Friday, April 20, 2018

A Backward Step for Reproductive Rights in Chile

Human Rights Watch (April 16, 2018): A Backward Step for Reproductive Rights in Chile, by José  Miguel Vivanco:

Last year, under former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, Chile's Congress passed reproducive health reform that lifted a 28-year blanket ban on abortions in the country. While the reform did not make abortion wholly available, it removed the ban under three circumstances: when the pregnant person's life is at risk; if the pregnancy is a result of rape; and if the fetus is deemed "not compatible with life outside the womb." 

Even with the reform--upheld as constitutional in August 2017--several barriers remained in place even under these circumstances. For example, doctors and whole hospitals could invoke a right not to perform abortions on the basis of conscience. If they chose to invoke this right, though, the original reform required a stated reason for abstaining and also required those abstaining to register as such in a timely manner. The goal of this rule was to ensure continuity of coverage at a hospital, so that pregnant persons qualifying for an abortion would not be denied one due to lack of access. 

Under current Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, the requirement of providing a reason for objecting to performing abortions, along with the requirement of assurance of continuity of coverage, were dropped completely. 

These rule modifications were issued by the Health Ministry and have international human rights groups concerned that the reproductive health of women and girls will not be protected in Chile.

For example, a person pregnant with a non-viable fetus, or a pre-teen rape victim, might find themselves unable to receive an abortion, because the local hospital does not want to potentially offend politicians or invoke the wrath of anti-abortion groups. As such, the only potential abortion-provider in a given town has chosen "on the basis of conscience" not to provide them and will not be required to justify that decision. Human Rights Watch recommends that

The Chilean government should review and amend the rules to ensure that access to legal abortion is protected. Otherwise it risks letting conscientious objection be used as a pretext to deny important newly recognized rights of women and girls. 

April 20, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Current Affairs, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bringing reproductive health care to Syria’s underserved Al-Tabqa

ReliefWeb (April 6, 2018): Bringing reproductive health care to Syria’s underserved Al-Tabqa, Report by European Commission's Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations: 

Seven months ago, the Syrian city Al-Tabqa was re-taken from the Islamic State. Displaced families are returning to the city in droves, and the population has increased close to 200% over the last year. 

Basic critical health care is still lacking in the city, though. Recently, UNFPA supported the development of a new health clinic, which opened in January 2018. 460 women received treatment in the first two weeks of the clinic's operations, including one 30-year-old Syrian woman's delivery of twins. 

Under the control of ISIL, contraceptives and other reproductive care were unavailable to women. The new clinic continues to face challenges in its liberation, too, as access to Al-Tabqa for those who wish to return or relocate has been hampered by destroyed infrastructure and lingering landmines. Various agencies are working to improve these conditions, but in the meantime, the Al-Tabqa clinic has managed to become fully-equipped, staffed, and ready to help serve the estimated 6,800 pregnant women in need of care. 

April 18, 2018 in Contraception, Current Affairs, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Pharmacists push to provide free contraceptive scheme in Ireland

Irish Times (Apr. 10, 2018): Pharmacists push to provide free contraceptive scheme, by Pat Leahy & Priscilla Lynch:

Pharmacists in Ireland are seeking to deliver an Irish state-funded free contraception service to women, including supplying contraceptive pills without prescription. The proposal by the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has been made to the Department of Health.
 
The contraceptive pill, patches and rings would be made available without prescription and without charge, regardless of eligibility under the proposal, which would represent a major change to the current situation where women need prescriptions for these products. The IPU’s proposal states that pharmacists could directly provide women with oral hormonal contraception pills, patches, rings and injections. All these items currently require a prescription but could be reclassified to be directly dispensed by pharmacists, under set circumstances.

Ireland's Minister for Health Simon Harris has already established a women’s sexual health group in his department to formulate proposals on a program of free contraception for women.

The Irish government intends to implement a plan for a “massive increase in the availability of contraceptives – condoms basically”. However, changes to the way that oral contraceptive pills are provided to women would require legislation.

