Campaigning for the Right to Safe Abortion:
Highlights of the Year
22 December 2016
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE "OFFICIAL" LEVEL
– Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma refuses to sign the Safe Abortion Act, despite it being passed unanimously by the national Parliament twice with widespread support countrywide and from across Africa. He cannot veto it so he referred the new law to the Constitutional Review Committee in March. Then in June he called for it to be put to a referendum.
– Peru government compensates young woman almost a decade after she was denied a legal abortion for anencephaly in historic UN Human Rights Committee abortion case, supported by a range of women's rights and abortion rights groups.
– African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights calls for decriminalisation of abortion across Africa in line with the Maputo Protocol.
– European Union 2016 budget requires medical care in humanitarian settings to include access to safe abortion.
– Guyana Madam Justice Roxane George has interpreted the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1995 to permit mid-level providers to deliver medical abortion for pregnancies not more than eight weeks.
– France A new Law on Modernisation of the Health System puts an end to the period of compulsory reflection and other restrictions on access to abortion.
– Haiti Under the draft of the new Criminal Code, if ratified, abortion would become legal in Haiti, in order to respond to public health concerns and the freedom of women.
– Portugal’s parliament overturns 2015 restrictions on the abortion law, reinstating liberal law.
– UN Committee on Rights of the Child says: Abortion should be decriminalised in all circumstances.
– UN Committee on the Rights of the Child calls on Kenya to decriminalise abortion in all circumstances.
– Attempts to restrict abortion law and access in Brazil (ongoing), Russia (failed) and Abkhazia (succeeded), and threats of arrests for illegal abortion in Tanzania.
– Northern Ireland votes against allowing abortion in cases of rape and incest.
– General Comment for International Women’s Day, 8 March, adopted by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights includes safe abortion care as part of the obligation to ensure universal access to quality sexual and reproductive health care.
– House of Deputies of the Chilean Congress passes the abortion law reform bill tabled by President Michelle Bachelet and coalition colleagues over one year ago. Now the Senate must consider it, but probably not before January 2017.
– At the Commission on the Status of Women's 60th session, Laurence Rossignol, the French Minister of Families, Childhood and the Rights of Women, asked that all signatory countries commit to decriminalise abortion and remove all laws that relate to abortion, including those that prohibit abortion; consider, as an intermediate measure, enacting a moratorium on the application of the criminal laws relating to abortion, ensure access to safe, good quality abortion services and information, and emphasise the fact that so many abortions are unsafe
– Attempt to restrict abortion regulations in Norway meets strong objections from most other parties in Parliament, the media and those using social media.
– Governor of Port Moresby calls for public debate on abortion law reform, Papua New Guinea.
– Hours before leaving his post, Colombia’s outgoing Prosecutor General Eduardo Montealegre presentes a 75-page bill to the country's Congress in which he urges them to decriminalise abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
– Peru Government acknowledges refusal of abortion as human rights violation for the second time concerning a 13-year-old rape victim who was denied a therapeutic abortion and had an operation on her spine delayed, which left her seriously disabled. PROMSEX and the Center for Reproductive Rights brought the case L.C. v. Peru to CEDAW in 2011 and negotiated the reparations agreement with the Peruvian government.
– Report of the Special Rapporteur, Juan Méndez, on torture on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment presented to the Human Rights Council's 31st session in January 2016 (published April 2016). It included two paragraphs on unsafe abortion as a form of torture and ill-treatment of girls and women. He calls on all nations to decriminalise abortion and to ensure access to safe and legal abortion, at least in circumstances of rape, incest, severe fetal impairment, and when the woman's life, physical or mental health are at risk.
– Irish President's wife calls forced pregnancy with fetal abnormality an "outrage against women".
– The Australian Minister for Immigration was found by a federal court to have 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 (where abortion is illegal) for an abortion. He had refused to bring her to Australia or a third country where abortion is legal.
– Colombia Abortion rights and human rights groups celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Constitutional Court judgement that changed the abortion law.
– Canada Prime Minister Trudeau's government removes restriction on international development funds being used for abortion services.
– Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights General Comment on the right to sexual and reproductive health contains five paragraphs in which the right to safe abortion is mentioned, including in relation to denial of services, the right to information, trained personnel and essential medicines, reduction of mortality and morbidity from unsafe abortions, removal of barriers, and decriminalisation of abortion.
– In El Salvador, at the conclusion of a hearing of "extraordinary review of judgment" the court recognises that, not having sufficient evidence to prove the commission of a crime by María Teresa Rivera, who had a miscarriage at home alone, her conviction in 2012 was a judicial error. The previous judgment was therefore annulled and she was immediately granted her freedom. Between 2000 and 2011, following emergency obstetric care, 129 women were charged and 49 were imprisoned. The women were typically young, poor and with very little education.
– In April, May and June, the following UN human rights bodies made statements and recommendations about reproductive rights issues, including safe abortion: Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice: Report to the Human Rights Council; UN Committee against Torture on the Philippines; Universal Periodic Review and Human Rights Committee on Ireland; UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on adolescent pregnancy in the UK.
– On 8 June, the Lower House of Congress in Argentina issued a report saying that “all courts and administrative authorities are to comply with comprehensive health care protocols to deal with cases of non-punishable abortions”.
– On 27 June 2016, the US Supreme Court handed down its first major ruling on the subject of abortion since 1992, and women won. The suit was against the state of Texas on behalf of Whole Woman’s Health and several other Texas abortion providers.
