the pending abortion law reform, because every day that passes without this law, there are egregious abuses of women's health and lives. The State must respond to the demands and needs of the people, the majority of whom endorse the abortion bill, as all the opinion polls show."...



UN Human Rights Council says: reduce maternal mortality and amend the abortion law
Among the recommendations the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) members made to the government of Uganda as part of its review of the country’s human rights record this year was one to revise its abortion legislation.
The Ugandan Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) and the Center for Reproductive Rights submitted a
shadow letter in March 2016 to the HRC review in which they called for greater attention to all aspects of maternal mortality and morbidity and showed why less improvement has occurred than is hoped for. They also discussed the criminalization of abortion and other reproductive health services as a barrier that interferes with access to safe health care services. They also said: "While the Ugandan government has ratified the Maputo Protocol and has repeatedly recognized unsafe abortion as a leading cause of maternal mortality and morbidity, the government has entered a reservation on this article which would have expanded access to safe abortion. They also expressed concern about the ambiguity and misinformation surrounding the legality of abortion and post-abortion services.

In June 2015, the Ugandan Ministry of Health issued “Standards & Guidelines for Reducing Morbidity and Mortality from Unsafe Abortion in Uganda," which contains “practical and standardized information to various stakeholders from a range of sectors that will help reduce morbidity and mortality due to unsafe abortion.” However, the publication was delayed until recently.
The Ugandan government supported a number of recommendations made at the HRC review, including that they should strengthen measures to fight against maternal mortality and morbidity with a human rights-based approach, ensure a sufficient health budget and full and equal access to health services. They said there was support for strengthening measures to address maternal deaths and ensuring access to reproductive health services, but that abortion law reform was not a priority...



Jindal-Ipas joint consultation deliberates on abortion for under-18s
The Centre for Health Law, Ethics and Technology (CHLET), Jindal Global Law School (JGLS) in collaboration with Ipas Development Foundation held a one-day consultation on access to safe abortion for minor girls with a special focus on the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) on 12 November 2016 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.
Speaking about the contradictions between the Medical Termination Of Pregnancy (MTP) Act and the POCSO Act,  Ms Dipika Jain, Associate Professor, Jindal Global, and Associate Dean and Executive Director, Centre for Health Law, Ethics and Technology, Jindal Global Law School, said, “All pregnant minors are treated as survivors of rape and other pre-existing notion associated with pre-marital sex and abortion-related stigma. This forces many minor girls to seek abortion from unapproved service providers outside the mainstream health system. This is a matter of grave concern and needs urgent redress.”
Ms. Seema Misra Advocate, Delhi District Courts and founder-member of Association of Advocacy and Legal Initiatives said: “There is a great contradiction in the law, the POCSO Act is to prevent sexual abuse, but it is an absurdity because it criminalises all sexual activity below the age of 18, which is not in sync with the times… [For] government hospitals, mandatory reporting poses many operational and access-related challenges. The law requires reporting of rape immediately whereas the primary concern should be medical assistance… All sexual activity under 18 cannot be termed illegal or rape.”...




Dublin clinic picketed, 2007
Bogus crisis pregnancy advice agencies to be regulated
The Irish government has committed to a major overhaul of how abortion information is regulated. Simon Harris, the health minister, has announced a full review of the Regulation of Information Act, which restricts what women can be told about abortion services outside the state. The review will run at the same time that a bill with cross-party support, which would regulate all crisis pregnancy counsellors, is making its way through the parliament. If it goes ahead, it would be the first time a government has moved to shut down crisis pregnancy agencies that give inaccurate or misleading advice. These moves follow an investigation by The Times that exposed a clinic run by a Catholic anti-abortion group which claimed falsely that abortion could cause breast cancer and turn women into child abusers. No evidence exists to support such claims.
One centre in Dublin is now at the centre of a police investigation. The centre is linked to a Catholic anti-abortion group that holds protests outside clinics in Britain and has defended the Magdalene laundries. It is also connected to a man who was found in a 1999 High Court case to have used a similar clinic to illegally adopt a baby from a woman who had been talked out of an abortion.

The Health Minister said he found the information reported in the Times "…repulsive, spineless, unacceptable to any right thinking person. It should not and will not be tolerated,” he said. While he and other parliamentarians feel the bill needs improving as to goes through parliamentary scrutiny, the intention is to ensure a version of it passes...



Legal abortion so as not to die

“The doctors’ right to object nearly cost me my life” 

The health system in Galicia, northwest Spain, was ordered to compensate a woman who lost her uterus after a hospital refused to do an abortion as an emergency obstetric procedure and sent her 354 miles to Madrid, so that she nearly lost her life. The events happened four years ago. The woman learned that the fetus she was carrying had an anomaly incompatible with life only seven months into her pregnancy, due to errors during antenatal diagnosis.  
She was then unable to find anyone who would terminate the pregnancy, either in her own town in Galicia or in any of Galicia’s other public hospitals. Eventually, the Galician public health service, SERGAS, declared that “in order to respect the professionals’ right to objection on moral grounds”, the authorities would pay for termination of the pregnancy in a private clinic in Madrid, by which time she was into her 32nd week of pregnancy.
She had to make the trip by car with her partner. She had been having vaginal pains for some days but was told by the hospital it was just wind. In fact, the pain was due to an irregularity in her uterus, affected by the pregnancy. By the time she arrived at the clinic in Madrid, she was bleeding heavily and had to be transferred to a hospital for an emergency caesarean section to remove the fetus, which died soon after. Her uterus had to be removed to stop the bleeding, so now she is unable to have any more children. Paula’s lawyer, Francisca Fernández, says that her client’s case is by no means an isolated one. She has been involved in two other cases where women are suing the public health services in Galicia on account on consequences of conscientious objection...

16 Days of Activism against Violence

Editor: Marge Berer

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