Pharmacists have directly provided the morning-after pill without the need for a prescription since 2011 – a move that was strongly opposed by general practitioners (GPs) in Ireland at the time. It is expected that the new IPU proposals will face similar strong resistance in the GP community.

April 12, 2018 in Contraception, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Sex, reproductive health education showing impact in Nepal's Sindhuli District

The Himalayan Times (Apr. 2, 2018): Sex, reproductive health education showing impact, by Himalayan News Service:

Government health centers established to provide sex and reproductive health education to teenagers in Nepal's Sindhuli District (located approximately 130 kilometers southeast of Kathmandu) are proving highly effective.

The Nepali government's Family Health Division (FHD) set up health centers aiming to provide necessary guidance and counselling to teenagers on sex and reproductive health. The FHD established these centers with financial and technical aid from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). As many as 24 health centers provided sex education while 30 secondary schools were developed as information centers. Trained health workers and teachers provide sex education to youths at these centers.

“Initially, the youths seemed reluctant to talk about reproductive health but now they share their curiosities and problems without hesitation,” said assistant health worker Nisha Baral at Sitalpati Health Post in Sindhuli.

UNFPA Sexual and Reproductive Health Program Officer Manju Karmacharya said three health centers in 2015 and two in 2018 were certified for conducting the sex education program effectively. 

The Nepali government is preparing to set up at least 13 health centers in each District across the country in the near future. As many as 1,034 health facilities across the country are currently providing sex and reproductive health education.

April 4, 2018 in International, Sexuality Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 23, 2018

UN human rights committee to Poland parliament: reject anti-abortion bill

JURIST (Mar. 22, 2018): UN human rights committee to Poland parliament: reject anti-abortion bill, by David Zwier: 

This week, Poland's parliament will debate the bill "Stop Abortion," which would ban abortion in cases of severe fetal anomaly. Currently, this is one of only three bases on which a person can terminate a pregnancy in Poland. Poland is known to have some of the most restrictive abortion laws throughout Europe. 

A committee of experts under the UN Human Rights Council has urged the parliament to reject the bill, citing that such restrictions will threaten women's equality and autonomy as well as violate their rights to privacy and health while also putting pregnant persons at risk of cruel and inhuman treatment. Forcing the continuation of a pregnancy, they say, violates an individual's fundamental human rights. 

In 2016, Poland rejected a bill outright outlawing abortion, in part many believe as a response to protests over it. The UN experts have not received a response to their recent communications regarding the current pending legislation. 

March 23, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Current Affairs, In the Media, International, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

It’s now easier for trans people to update birth certificates in Russia than in many U.S. states

ThinkProgress (Jan. 25, 2018): It’s now easier for trans people to update birth certificates in Russia than in many U.S. states, by Zack Ford: 

Last month, Russia established new procedures to allow transgender persons to obtain gender-affirming medical documentation without undergoing surgery. Previously, the only way for a trans person to officially change their gender identity was through the submission of a "medical certificate on gender/sex change" to a civil registry office where individual civil servants would determine whether or not to change the applicant's listed identity. The Russian Ministry of Health signed the new order in January, and it went into effect on February 2, 2018.

Although Russia is regularly condemned for its anti-LGBTQ reputation, this new procedure is considered more progressive than those in the United States, which often require transgender patients to undergo surgery before their gender identity will be officially recognized. 

The U.S. does not have uniform procedures on how to update gender on a birth certificate or other official documentation. "According to the Transgender Law Center...there are only 17 states that offer clear policies for changing birth certificates and do not require surgeries for recognition." 18 states have policies specifically mandating surgical requirements as a prerequisite to the paperwork. Governor Chris Christie twice vetoed bills in New Jersey that would have eliminated such requirements. The U.S. courts have so far produced inconsistent and unpredictable results for trans persons seeking policy changes.

Russia is not the only country making gender identity documentation more accessible. India and Nepal recognize transgender persons by issuing papers that identify them as a "third gender." Sweden, which practiced forced sterilization well into the 20th century, eliminated its surgical requirement for transgender people in 2013. 