– Anne-Marie Rey, lifelong pioneer and leader in the campaign for legal abortion in Switzerland, whose father was prosecuted for providing illegal abortions, dies aged 78.
– The Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico rejects proposal to decriminalise some abortions 3-1, the first time the Court has discussed decriminalisation of abortion at the federal level. Justice Arturo Zaldívar, who presented the case, proposed that current sanctions on abortion, as prescribed by the federal Penal Code, violate the rights to personal development, sexual and reproductive health and freedom from discrimination.
– The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers upholds two complaints against the Italian government about discrimination against women seeking legal abortions and discrimination against medical practitioners who provide abortions due to widespread conscientious objection.
– The UN Human Rights Committee calls on Burkina Faso to eliminate obstacles to accessing legal abortion, expresses concerns to Ecuador about the criminalisation of abortion in their new Organic Integrated Criminal Code, and expresses concerns to Ghana that despite some legal grounds, safe abortion remains largely inaccessible.
– The Chair of the Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice, and the Special Rapporteurs on health, violence against women, and torture, publicly urge the President of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina, and legislators to protect women's and girls’ rights to sexual and reproductive health in the country and to repeal all restrictive legal provisions regarding abortion, especially in cases of risk to the health, including mental health, of the woman or girl, of rape and incest and of fatal impairment of the fetus.
– In the past four years and more, there have been mass protests across India at the extent of reported cases of rape, especially gang rapes and deaths following rape. Cases of women who have been raped going to court to seek permission for a second trimester abortion beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy have created growing pressure to consider law reform to allow abortions beyond the 20-week time limit.
– Rape victims from Burundi in refugee camps in Tanzania are denied minimum required services of emergency contraception, HIV testing and prophylaxis, and safe abortions.
– Although one in four girls in Mexico is sexually assaulted before the age of 18, and although abortion on grounds of rape is legal in all of Mexico's 31 states, a 13-year-old girl who was raped in the state of Sonora in northern Mexico was denied an abortion.
– CEDAW calls on the Philippines to provide contraception and allow safe abortion in some circumstances; in response, President Duterte announces full implementation of the 2012 Reproductive Health Law.
– A judicial constitutional review was filed before the Brazilian Supreme Court on 24 August, to demand the protection of rights violated in the context of the Zika virus epidemic, coordinated by Anis–Institute of Bioethics, and filed by the National Association of Public Defenders, as a collective effort of a broad group of researchers, activists, and lawyers to articulate the demands of women and children affected by Zika.
– The International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion sends an Open Letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and heads of UN agencies calling on them to make 28 September, International Safe Abortion Day, an official UN day.
– A paediatric pathologist has resigned over Northern Ireland's abortion law in relation to fatal fetal anomaly. Women with this diagnosis who seek abortion are forced to travel outside Northern Ireland for an abortion. If they want a pathology report afterwards, they have to bring the body home themselves, where this pathologist was one of only two doing these examinations. The final straw was when she had to advise a couple to use a picnic cooler bag to bring the baby's remains home.
– The Ministry of Health of Uganda has continued to consult on the issue of abortion law reform legislation and was expected to present a draft bill to Parliament. Due to conservative religious opposition, however, no bill has been forthcoming and publication of standards and guidelines on safe abortion has been delayed.
– International Safe Abortion Day, 28 September, sees a wide range of activities and action for the right to safe abortion in 55 countries globally under the themes "Abortion is not a crime", "Universal access to safe abortion" and "Step into our shoes". The Campaign published eight newsletters with reports of activities on 23, 28, 30 September and 4, 5, 12, 14 October, including one listing all the media reports about the Day.
– UN human rights experts publish a statement for 28 September: “Unsafe abortion is still killing tens of thousands women around the world”, including Alda Facio, chair of the Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice, and Special Rapporteurs Danius Pūras on health, Dubravka Šimonović on violence against women, and Juan Méndez on torture. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa, Justice Lucy Asuagbor publishes a statement calling for abortion to be decriminalised in Africa in line with the Maputo protocol.
– More than a year after announcing that abortion would be available free of cost, the government of Nepal has set aside Rs 32 million for the fiscal year 2016-17 to start the service. Lack of access to safe abortion remains one of the top three reasons for mortality in women in Nepal, in spite of a comprehensive abortion policy introduced in 2003, law reform in 2002 and reproductive health rights enshrined as a fundamental right of women in the Constitution.
– A massive national women's strike, reported to involve from 30,000 to 100,000 people, forces Polish government to withdraw highly restrictive abortion bill.
– Médecins sans Frontières publishes an article in Conflict and Health on why they provide safe abortion care in humanitarian settings and what it involves. They are one of the only NGOs to provide such abortions.
– PROMSEX and Planned Parenthood Global organise the 5th Latin American Legal Congress on Reproductive Rights, a multidisciplinary gathering for participating legal professionals to share and learn how to incorporate international human rights standards in their daily work, which involves access to justice and to health as human rights, including the right to abortion.
– The Minister of Health of Lao PDR makes a public presentation of the guideline: "Unsafe abortion: prevention and care, a practical guideline for health workers". In March 2015, an assessment of abortion cases treated in hospitals in Laos found that 20-50% of those admitted to public hospitals for gynaecological treatment were due to unsafe abortions. As a result of these findings, the Ministry of Health's Maternal and Child Health Centre say they will give more attention to making abortions safe.
