ABORTION LAW AND POLICY NEWS ************************
11 May 2016
ACLU launches two lawsuits against Catholic hospital chains over denial of care and publishes a report
Religious directives written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops forbid doctors at Catholic health facilities from providing birth control and other common reproductive health procedures.
The suit is on behalf of an individual patient who was denied a tubal ligation and Physicians for Reproductive Health. The patient’s physician agreed to do the procedure during a caesarean section, but the hospital refused the doctor’s request, citing Catholic policy that classifies sterilisation as “intrinsically evil”.
Moreover, the ACLU recently brought a lawsuit against Trinity Health Corporation, another of the largest Catholic health systems in the country, for its repeated and systematic failure to provide women suffering pregnancy complications with medically indicated emergency abortions as required by federal law.
A law dating from 1974 and amended in 1986 allows the termination of pregnancy in Cyprus only in cases of rape or on medical indications. The reality is a bit different.
Maria Epaminonda directs the only family planning service in the country. "We do not offer medical services or prescription of contraceptives. Our association, the Cymfamplan, has a mission to provide information: we go into the schools and the universities to establish a dialogue on issues related to sexuality," she says. In her small office in the heart of Nicosia, a few brochures are available. People go there to exchange, to learn, to get a few condoms free of charge, and to find solutions, too. "The question of abortion is very delicate... Officially, it is forbidden, except in certain very specific cases. Informally, many private clinics provide abortions, but women must pay."
It costs € 600 to have an abortion in a country with a minimum wage of € 920 euros per month. "For months, the parliament should ratify an amendment which would broaden access to abortion. But it is dragging its feet... There are many pressures to slow down the process, particularly due to the influence of the Orthodox Church," notes Maria. The objections to law reform are manifested in very virulent terms.
Cyprus was directed for more than 15 years by Archbishop Makarios, its first President, at the beginning of the 1960s. A heavy colonial past explains some of the weight of religion today. "It is a paradox: in Greece, the same church is fairly tolerant, modern enough on the questions of morals. Here, the clergy is very conservative, and it is a real brake on the advancement of the rights of women… I would not speak publicly about abortion. That would be counter-productive. My role is to help women get out of difficult situations, practice prevention," ," Maria explains.
According to journalist Eve Andreou of the Cyprus Mail, the main problem lies in the cost of abortion: "Public hospitals refuse to do them, even within the legal framework. There is therefore no choice, women must pay. In much of Cyprus, the morning-after pill does not exist and almost no young woman has access to oral contraception. For those from the poorest classes, the question does not really arise."
Immigration minister risked safety of asylum seeker sent to PNG for abortion, court finds
The Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, exposed a refugee living on Nauru who has serious neurological, physiological and psychological conditions and who became pregnant after being raped on Nauru to serious medical and legal risks by flying her to Papua New Guinea for an abortion, the federal court found on Friday.
Because the Australian government has a (highly contested) policy not to bring refugees or asylum seekers to Australia unless the circumstances are exceptional, the immigration department sent her to Papua New Guinea for the abortion. The Minister had also refused to send her to a third country, like Singapore or New Zealand, which expert evidence stated had the appropriate medical facilities.
The woman remains in limbo in Papua New Guinea after her lawyers issued an emergency court order to halt the abortion being performed there to try and protect her health.
Lawyers for the Minister said he did not believe her circumstances to be exceptional and also denied he had a duty of care to her. The judge disagreed. “She has no independent means,” he said. “She has been and remains dependent on the Minister for food, shelter, security and health care.” But the judge said his findings did not mean she had to be brought to Australia for the abortion. Other countries with the necessary medical experts and equipment could also be appropriate.
The young woman's lawyer told the court her distress had grown in recent days, especially after news that two of her friends had self-immolated, and that her overall health was declining. He praised the court and the judge for a speedy judgment. But he said: “There is simply no basis for the Minister to ask for more than 48 hours to comply with your honour’s order… Every teaching hospital in New Zealand or Singapore has the required facilities.”