Gender reassignment surgery, meant to align a person's gender with their reproductive organs, often results in the patient losing their reproductive ability. Requiring surgery to recognize a trans person's gender is increasingly considered an unacceptable and illegal form of forced sterilization throughout the world. Furthermore, such procedures are often financially prohibitive, making gender alignment surgery, and thus--in the U.S. at least--obtaining legal documentation that recognizes one's gender, inaccessible. 

Last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against surgical requirements in a French case. The Court cited Article VIII of the European Convention on Human Rights, which gives everyone the right to respect for "his private and family life." 

Although Russia still faces intense discrimination against its LGBTQ community, Tatiana Glushkova of the Transgender Legal Defense Project is optimistic that the new procedures eliminating the need for surgery before trans persons can obtain proper medical certificates will “significantly improve the situation of trans people in Russia."

February 21, 2018 in Culture, Current Affairs, International, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 16, 2017

In West Africa, youth ambassadors serve as family planning advocates

Devex (Oct. 3, 2017): In West Africa, youth ambassadors serve as family planning advocates, by Christin Roby:

In West Africa, young people are receiving training from health professionals and becoming community-based family planning advocates. They use their skills to initiate conversations with their local ministries of health to demand access to contraceptives, reproductive health services, and to ensure they each have a voice in future reproductive policies. 

West Africa has the world’s lowest contraceptive prevalence rate accompanied by the world’s highest fertility rate. While the world averages 2.4 children per woman, African women average 4.7 children. West Africa surpasses even the African average with five children per woman, and a 17 percent modern contraception prevalence rate as compared to the global rate of 64 percent.

These initiatives are part of a larger project by the nations that make up the Ouagadougou Partnership (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Togo). This Partnership has a goal to provide 2.2 million more people in the region better access to family planning methods by 2020. The youth ambassadors especially aim to reach rural communities that don't often have much knowledge about contraception or family planning. 

Experts hope that introducing effective family planning methods into more communities will enable young mothers-to-be to space their births, so as to reduce potentially negative health consequences. Young men are important to the conversation as well, and educating them on the risks of un-spaced births and the health complications that young pregnant women face--especially those under 18 years old--is imperative. 

By empowering the youth to advocate for themselves and their communities, these groups--such as Strengthening Civil Society Engagement for Family Planning in West Africa--hope to facilitate cooperation between religious and community leaders. Bridging these spheres is important in order to account for various cultural contexts when considering reproductive rights advocacy and establishing new health services programs. Youth ambassadors have effectively organized trainings within mosques and churches and are beginning to open a line of communication about safe sex practices, discussion of which is often considered taboo. 

International health experts are optimistic that the West African model will expand contraceptive use and effective family planning and improve reproductive health in the region.

October 16, 2017 in Contraception, Culture, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

UN Ambassador Flounders to Explain U.S. Vote Against Rebuking the Use of the Death Penalty to Target LGBTQ People

Think Progress (Oct. 4, 2017): Haley tries, fails to explain UN vote against rebuking use of death penalty to target LGBTQ people, by Zack Ford:

The United Nations approved a resolution on Friday, September 29 condemning the use of the death penalty in a discriminatory manner. The text of the resolution called for the death penalty to be banned "as a sanction for specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations."

The United States, however, voted against the resolution, along with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Only 13 out of 47 countries on the Human Rights Council voted against it. 

A spokesperson for the State Department cited "broader concerns" about the resolution as the reason for the negative vote, specifying disagreement with the resolution's "approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances." UN Ambassador Nikki Haley took to twitter to claim that the vote was not one for "the death penalty for gay people," claiming that Friday's vote was the same as the U.S.'s vote on the same issue under the Obama administration. In 2014, however, the Obama administration abstained from the death penalty resolution, which is distinct from actively voting "no." Additionally, the language regarding same-sex relationships was a new addition to the resolution. 