– A bill to legalise abortion for refugees and asylum seekers only, mixed up with immigration and asylum issues, introduced by Nauru's Border Protection Minister, is later withdrawn by the Nauru government. Australian lawyer George Newhouse from the National Justice Project law firm, who has acted for a number of women on Nauru, describes it as racially discriminatory. Apparently, the motivation behind the bill was to prevent pregnant asylum seekers and refugees from travelling to Australia or other countries to have an abortion.
– Estimates of the proportion of maternal deaths due to unsafe abortions by different sources in Myanmar range from the government figure of 10%, to 35% according to the country director of Marie Stopes Myanmar, and as high as 60% according to obstetrics and gynaecology specialist Dr Soe Lwin, an associate professor at the Yangon Central Women's Hospital.
– Donations to US abortion providers have surged since the election disaster. Meanwhile, one US woman who used a coat hanger to cause herself to abort in 2015 has already spent a year in jail and faces new charges in the state of Tennessee.
– Ireland offers €30,000 to a woman whose pregnancy was found to have a fatal fetal impairment who was forced to have an abortion in England, and took her case to the UN Human Rights Committee.
– France makes it a criminal offence to knowingly provide false information about abortion on websites, to convey false allegations or give a distorted presentation of information on abortion in order to mislead with a deterrent purpose. The law punishes offenders with up to two years in prison and a €30,000 fine.
– The International Campaign's newsletter honours two doctors who have been lifelong advocates for women's health and abortion rights – Dame Margaret Sparrow, New Zealand, and Prof Mahmoud Fathalla, Egypt – whose advocacy work has continued into their 80s.
– The Museum for Contraception and Abortion in Vienna has announced a competition to create photographs that illustrate the critical situation of a woman (or couple) with an unwanted pregnancy. Photographers are invited to grapple with the difficult topic of unwanted pregnancy and abortion in a creative and realistic way. Entry deadline: 31 March 2017.
NATIONAL CAMPAIGNS AND ACTION FOR ABORTION LAW REFORM
– Senegal Campaign is launched for abortion to become legal for girls and women who have been raped or sexually abused, as well as on health grounds, in line with the Maputo Protocol, by the Association of Senegalese Women Jurists. Later in the year, the Association of Women Doctors, the Network « Siggil jigeen », the Association of Senegalese Women Jurists and the Population Council formed a coalition and reactivated this campaign.
– Malawi The Coalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion launches national campaign to support an abortion law reform bill, with backing from the newly formed association of obstetrician-gynaecologists, some Presbyterian and Anglican leaders, as well as politicians, academics, and civil society organisations who have called for speedy reforms. However, the Coalition say the bill as tabled has failed to provide enough grounds on which women and girls could seek safe abortion services, especially social and economic reasons.
– Uganda The Alliance of Women to Advocate for Change, a sex workers group, and the Uganda Harm Reduction Network have called on the government to legalise safe abortion services. Other NGOs, including CEHURD and the Community Health Rights Network have launched activities for 28 September calling for safe abortion and are building a national coalition to respond to the opposition to law reform.
– Northern Ireland Campaign calling for abortion law to be brought into line with the 1967 Abortion Act in the rest of the UK.
– Ireland Campaign launched to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution, which makes it impossible to reform the abortion law.
– Poland A national campaign, also supported by Polish women living around the world, has been ongoing all year to stop the government restricting legal abortion even more than it is already restricted. It has involved demonstrations between March and December, a national strike in October, and a draft law tabled by "Save the Women" Civic Committee in the lower house of the parliament to liberalise the anti-abortion legislation in force in Poland since 1993.
– Argentina National Campaign for Legal, Safe, Free Abortion, a coalition of groups supporting safe, legal abortion, launches campaign for law reform after it is discovered that a woman has been in prison for two years accused of homicide when she had only had a miscarriage. Following legal intervention she is released and all charges dropped. They protested nationally again when a 12-year-old girl who was gang-raped was refused an abortion.
– USA Self-Induced Abortion Legal Team, including lawyers from the Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice at Berkeley Law, Reproductive Health Technologies Project, Law Students for Reproductive Rights, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, and other organizations, launches a campaign to support self-induced abortion.
– Family Planning Association of Trinidad & Tobago campaigns for the abortion law to be reformed to allow abortion for pregnant women with Zika virus.
– Demonstrations in Brazil to protest that illegal abortion clinics were being raided but the deaths of women from unsafe illegal abortions are not being taken seriously.
– Sex workers call on the Zimbabwe Government to legalise abortion in the wake of frequent backstreet terminations that continue to claim lives.
– Tanzania Women Lawyers Association calls on health stakeholders, including journalists, to disseminate information on reproductive health rights and unsafe abortion in order to save women’s lives in the country, and organise a two-day training for journalists.
– In New South Wales, Australia the Green Party tables a bill to reform the abortion law. In Queensland, a private member's bill was also tabled, supported by the Council of Civil Liberties, Children by Choice and Emily's List. The Queensland bill was not passed as it was agreed it should be amended first, and then is expected to pass.
– Ipas Bolivia has launched a new initiative to increase women’s access to safe, legal abortion services in the public health system ̶ an important step forward just two years after Bolivia’s highest court ruled to end a requirement for judicial authorization for women seeking legal abortions.
– The Citizens' Group for the Decriminalisation of Abortion in El Salvador, supported by Amnesty International and many other groups, are campaigning for the release of 17 women imprisoned for abortion, often with sentences for homicide, when they had had miscarriages or stillbirths. In May 2016, a symbolic tribunal "Justice and Reparation for Women" passed a resolution calling for three women convicted of aggravated homicide and sentenced to up to 40 years in prison to be freed.