Shockingly, lawyers for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection may appeal. As a result, her future remains uncertain and it is unclear where she may be sent to have an abortion even if no appeal is lodged. In a statement, the Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said: “This woman should never have been sent to PNG and it’s shameful that she’s been put in this position.”
Anti-abortion protesters are banned from harassing women outside Victorian abortion clinics, with safe access zones of at least 150 metres from abortion clinics now in place.
"For too long, women accessing abortion services have been unfairly abused and intimidated, and it's time it stopped - that's why we've fast-tracked the introduction of safe access zones so we can give women the protection they deserve, sooner," Health Minister Jill Hennessy said on Monday.
New South Wales
When the New South Wales (NSW) Greens did a poll on the issue of abortion last year, 87% of 1,000 respondents supported women having access to abortion. A further 81% supported protest exclusion zones around clinics. Exclusion zones are already in place in Victoria, ACT and Tasmania. So it seemed logical to Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi to take the next step and ensure a woman's fundamental right to reproductive choice by reforming an antiquated law that is out of step with public opinion – a conversation the NSW Parliament has been avoiding, she says, for 100 years. She created fact sheetson the bill, posted it on her website and sent copies to the opposition and Government requesting meetings, as well as to the NSW Bar Association, NSW AMA, NSW Council for Civil Liberties and the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association.
But other veterans of the parliament say there is a good reason for that – an avowed anti-abortionist, who holds the balance of power in the upper house, has sat in the NSW Parliament since 1981. Start the debate on abortion, and you risk losing it.
A 1971 court decision provides that abortion in NSW is not unlawful if a doctor believes it is necessary to protect a woman's physical or mental health. But one Christian Democrat MP has repeatedly, though unsuccessfully, sought to limit this with further conditions – and almost succeeded in 2013.
Penny Sharpe, NSW Labor MP SMH/Photo: Wolter Peeters
Labor MP, Penny Sharpe, has tabled a bill for safe access zones around clinics but not included decriminalisation in her bill.
Faruqi says every other state has decriminalised first, then dealt with the harassment. "The stigma around abortion and access are because abortion is still in the Crimes Act," she says. The Greens say even if their bill fails, they have begun the debate, because doctors and women are fed up.
Abortion has been prohibited in Queensland since 1899, but is permissible if there is serious danger to the woman's life or her physical or mental health.
A private member's bill to legalise abortion in Queensland has been introduced in state parliament by independent MP Rob Pyne. The bill will go to a parliamentary committee for consideration before being presented to Parliament for debate.
Mr Pyne told a pro-choice rally of about 200 people outside Parliament the legislation would not be the final version of what would be voted on. "It's not 1899, abortion should not be a crime… What I'm saying is a majority of MPs can surely see the current laws are not acceptable."
Queensland Council of Civil Liberties said the state's current abortion laws were "antiquated and draconian". President Michael Cope said they want the Victorian system, which requires approval by two medical practitioners for abortions over 24 weeks. "It's time we had this discussion and it's time we brought some certainty to women's right to choose in this state," he said.
Queensland counselling service Children by Choice said about two children under 14 were seeking advice about an abortion every month. Last month a 12-year-old was forced to go to the Supreme Court to get permission for an abortion. Counsellor Liz Price said most of the abortions were happening in private hospitals as current laws made it too difficult to use the public system. "We see access problems significantly compounded for under 14-year-olds," she said.
Emily's List supports progressive female Labor candidates trying to reach Parliament. "We certainly have a few members of the State Government and they will be supporting the woman's right to choose," Lisa Carey said.
SOURCE: ABC News Australia Tags: Australia, abortion law reform, abortion clinic exclusion zones
Survey on attitudes towards abortion in Lithuania
Family Planning and Sexual Health Association (FPSHA), ASTRA member from Lithuania, carried out an anonymous online survey on attitudes towards abortion. Of 533 girls and women who answered, 71.9% were young women (age 15-25), 21.6% were young adult women (age 26-35). 12.4% of those who participated in the survey had had an abortion, 32 of 66 between the age of 15 to 25 years old.