The rest of the resolution’s calls to action refer to how the death penalty is implemented, not whether it should be. It simply calls upon states that have not yet abolished the death penalty to ensure that it is not applied in a discriminatory way and to take all possible precautions to protect the civil rights of people who are facing that punishment.

The controversy surrounding this vote highlights the United States' isolation on the death penalty compared to the rest of the democratized world. Many studies have found the death penalty to be applied in a discriminatory manner across the world where it is still implemented, especially against racial minorities and economically-vulnerable people. In the U.S., 55% of those awaiting execution today are people of color, according to the ACLU.

While the resolution encouraged countries to sign a protocol that aims at abolishing the death penalty, it did not require it. 

October 5, 2017 in Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, International, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Portugal Is European Country with Fewest Abortions

The Portugal News Online (Sept. 14, 2017): Portugal Is European County with Fewest Abortions:

Portugal held a national referendum in 2007 that resulted in the legalization of abortion of pregnancies of up to ten weeks.  Abortions must be performed in a facility licensed to perform the procedure.  Figures from 2015 indicate that abortions were at their lowest level in that country since 2008, the first year that they were legal.  Every year there have been fewer abortions than the year before.  Portugal's retiring health director Francisco George has cited the small percentage of abortions per 1,000 live births as evidence of the success of Portugal's abortion laws.  

Abortion used to be against the law in Portugal, a reality that resulted in grim health consequences for women in need of safe termination procedures.  George remarked that the decriminalization of abortion "has improved the health conditions for women." 

September 26, 2017 in Abortion, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Chilean Court Upholds Right to Abortion

Tribunal Constitucional de Chile (Aug. 21, 2017):

A Chilean court has upheld a law decriminalizing abortion in cases of rape, fatal fetal impairment, and when a woman's life is in danger.  A group of conservative senators representing more than a quarter of the members of Senate challenged the law's constitutionality.

The decision is grounded in international human rights treaties.  With these rights in mind, and in view of the effect of pregnancy on women, the court concluded that the criminal law should be used only as a last resort.

Regarding the "threat to the woman's life" criterion, the Court has decided that only assessment of the physician attending the woman is necessary in order not to delay the provision of care.

The opinions of two physicians are required in an assessment of whether a case is one of "fatal fetal impairment."  The Court warned against "decisional paralysis" in such cases, since delay can pose a danger to the patient.

Finally, in cases of rape, a child under the age of 14 must have an abortion before 14 weeks of gestation, while an older patient has under 12 weeks of gestation.

Even though it remains under in the Inter-American human rights systems whether artificial legal persons have the right to conscientious objection, the Court, intending to promote freedom of conscience and religion, ruled that hospitals and clinics may lodge institutional conscientious objections to abortion.

September 21, 2017 in Abortion Bans, In the Courts, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Refugee Women Struggle to Access Contraception

openDemocracy.net (Aug. 15, 2017): Reproductive Rights on the Move: Refugee Women in Greece Struggle to Access Contraception, by Zoe Holman

Refugee women are struggling to maintain control of their bodies and reproductive choices as a result of practical and cultural challenges within their transitional lives. A recent study has identified that while 60% of women in pre-war Syria used some form of contraception, only 37% of married Syrian women currently living as refugees in Lebanon do the same. 

Often, statistics like this exist because refugee women are not comfortable or reasonably able to use the common forms of contraception available in their relocated states. Injectable contraceptives are popular among refugee women, as they're more conducive to women on the move, but they are not always widely available in every country. Contraceptive pills--often more easily accessible--are not always a realistic choice for a woman without a regular routine or stability. 

The lack of contraception among refugee populations can lead to more unwanted and challenging pregnancies as well as dangerous, often illicit, attempts at abortion. Seeking an abortion in a foreign country, even where it is legal, is an intimidating prospect for a refugee woman and often logistically prohibitive. 

Of particular concern to many migrating women is the exacerbated risk of sexual violence and the resulting threat to a woman's reproductive autonomy. 