– Spain The Association of Accredited Abortion Clinics, Spanish Family Planning Federation and other NGOs supporting abortion rights have been taking action against further attempts by the conservative-led government and anti-abortion religious-affiliated groups to restrict abortion rights, such as a regulation in Madrid requiring girls aged 16-17 to have permission from both parents for abortion. The Spanish Family Planning Federation is battling against false accusations by an extremist Christian lawyers group that seek to discredit them.
– Feminist activists from across Croatia organise a protest against an anti-abortion march in May 2016.
– The Russian Association for Population and Development led a strong national protest against a bill that would have banned retail sale of medical abortion, banned abortions in private clinics and removed payment for them from state insurance policies, and allowed abortions to be covered by state health care only if the pregnancy threatened the woman's life. The bill was dropped.
– In Belgium, abortion law reform is on the agenda and a debate has begun on how to improve the 1990 abortion law.
– In the UK, a campaign to decriminalise abortion was launched by Bpas, supported by members of the Voice for Choice coalition, the Royal College of Midwives and the Green Party. The Campaign for Abortion Law Modernisation in the Isle of Man seeks to bring their law in line with the UK.
– Women's movement group in Honduras, We Are Many, begin a campaign for abortion law reform on three grounds.
– The Feminist Forum in the Dominican Republic calls on President Danilo Medino to stop the process of discussion of the clause in the new Penal Code in the Senate that would make all abortions subject to a prison sentence of 4-10 years. When the penal code is passed, hundreds of people take to the streets of the capital on 18 December, because the code condemns all abortion, including when the pregnancy is the result of rape, or when it endangers the woman's life. The protesters call on the President to veto it.
– In Chile, the 4th annual demonstration for abortion law reform took place on 25 July. On 11 August, the case of an 11-year-old girl from the Araucania region who became pregnant after repeated sexual abuse by her 41-year-old stepfather came to light and caused controversy, not least because the authorities were not allowing the pregnancy to be terminated. In November, MILES (Movement for Sexual and Reproductive Rights) denounces the detention of a woman accused of having an abortion.
– The Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is spearheading a campaign to decriminalise abortion for three indications: severe congenital abnormalities in the fetus incompatible with life up to 22 weeks of pregnancy, pregnancy resulting from rape, and pregnancy resulting from incest up to 20 weeks. The bill is endorsed by the Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka.
– In the Netherlands, doctors and abortion rights advocates are taking the Health Ministry to court for failing to provide clear guidelines about the use of medical abortion pills.
– In Haiti, groups such as Solidarity Haitian Women have been fighting for years to reform the law on abortion. Their President, Lise-Marie Dejean, doctor and first woman Minister on the Status of Women, continues 30 years after the creation of the association, to advocate for the cause of women.
– In South Korea, a demonstration was held by members of the Sexuality and Reproduction Forum – a group of individual researchers and members of groups like Women with Disabilities Empathy, Korean Lawyers for Public Interest and Human Rights, Health and Alternative Gender Health Team, and the Network for Global Activists – to protest at threatened restrictions to the abortion law and call for the decriminalisation of abortion. The young women and men wore black as a statement of solidarity with Poland, and in response, women from the group Rosa in Ireland sent them a message of solidarity.
– Both doctors and women are calling for a change in the abortion law of the United Arab Emirates to allow abortions beyond the current 120-day legal limit on grounds of fetal anomaly because most scans to detect any problems still take place after 20 weeks of pregnancy (i.e. 150-160 days). They say babies are being born with serious fetal anomalies that cannot be detected earlier.
COURT CASES AND LEGAL ACTION
– Prince Edward Island, Canada filed by Abortion Access Now, to force the province to provide full and unrestricted access to on-island, publicly-funded abortion services. Provincial government agrees two months later, just before the case was to be heard.
– Northern Ireland case filed by a teenager and her mother, for women to receive free abortions on the National Health Service when they have to travel to England for services.
– Kenya case filed by Center for Reproductive Rights Kenya on behalf of the Federation of Women Lawyers Kenya and all women denied safe legal abortions, against the Attorney General, the Ministry of Health and the Director of Medical Services of Kenya for withdrawing the "Standards and Guidelines for Reducing Morbidity and Mortality from Unsafe Abortion in Kenya", published in October 2012 by the Ministry of Medical Services. The High Court refers case to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
– Ireland young asylum seeker who was pregnant as a result of rape and was suicidal, and who was refused a legal abortion, sues the State.
– A young African refugee on the island of Nauru in the Pacific was raped there and begged to be taken to Australia for an abortion, which she never received in spite of being taken there twice, was represented by a lawyer who took her case to the media and the government.
– American Civil Liberties Union files lawsuits against two Catholic hospital chains in the USA, for refusal to provide sterilisation in one case, and refusal to do abortions for emergency obstetric care in the other case.
– Case report published of a 13-year old girl in Rwanda who was raped in 2015 and was refused an abortion that had been requested by her mother on spurious grounds. The abortion was granted on appeal.
– National Advocates for Pregnant Women in the USA challenges the arrests of pregnant women and defends women who have been punished for having abortions and experiencing pregnancy losses. They supported the appeal against a 20-year sentence in the Indiana Court of Appeals of a woman who went to a hospital emergency room bleeding and seeking help, who explained that she had been pregnant and lost the pregnancy.