Respondents reported that their biggest fear when choosing whether to terminate their pregnancy was to experience a negative reaction from society. This explains why 23 of the 66 who had an abortion had kept information about it secret. Those who terminated a pregnancy said that they didn’t have comprehensive sexuality education at school and weren’t able to afford contraception because of its high price; they also lacked psychological support from their families and medical staff. They also reported that they didn’t have information where they could have an abortion or whether it would be reimbursed or not. Their personal attitudes towards abortion varied but 73% felt positive about the opportunity to have an abortion if it was needed, while some 90% recognised the stigma surrounding abortion.
In Malta, having an abortion is a criminal offence, punishable by up to three years in jail – even in cases of rape and when there are health risks. It is an issue smothered in silence. Insiders reporter Valerie Gauriat travelled to Malta to investigate how much of an appetite there is for change.
“I was 17 and I got pregnant. The decision was to go to England and get a termination. Something went wrong in the procedure because I woke up, half way through. And I wanted to get off the operating table. And they said no, no, and put me back down. And I think they hurried up, they rushed the operation. The day after, when I left, I was in pain, and then was in the aeroplane I started heavily bleeding, with lots of blood clots.”
“I was close to my 44th birthday. So I discussed it with my husband and we both decided that for our family and for our four children the best thing would be to have a termination. It’s something hard, mostly because you can’t share it with anyone in Malta. You have to carry a secret like you’ve done something really wrong.”
Clandestine abortions are rare, if not non-existent, in Malta. One doctor reported:
“Most people who are adamant to have an abortion are having it anyway. And I have known of people traveling back sedated, bleeding… One of the perhaps easier to discuss issues is abortions which are denied to mothers who know they are carrying fetuses with no chance of survival. I myself have seen in the same few hours two children being born with anencephaly… and Edwards syndrome, which are not compatible with life. And there were the mothers who carried them, and then had to watch them die, in incubators. How do you get over that? How do you have a life after that?”
One of the Maltese women who went away to have an abortion commented: “Having to do everything in secret, being so afraid you’re going to get caught, being so afraid of the consequences of what people are going to talk about you in such a small community. These are traumas. “It’s not an easy choice and we should not be put in a position like I was, when I was 17 years old. So vulnerable, so afraid, so ashamed. It was the best decision at the time. It was. I don’t regret the decision.”
Other women said: “I was pro-life before, you know. I never thought it would happen to me, you know. But it did. This can happen to anyone.” and “I’m not a criminal. I’m a loving mother and I think I did it mostly because I care about my four children.”
The Maltese government is not considering any relaxation of the ban on abortion. In power and opposition, the country’s two main political parties both reject decriminalisation. 60% of Maltese people do too, according to a recent survey. However, Renee Laiviera, Commissioner, National Commission for the Promotion of Equality said: "Some years ago it was much higher. So this is why I say, if anything, we need to have a public debate. The group who would like to see any change has to work for it.”
President's wife calls forced pregnancy with fetal abnormality an "outrage against women"
During a debate organised by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) in Trinity College's School of Nursing last week, Sabina Higgins, wife of Irish President Michael D Higgins, in an unexpected and unscripted speech, described circumstances in which a woman could be made to carry a pregnancy to term in the case of a fetal abnormality as an "outrage against women".
The debate by midwifery students was on whether or not Ireland's maternity care has realised the ideals of the 1916 leaders outlined in the fourth paragraph of the Proclamation.
Ms Higgins, a staunch supporter of midwives, acknowledged the improvement in maternity services in Ireland since she had her own children, and paid tribute to the work of Irish midwives to improve the sector. She spoke about her desire to see breastfeeding rates improve and the importance of making Ireland a country where women felt comfortable breastfeeding.
Her comments were the first time that Ms Higgins has spoken publicly about the issue of abortion in Ireland. She has previously spoken out on a number of issues relating to gender equality, including violence against women.
The death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012, who died of sepsis after being refused an emergency abortion during a miscarriage, was also mentioned during the debate.