The director of the Eritrean Initiative on Refugee Rights says that women emigrating from Eritrea can expect to be raped at least twice before reaching Europe. With this known risk in mind, many women take potent doses of contraceptive before starting their journey to lessen the risk of an unwanted pregnancy from sexual violence. This can lead to longterm damage and reproductive difficulties in the future. 

In Greece, a study of nine refugee camps found that insecure conditions left many women at constant risk of sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, forced prostitution, forced marriage and trafficking. Perpetrators, it said, have included volunteers and fellow refugees.  

Despite the UN noting that reproductive health is a crucial element to mental and social well-being, conflict-ridden regions still receive 50% less funding for reproductive services than non-conflict zones. Thus far, the international outcry to increase funding for safe contraception and sexual healthcare for refugee and migrant women has gone largely unanswered. 

 

August 23, 2017 in Abortion, Contraception, Current Affairs, International, Sexual Assault | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Free Birth Control in Philippines Ignites Religious Skirmish

New York Times (Jan. 27, 2017): Duterte’s Free Birth-Control Order Is Latest Skirmish With Catholic Church, by Aurora Almendral:

The Philippines, where six million women have no access to contraceptives, delivers free birth control to indigent women through a program that also offers prenatal care and mandates that sex education be taught in schools and that companies provide reproductive health services to their employees.  The program has been billed as "pro-life, pro-women, pro-children and pro-economic development." 

But the Catholic Church has long fought the implementation of the program, going so far as to block key components of it via petitions filed in the Supreme Court.  Unable to implement the program, the Health Department's budget has been slashed.  Sex education in schools remains substandard, based in abstinence-only rhetoric.  The Philippines is the only country in Asia where rates of pregnancy among teenagers increased. 

President Duterte's administration is coming back strong against the court's decisions, vowing to uphold the law and eliminating some of the decisions' ambiguous wording.  Two archbishops have acknowledged defeat.      

One commentator, contrasting Duterte's clash with the church with President Donald Trump's reinstatement of the Reagan-era global "gag rule" forbidding foreign NGOs from receiving U.S. family planning funds if they perform, counsel or refer women for abortion services or advocate for the liberalization of abortion laws where they work, sees the policy of the United States, not the Philippines, as the real threat to women's health.

February 9, 2017 in Abortion, Contraception, International, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

To Protect People Fleeing Mosul, Undo Iraq’s Anti-Shelter Policy

Huffington Post (Oct. 21, 2016): To Protect People Fleeing Mosul, Undo Iraq’s Anti-Shelter Policy, by Lisa Davis:

The battle for Mosul will result in a humanitarian crisis, but the need for shelter will go tragically unmet in Iraq.  A major cause of the problem is the inexplicable policy of the Iraqi government that forbids local women's organizations from providing shelter to displaced persons.  "Those who defy this policy," writes Davis, "by running safe houses for women escaping violence or shelters for families displaced by war, operate under government harassment and police raids."

Local groups in Iraq are well positioned to provide the aid and shelter that international groups, lacking information, connections and other important resources, cannot.  The problem is not so much an explicit ban in Iraqi law but a misinterpretation of it.  Many local officials believe only the government can run shelters.  There is a also a deep-seated bias against shelters as places where groups of "immoral women" reside without male oversight.  It is feared that opening shelters will encourage women to abandon their families.  

Facing reality, some local officials have been forced to enter into agreements with local organizations to provide shelter.  But more needs to be done.  Advocacy groups are calling for the government to permit private shelters to operate without fear of reprisals.  

   

October 22, 2016 in International, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Former Irish President Fights to End Contraception Ban

IrishCentral (Sept. 19, 2016): Former Irish President McAleese Calls on Pope to End Contraception Ban, by James O'Shea:

A "Scholars Statement" that includes the signature of former president of Ireland Mary McAleese (1997-2011) calls on Pope Francis and the Catholic Church to bring its ban on contraception to an end.  The statement cites the "[t]he damage inflicted particularly on the poor, on women, on children, on relationships, on health, on society and not least on the church itself" as a compelling reason to end the ban but more importantly notes that the ban has no basis in divine law.  