– The persecution of Dr Carlos Morín, former director of the Ginemedex clinic in Barcelona, Spain, the staff of his clinic and the thousands of women who had abortions there began in 2004 and reached its climax on 17 June 2016. In a re-trial ordered by the Supreme Court, three years after he and all his staff had been acquitted of all charges against them, Dr Morín was found guilty of having carried out 11 illegal abortions and a psychiatrist from the clinic was found guilty of signing the forms authorising the abortions. They are appealing.
– A public litigation judgement in the Bombay High Court in September 2016 in India supports the right to abortion of women prisoners, and gives directions on how to proceed in the future, in order to make it easier for women prisoners to access health facilities, including the termination of pregnancy.
REGULATION OF ANTI-ABORTION COUNSELLING CENTRES AND PROTESTS OUTSIDE CLINICS
– State of California Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency (FACT) Act, USA, requires anti-abortion centres to disclose to patients what their reproductive rights are, inform patients of the state’s reproductive health care programmes, and disclose whether their clinics have licensed medical professionals on staff.
– The Dublin crisis pregnancy centre was exposed in an undercover investigation by The Times newspaper. Simon Harris, Irish Health Minister, has said they should be prosecuted for giving women bad advice. He later said the Irish government has committed to a review and major overhaul of how abortion information is regulated.
– Anti-abortion protesters are banned from harassing women outside abortion clinics in Victoria, Australia, with safe access zones of at least 150 metres now in place.
– Anti-abortion protesters respect a ban outside a Newfoundland, Canada abortion clinic two weeks after a court order to stay at least 40 metres away from the clinic.
– In response to anti-abortion harassment of women going into the local hospital for abortions, the pro-choice group in Thames, New Zealand, vowed to demonstrate each week alongside them.
CAMPAIGNS TO STOP SEX SELECTION BEING USED TO RESTRICT SECOND TRIMESTER ABORTIONS
– Campaigns have taken place in India with limited success as access to second trimester abortion has become far more difficult unless another reason is very obvious, such as fetal anomaly.
– In Vietnam campaigners have argued that most second trimester abortions are for other reasons and should not be restricted.
– In Armenia, the government has banned abortions on grounds of sex selection and used the law also to impose a "reflection period" and make counselling mandatory, which the Women’s Resource Center has expressed a range of concerns about, as they are intended to impose strict control over abortion.
ACTION BY YOUNG PEOPLE
– Women's groups, primarily of young women, have set up and are running Safe Abortion Information Hotlines in a growing number of countries where abortion is legally restricted to give women information on safe abortion with medical abortion pills. These hotlines now exist in Africa in Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, and Nigeria; in Asia in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand; in Europe in Germany, Poland and UK; and in Latin America in Argentina, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. And more are in the process of being set up.
– Catholics for the Right to Decide Argentina launches: “Young women for the right to decide”.
– Peer education activities on sexuality, sexual and reproductive health and rights and abortion rights are being carried out by the following groups: Born to Fly, northern Nicaragua, ASTRA Youth, Central and Eastern Europe and their members Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights, Legal Center for Women's Initiatives, Kazakhstan, and HERA Youth Macedonia.
– Secondary school feminists from three schools in Wellington, New Zealand hold meeting to involve young women in campaigning for young women's rights, including abortion.
– Eighteen young volunteers and staff from the Know Your Body Know Your Rights Program of the YP Foundation, India, did a preliminary audit of governmental and non-governmental health centres in and around communities in the Delhi National Capital Region. They conceptualised and implemented the audit to assess the quality of SRH services for youth, and encountered strategic silence or over-moralising that was very discouraging.
– A growing number of advocacy groups and journalists are collecting and sharing young women's experiences of unsafe, illegal abortion through, for example, a news article in Malta, a prose poem in Uganda, a survey in Cyprus, videos in Sierra Leone, South Africa and the Philippines, a public speech in Ethiopia, and a people's tribunal in El Salvador.
– The Asia Safe Abortion Partnership holds the 5th Advocacy Institute for Safe Abortion Rights in Vietnam for young people to train them to become youth champions for abortion rights. It covers the social construct of gender, human rights and women’s rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, safe abortion access as a human right, understanding relevant laws and policies, values clarification, communication skills including social media, and use of Facebook, Twitter and blogs for networking. Its aim is to encourage leadership skills and engage in strategic planning to develop ongoing involvement.
– "Speak My Language: Abortion Storytelling in Eastern Europe from a Youth Perspective" is a web-based toolkit developed by and for young people with inputs from Georgia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland and Romania, written and edited by YouAct with input from ASTRA Youth.
– Pro-Choice Malta creates photo stories and a poster on their Facebook page.
– YouAct, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, ASTRA and ASTRA Youth do a webinar on 20 December to share experiences and lessons learned from the youth-led advocacy for abortion rights in Poland.
– The SayWhat Campaign in Zimbabwe hosts social media dialogues on the Youth Forum on the SexRightsAfrica website and calls on young people to post photos and video messages on the need to decriminalise abortion; hosts the Meet The Expert Online Platform, which will allow young people in southern Africa to have direct chats with experts on abortion issues; and awards the Safe Abortion Champion Award to two young people with the best advocacy messages online for 28 September.
– Girls find their voices through “Listen To Me" clubs in grassroots communities, established by the Community Health Rights Network, Uganda, where young people get information and are empowered to be the champions of their own sexual and reproductive health and related rights.
– The Development Charity Association in Uganda works in the Kampala, Kayunga and Kamuli districts, to promote the right to sexual and reproductive health. They offer counselling to pregnant teenage girls and any specialised essential treatment they need, and address stigma and discrimination through socially excluded people's peer networks and their use of friendly services available within the community.
NEW FORMS OF SERVICE DELIVERY AND GROWING SELF-USE OF MEDICAL ABORTION PILLS
– “One stop" medical abortion services are being offered by a gynaecologist in Switzerland and one in Austria, with only one primary care level consultation with a doctor, use of both mifepristone and misoprostol tablets by the woman at home, and post-abortion self-follow-up using a specially designed pregnancy test.
– Las Libres in Mexico offers in-person emotional support and medical instruction to women in Guanajuato on how to induce abortion at home with misoprostol, which is available over the counter throughout Mexico. While the organisation has a doctor on staff in case of an emergency, complication rates are extremely low and the method is both cost-effective and empowering for women, who feel in charge of the procedure.
– At Vani Vilas hospital for women and children in Bangalore, India, doctors and nurses are being trained in manual vacuum aspiration – a safe, quick procedure – and how to better support women in their care at primary level. Over a period of 18 months, more than 150,000 women received services by newly trained providers, with about 70% of those providers based in rural facilities.
– The Bulgarian Association of Contraception and Safe Abortion was formed as a representative organization of health care providers working in these services in order to make provision of medical abortion easier for the professionals - by disseminating available information and guidelines, and making the facts clear with regards to medical abortion.
– TelAbortion: A new direct-to-patient telemedicine abortion service currently being tried in four states in the USA, and a trial assessing home use of two pregnancy tests for determining early medical abortion outcomes at 3, 7 and 14 days after mifepristone, by Gynuity Health Projects.
– Provision of early medical abortion on an outpatient basis in a community SRH setting has been shown to be as safe as that delivered from a hospital setting in Scotland, UK.
– The Tabbot Foundation's telephone abortion service in Australia was launched in Tasmania in late 2015. Their website by July 2016 averaged 120 hits a day, sometimes generates up to 90 calls a day and consultations with 30 to 40 patients each week.
– The Reproductive Health Training Centre in Moldova provides training courses on reproductive health and comprehensive abortion care.
– Doctors in Australia call for country GPs to be 'one-stop shop' abortion providers for rural women.
– Simple online pregnancy calculator for women to self-assess length of pregnancy for early medical abortion eligibility developed in South Africa.
– Following a government decree in June 2016, midwives in France are now able to provide medical abortion pills up to nine weeks LMP without the supervision of a gynaecologist.
PROSECUTIONS OF WOMEN FOR SELF-INDUCING ABORTION WITH MEDICAL ABORTION PILLS AND THOSE PROVIDING PILLS
– Northern Ireland Alliance for Choice launches a letter writing campaign to the police - a large number of people write claiming to have purchased on the internet, used or given someone else medical abortion pills.
– The Self-Induced Abortion Legal Team develops recommendations on law reform to allow medical abortion self-use, USA. A study has found that hundreds of thousands of US women have searched the internet for information about obtaining abortion pills.
– Self-induced medical abortions, considered illegal as no authorised provider is involved, appear to be increasing in far-west region of Nepal.
– The Department of Special Investigation in Thailand has been trying to track down a senior doctor who has been selling abortion pills through 27 websites online for 5-6 years, with total sales of about 600 million baht (about US$17 million).
RESEARCH ON ABORTION
– Adolescents’ need for and use of abortion services in developing countries
– Conscientious objection: perspectives and articles from the UK, Croatia, USA, Ghana, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Colombia, Peru/Mexico/Chile, and Brazil, 25 February 2016
– Highlighting women's abortion experiences, Zero Discrimination Day, 1 March 2016
– Sociocultural and community determinants of unwanted pregnancies and abortion: DR Congo, Peru, Burkina Faso, Gaza
– Contraceptive failure rates in the developing world: an analysis of Demographic and Health Survey data from 43 countries
– Abortion stigma: a systematic review
– Abortion incidence between 1990 and 2014: global, regional, and sub-regional levels and trends
– Measuring unsafe abortion-related mortality: a systematic review of the existing methods
– Identifying indicators for quality abortion care: a systematic literature review
– What contraception do women use after abortion? An analysis of 319,385 cases from eight countries
– Abortion incidence between 1990 and 2014: levels and trends – Public funding for abortion services provided in 80 countries where abortion is broadly legal
– Self-management of medical abortion: a qualitative evidence synthesis
– Cost of abortions in Zambia: a comparison of safe abortion and post-abortion care
– The politics of unsafe abortion in Burkina Faso: the interface of local norms and global public health practice
– Introducing medication abortion into public sector facilities in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
– Use of misoprostol for incomplete abortion in resource-poor settings, Kenya
– Claiming and defending abortion rights in South Africa
– The incidence of abortion in Nigeria
– Taking women’s rights seriously: using human rights to require state implementation of domestic abortion laws in African countries with reference to Uganda – Pharmacy workers’ knowledge and provision of medication for termination of pregnancy in Kenya
– 2015 General Assessment Study on the Magnitude of Unsafe Abortion, which revealed that most married women in Malawi who have had an abortion have had unsafe abortions
– Incidence of induced abortion and post-abortion care in Tanzania – “These things are dangerous”: Understanding induced abortion trajectories in urban Zambia
– What makes a likely abortion provider? Evidence from a nationwide survey of final year students at Ghana’s public midwifery training colleges
– Myths and misinformation: an analysis of text messages sent to a sexual and reproductive health Q&A service in Nigeria
– The culture of illegal abortion in South Africa
– In combatting abortion stigma, finding the most responsible and effective tools
– Abortion stigma around the globe”: a qualitative synthesis