McAleese's participation in the statement stems in part from her upbringing.  She has eight siblings and at least 60 cousins, all 69 produced by her mother and her mother's siblings.  Growing up, McAleese and her siblings were dissuaded by her parents from having such a large family.  Her parents, she concludes, and all Catholics who have blindly followed the 1969 encyclical to be fruitful and multiply, have been "infantilized and robbed" by the church.

Today, the vast majority of Catholics worldwide ignore the contraception ban.  

September 27, 2016 in Contraception, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Chinese Women Travel Abroad for Egg Freezing

New York Times (Aug. 30, 2016): Chinese Women Head Overseas to Freeze Their Eggs, by Carolyn Zhang:

A growing number of single Chinese women are traveling abroad to freeze their eggs.  They want the option to become mothers even if busy careers and the lack of a stable partner cause them to delay having children.  Single women need to travel because China tightly controls access to assisted reproduction.  Infertility treatments for unmarried women are completely banned, making travel abroad necessary.  Even heterosexual couples must present proof of their marriage, proof of infertility, and a license to give birth.  Reproductive rights in this domain are trumped in China by concerns that reproductive technologies will have a negative impact on its population policies and will create a black market for human eggs.  It is also against China's moral code for unmarried women to bear children.  Nonetheless, the interest among unmarried women is high.  Brokerage firms have begun matching them with clinics abroad.  Continuing the trend, some American infertility clinics have opened offices in Chinese cities.   

August 30, 2016 in Assisted Reproduction, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

WHO Response to Zika Ignores Reproductive Rights

News Deeply (Jul. 18, 2016): Zika Spotlights Latin America's Reproductive Rights, by Christine Chung:

There is a disconnect between the World Health Organization's advice to women in Zika-threatened countries to refrain from reproducing and the fact that those same countries deny women reproductive choice as a matter of law.  Critics of the advice, including the United Nations working group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and practice, are calling for making contraception and safe abortion more widely available in Latin America.  According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human rights, failing to do so ignores the necessary human-rights response to the Zika epidemic.   

The statistics are stark:

Approximately 22 percent of women of reproductive age across Latin America have unmet needs for effective contraception. The region already has the highest rate of unintended pregnancy in the world – some 55 percent of pregnancies – due to the lack of access to reproductive healthcare and high incidences of sexual violence. Honduras, for example, has the highest rate of rape in the region, but maintains a total ban on abortion and emergency contraception.

Restrictive reproductive laws primarily affect women living in poverty.  Reproductive justice requires that governmental response to Zika place women and children at the center of the policy discussion.   

 

 

 

July 27, 2016 in International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Expert Testimony in Inter-American Court's Forced Sterilization Case

Reprohealth Law (June 15, 2016): Forced Sterilization Case Against Bolivia: Expert Testimony by Christina Zampas:

We continue to follow the story of I.V. v. Bolivia, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights' first case of forced sterilization (see previous post here).  Brought against Bolivia by an immigrant woman from Peru, the case alleges multiple violations of the American Convention on Human Rights by doctors who claim they obtained her consent to sterilization during a cesarean section.  The doctors claimed the patient needed to be sterilized because a future pregnancy would be dangerous. 

An expert on forced sterilization, Christina Zampas brought to bear the United Nations' and the European Court of Human Rights' standards on the subject, including numerous cases against Slovakia concerning the forced sterilization of Roman women.  Her position is that sterilization for the prevention of future pregnancy cannot be justified on the ground of medical emergency:

Even if a future pregnancy might endanger a person’s life or health, alternative contraceptive methods can be used to ensure that the individual does not become pregnant immediately. The individual must be given the time and information needed to make an informed choice about sterilization. The provision of information, counseling and sterilization under the stressful conditions of childbirth are not only a violation of the right to information but also violate the right to privacy, physical integrity and human dignity and are a gross disregard for an individual’s autonomy, rising to the level of inhuman and degrading treatment.