– The “life without life” of Rwandan children born of rape in genocide
– Building the nation's body: the contested role of abortion and family planning in post-war South Sudan
– Implementation of reproductive health policies and laws in the Nigerian National Health Policy – Costs of treatment of abortion complications in two public referral hospitals in Ouagadougou
– Unpacking the barriers to reproductive health services in Ghana: HIV/STI testing, abortion and contraception
– Disparities in abortion experience and access to safe abortion services in Ghana: evidence from a retrospective survey
– Experiences in the use of misoprostol in the management of first trimester missed abortion in a low resource setting, Nigeria
– Clinical outcomes and women's experiences before and after the introduction of mifepristone into second-trimester medical abortion services in South Africa – The estimated incidence of induced abortion in Ethiopia, 2014: changes in the provision of services since 2008
– Women’s experiences with medical menstrual regulation in Bangladesh
– Self-assessment of the outcome of early medical abortion versus clinic follow-up in India
– When abortion providers are maligned as abortion promoters, Malaysia
– Understanding factors influencing adverse sex ratios at birth and exploring what works to achieve balance: the situation in selected districts of Nepal
– Qualitative study of the effect on women’s lives in Nepal of being denied a legal abortion
– The legal and policy environment of safe abortion in Malaysia
– Tasmania’s abortion law reform 2013: an overview, Australia
– Medical abortion in Australia: a short history
– Consequences of abortion law reform in Victoria [Australia]: perspectives of 19 abortion providers
– “How could this happen to me?”: Young women’s experiences of unintended pregnancy and abortion, UK
– Non-invasive testing for Downs syndrome and abortion, UK
– British abortion law: speaking from the past to govern the future, UK
– On being an expert witness in sexual and reproductive health, UK
– Re-visioning ultrasound through women’s accounts of pre-abortion care in England
– Attitudes towards abortion in graduate and non-graduate entrants to medical school in Ireland
– Experiences of women who travel to England for abortions: an exploratory pilot study
– ‘Repeat abortion’, a phrase to be avoided? Qualitative insights into labelling and stigma, England
– Higher levels of education associated with greater access to safe abortion, Brazil
– Constructing a validated scale to measure community-level abortion stigma, Mexico
– Zika virus, fetal anomaly, screening and abortion, Brazil
– Microcephaly in northeastern Brazil: a review of 16,208 births between 2012 and 2015
– Abortion legalisation and reduced childbearing in Mexico City
– Argentina: ten reasons to legalise early abortion and an evaluation of public policy capacity
– Opinions, perceptions and practices of obstetrician-gynaecologists with respect to informing the police about patients who have had induced abortions: Lima, Peru, 2014
– Haiti: without choice or rights
– Realities and fallacies with regard to abortion, health and human rights, Mexico
– Poverty and abortion complications in Peru
– Reform of abortion law in Uruguay: context, process and lessons learned
– Constitutional developments in Latin American abortion law
Middle East/Mediterranean – Assessment of safe and unsafe abortion among Palestinian women in Hebron Governorate in the Southern West Bank, Palestine
– Hidden burden of maternal morbidity and patterns of management in a Palestinian governmental referral hospital
– No one sees the fathers: Israeli fathers' experience of feticide
– Religious fundamentalism and access to safe abortion services in Morocco
– Levels, trends and correlates of abortion in Tehran, Iran: 2009–2014
– How one drug could change abortion access in Canada
– Aligning mifepristone regulation with evidence: driving policy change using 15 years of excellent safety data, USA
– Knowledge, opinion and experience related to abortion self-induction in Texas, USA
– Is the rate of ongoing pregnancy really 1% following medical abortion? USA
– Psychosocial factors and pre-abortion psychological health: the significance of stigma, USA
– Study finds misinformation and deception on websites of anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centres” in Canada
SOLIDARITY REQUESTS SUPPORTED BY THE CAMPAIGN IN 2016
– Sierra Leone: Letters to the President and senior members of Parliament: support the Safe Abortion Act – one from Africa NGOs, coordinated by Femnet and supported by the Campaign, and one from the international abortion rights community, coordinated by the Campaign and Ipas, January 2016
– El Salvador: petition calling on El Salvador to protect reproductive rights and lift the total abortion ban in the face of the Zika virus public health emergency, February 2016
– Petition to President Michele Bachelet, Nueva Mayoría Coalition, and Chilean Congress: Abortion: Respect the Dignity and Decisions of Women, by a coalition of 14 NGOs and some individuals, supported by the Campaign, 2 March 2016
– Call for all-Europe solidarity action on 7-9 April: Northern Ireland (Protest the conviction of NI woman who took abortion pills at home because she couldn't afford to travel to England) and Poland (Protest the threatened ban on abortion). Action was organised in 17 European countries, sometimes in a number of cities in each country, and in several countries outside Europe.
– Call to sign a petition from the Spanish Family Planning Federation by 13 June 2016, protesting that the Spanish Ministry of the Interior has revoked the declaration of public value for the Federation, despite having completed a thorough examination of their work and declared it to have public value only one month before.
– Urgent request for donations towards legal costs of appeal against five-year prison sentence for a woman and her husband who terminated their pregnancy because they are living in extreme poverty in a remote area of Papua New Guinea with two young children, with no access to contraception, and having previously experienced a life-threatening pregnancy.
– Petition to Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi and members of the Portfolio Committee on Health, South Africa, by the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition, to end the desperation that leads women to risk their lives to access abortions, because many women and most public institutions have no information about the safe, free alternatives available to women, 18 March 2016.
– Joint Statement and Call to Action for the Polish Parliament to examine the right to access to safe and legal abortion, September 2016, endorsements of the statement requested.
– Solidarity request from the Alliance for the Life and Health of Women in El Salvador, to sign a petition supporting a bill tabled by the FMLN to allow abortion in cases of risk to life and health, rape and trafficking, unviable fetal anomaly, and sexual abuse of girls.
– The Northern Ireland Alliance for Choice requests donations of funds for a judicial review of the prosecution of the mother who helped her under-age daughter have a safe abortion with medical abortion pills purchased on the internet, November 2016.
CAMPAIGN STATEMENTS AND PRESS RELEASES IN 2016
– Press release: Letters sent to Sierra Leone President and Parliament re Safe Abortion Act 2015: Support growing nationally and internationally for the President and Parliament to sign the Act into law, 1 February 2016
– World Cancer Day: Abortion does not cause breast cancer or increase the risk of breast cancer, 4 February 2016
– Statement: Confronting a new epidemic: consequences of the Zika virus for public health and reproductive rights,15 February 2016 (in English, Spanish, Portuguese)
– World Health Day, 7 April 2016: Report to the 49th Commission on Population & Development 2016. In 1994, ICPD said unsafe abortion was a serious public health problem. We are still waiting for you to make all abortions safe. (English, Spanish)
– Open Letter from the Campaign sent to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Women, UNDP, WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNESCO and UNAIDS, asking them to declare 28 September, International Safe Abortion Day, an official UN Day, 17 August 2016, with 430 signatories from 73 countries. + Press release
– Campaign Statement in Celebration of International Safe Abortion Day, 28 September 2016 + Press release.
– On Human Rights Day, 10 December 2016, we stand up for women's right to a safe abortion in humanitarian and crisis settings.
OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE CAMPAIGN 2016
– Campaign newsletter: we published 2–3 newsletters every week with national and international news on abortion law and policy, activities of Campaign members and others, advocacy and campaigning, abortion methods and services, information about safe abortion, and reports, journal articles, and other publications, and visual resources, including videos, presentations, and webinars.
– New Campaign website launched 16 May 2016 atwww.safeabortionwomensright.org. It contains all the news reported in the newsletter posted as individual stories and an archive of the complete newsletters since January 2015; information about the Campaign; our press releases and statements; how to get help if you need an abortion, details of abortion methods, contact details for all the safe abortion information hotlines internationally; how to take action, including requesting international solidarity, campaigning, doing research on trials and imprisonment of women and abortion providers; reports of all the activities internationally for 28 September, International Safe Abortion Day, from 2012 to 2016, and the kinds of activities that have been organised; resources from all over the world, including publications, videos and audio, posters and graphics, and presentations. A slider on the home page announces major events and actions, and another includes the logos of the Campaign's member groups. Everyone who supports the Campaign can join at a link on the home page, and our Facebook and Twitter can be found at the bottom of the home page.
– Membership of the Campaign has steadily increased from a total of 974 in January to 1,116 in October 2016. It is currently made up of 11% in Africa, 24% in Asia, 7% in Eastern Europe, 16% in Latin America, 3% in the Middle East, 17% in North America, 3% in the Pacific, and 19% in Western Europe. It ranges from international NGOs to local advocacy groups.
– Social media: We had around 20,450 Facebook fans at the end of October 2016, and our engagement rate is steadily increasing. Our Twitter followers have increased from 1,406 in January to 2,017 at the end of October. We now follow 758 accounts, the majority of whom are Campaign members, journalists or activists. The energy around 28 September brought a lot of attention to the Campaign. In that month, more than 1,000 accounts engaged with our tweets, while our usual monthly average is about 270 and growing slowly. We launched an Instagram account a week ahead of 28 September. We have been working hard to engage with Campaign members and engaging in 'closed group' platforms that has led to private and public collaboration with Campaign members.
– Contact with press and media: We began building a media list in April 2016, which now contains contact details of journalists and editors in 32 different countries. The regions where we have the most contacts are Africa, Europe and Latin America. We are building relationships with journalists who report on abortion-related issues, and reaching out to them with information tailored to their specific field or country/region of interest. Our press releases are most often responses to solidarity requests by our members and bring attention to high-level debates, bills or protests regarding abortion. This year we have sent press releases to direct attention to events in Spain, El Salvador, Peru, Chile, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Poland. We also track abortion-related news around the world, and monitor coverage of the Campaign as well as of our members.
– Research on trials and imprisonments as part of the Campaign’s knowledge creation and dissemination activities. Reports being prepared describe the advocacy and legal approaches taken by solicitors and abortion rights supporters to fight against and overturn convictions, and address human rights abuses. To date a report on Argentina has been completed entitled "The law, trials and imprisonment for abortion in Argentina" and published in the Campaign newsletter in English and Spanish, a report on Mexico has been drafted and is being edited, and research is nearly completed for a report on Kenya.
– A survey of our newsletter readership in July 2016 found that67% always, 16% often, and 16% sometimes read the newsletter. A third of readers are using the information in their campaigning, 90% are using it to be informed and over 70% use it to inform others beyond our immediate network of members. The current mixture of features, news on law and policy, news on abortion services, personal experiences, publications and resources, were all approved as important in the following proportions: features (50%), law and policy news (95%), abortion services (70%), personal experiences (25%), and publications/resources (80%).
WATCH FOR OUR SLIDESHOW OF 2016 IN PICTURES – COMING SOON!!