Zampas also urged the court to recognize the multiple layers of discrimination underlying sterilizations in circumstances like those faced by I.V. and justified by "medical necessity."  The decision to sterilize, usually made by men, is often informed by stereotypes that cast women as incapable of rational reproductive decision making. 

 

July 7, 2016 in In the Courts, International, Sterilization | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

What Can Be Done about Maternal Mortality in Uganda?

AfricLaw (June 3, 2016): Uganda: Why the Constitutional Court Should Rule on the Right to Health, by Michael Addaney:

Responding to the shocking statistic that thirteen women giving birth in Uganda die each day due to circumstances that could be prevented (e.g., severe bleeding, infection, hypertensive disorders and obstructed labor), Michael Addaney notes that universal human rights could play a role in addressing the crisis.  The current obstacle, he notes, is the political question doctrine, which forbids courts from deciding certain cases because the question lies in the province of elected officials. 

In 2011, a non-governmental organization sued Uganda for violating the constitutional rights to health and life by not providing basic minimum maternal health care.  The court ruled that the petitioners had presented a political question.  Addaney notes, however, that the International Court of Justice has questioned judicial dodging of "political" questions "whenever the rights, interests or status of any person are infringed or threatened by executive action."  The Supreme Court of Uganda appears to agree.  In 2015, it reversed the ruling of the lower court, holding that "the petition has critical questions that need constitutional interpretation." 

Addaney is hopeful that with the evolution of human rights and modern constitutionalism the political question doctrine will see its end. 

 

 

July 6, 2016 in In the Courts, International, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Making Abortion Safer in Uruguay

New York Times (June 28, 2016), From Uruguay, a Model for Making Abortion Safer, by Patrick Adams:

The scourge of Zika has put pressure on Latin American countries to reconsider their restrictions on abortion.  Uruguay in particular presents a picture of what is possible. 

In 2002, Uruguay set about to address the problem of the unsafe back-alley abortions that had contributed in large measure to its shocking maternal mortality rate, especially among the poor, and had burdened its health system with heavy costs.  A pilot program was initiated in a Montevideo hospital to provide women with factually accurate information about the use of the drug misoprostol, originally developed to treat ulcers, to terminate a pregnancy.  Doctors could not prescribe misoprostol for pregnancy terminations or advise women whether or not to use it, but they could legally provide women with factually correct information about its effects. 

The women who participated in the program avoided the threat of death from post-abortion sepsis, the hallmark of back-alley abortions.  They also presented no severe complications from abortion. 

With the program came a change in public perceptions.  Abortion, formerly considered criminal, began to be associated with health and human rights.  Eight years later, the model was expanded to public facilities throughout the country.  Many see the program as pro-life, given that the death of a mother reduces the likelihood of her children's survival. 

Pilot program similar to that begun in Montevideo are not operating in Uganda and Tanzania.        

July 5, 2016 in Abortion, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Obama Administration Punts on Calls to Clarify Exceptions to Helms Amendment

Rewire (June 16, 2016): Obama Administration Punts on Helms Amendment, by Christine Grimaldi,

During his address at the United State of Women Summit on Tuesday, President Obama described advancing gender equality as a foreign policy priority, stating that "we’ve implemented a comprehensive strategy to end gender-based violence around the world, from prevention, to treating survivors, to bringing perpetrators to justice."

Yet, activists are frustrated that the administration has failed to take steps to clarify the scope of the "Helms Amendment" which prohibits the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds for abortion "as a method of family planning."  The funding prohibition should not apply to abortions in case of rape, incest or where the pregnancy endangers the life of the pregnant women, but the Obama administration has failed to recognize and enforce those exceptions.  Activist had hoped that the administration would clarify the exceptions by executive action.

An administration official contacted by Rewire confirmed that the Administration's commitment to treating rape survivors would not result in action on the Helms Amendment, stating that there are no "new announcements on that front."

June 18, 2016 in Abortion, International | Permalink | Comments (0)