Tuesday, June 19, 2018
BBC News (Jun. 16, 2018): Sinn Féin votes to change Northern Ireland abortion policy, by Jayne McCormack:
Sinn Féin party delegates in Northern Ireland have voted to change the party's position on abortion at a conference in Belfast. Members comprehensively backed a leadership motion stating that women should have access to abortions within "a limited gestational period." The party can now support a law due to be brought before the Irish parliament, which is expected to allow abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The decision comes shortly after a referendum in the Republic of Ireland removed a constitutional amendment which effectively outlawed abortion. Sinn Féin had previously backed making abortion available in circumstances like fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or sexual abuse.
However, the party will now back a policy put forward by the Sinn Féin leadership that is broadly in line with the new Irish law, which is expected to make abortion available to women within the first 12 weeks of their pregnancies.
Sinn Féin's Northern Irish leader Michelle O'Neill opened the debate and told delegates: "No one is saying members can't have a conscience and you're entitled to have your viewpoint respected, but there is a difference between personal views and our role as legislators."
Unlike other parts of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland, meaning that it is the only region of the UK or Ireland where abortion is illegal unless there is a serious risk to a woman's life or health. Abortions in cases of rape, incest, or fatal fetal abnormalities are not automatically legally permitted to be carried out.
At the conference on Saturday, the party's leadership had backed a motion stating that women should have access to abortions within a "a limited gestational period."
The motion by the party leadership did not specify the 12-week period, but refers to making abortions available through a general practitioner-led service "without specific indication for a limited gestational period."
Mrs O'Neill denied that this gives the Sinn Féin leadership blanket authority to eventually back abortion in line with the 24-week period provided by the UK's 1967 Act, arguing it allowed the party flexibility in case legislation brought before the Dáil (Irish parliament) eventually reduces the time limit to 10 weeks.
Northern Ireland has been without a functioning government since the collapse of power-sharing between Sinn Féin and the DUP in January 2017.
Friday, June 15, 2018
Vox (Jun. 14, 2018): Argentina’s historic vote to decriminalize abortion, explained, by Emily Stewart:
On Thursday, June 14, Argentina's lower legislative house voted 129-125 on a bill that would decriminalize abortions up to 14 weeks into a pregnancy. The bill is part of "a broader women’s rights movement, Ni Una Menos — meaning 'Not One Less' — directed at stopping violence against women, including murder."
Abortion is currently illegal in Argentina except in cases of rape or life and health-threatening circumstances. Even in these scenarios, abortions are difficult to obtain and there may be not guidelines or clear legal requirements for providers, according to Shena Cavallo, a program officer at the International Women’s Health Coalition. Half a million women sought illegal abortions in 2016, and abortion-related deaths are one of the top causes of maternal mortality in Argentina.
Over the past 13 years, six different bills decriminalizing abortion have unsuccessfully come before Argentina's Congress. Activist groups like the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe, and Free Abortion and Catholics for the Right to Decide Argentina, have helped to gain the momentum for the current bill, contributing to the greater Ni Una Menos movement.
The Ni Una Menos movement, started in 2015, is a campaign against gender-based violence. It began in Argentina after a surge of media reports of women being killed by their husbands, boyfriends, or partners, and it has spread across multiple Latin American countries. Argentina has a history of public protest — it is not uncommon for major city streets and roadways to be shut down for hours or days because of protest — and multiple Ni Una Menos marches have taken place. This new wave of feminism has spurred more women to speak out about a variety of issues, including abortion. Activists see illegal abortion as another way of keeping women oppressed.
While Argentine President Mauricio Macri has not stated public support for the bill, he has encouraged debate over it and also said he would not veto it if it reaches his desk.
Although the more conservative Senate is expected to reject the bill, advocates consider this recent vote a win and will continue to fight for abortion legalization and the overall protection of women throughout Argentina and Latin America.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Los Angeles Times (Jun. 11, 2018): Trump administration moves to block victims of gang violence and domestic abuse from claiming asylum, by Evan Halper:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has overturned precedent that created a basis for survivors of domestic violence in foreign countries to receive asylum in the United States.
As Attorney General, Sessions' review of an earlier case that granted a Salvadoran woman asylum as a victim of physical and emotional abuse by her husband, including rape, is binding. A federal appellate court, though, has the power to overturn Sessions decision, and immigration advocates anticipate immediate challenges to the decision.
To establish asylum in the United States, applicants must "prove that they have a reasonable fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political views or membership in a particular social group." Under the Obama administration, in 2014, a Guatemalan woman fleeing domestic violence was granted asylum after the immigration appeals board ruled that victims of domestic violence constituted, in some cases, "a particular social group."
Advocates estimate that tens of thousands of U.S. asylum applicants annually fall into this precedential category targeted now by Sessions and the Trump administration. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees "warned that such action would violate international agreements the U.S. has entered into concerning refugees and would subject victims to being returned to situations in which their lives are in danger." The American Bar Association has also joined in voicing its concern that this ruling will further endanger those most vulnerable.
Sessions has stated through this decision that the United States will not offer help to women suffering from and living in fear of domestic violence, rape, and death, as their situations constitute only "private crimes" that their home governments should be able to manage. He has cast doubt on well-founded assertions that police in the home countries of these women "often don't respond to reports of domestic violence" and rejects that, as such, these women constitute "a distinct group in need of protection by the U.S."
"The attorney general’s skepticism that victims of abuse lack effective recourse in their home countries runs counter to reports published by the U.S. Department of State on human rights conditions in those countries."
Friday, May 25, 2018
May 24, 2018 (The New Yorker): Ireland’s Vote on Abortion Is a Referendum on the Nation’s Future, by Margaret Talbot:
On Friday, Irish voters will decide whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the country’s constitution, which bans abortion under nearly all circumstances. The vote will help expose how much the Catholic Church’s hold in Ireland has weakened, following years of revelations about child sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and about the Church’s mistreatment of “fallen women,” who had become pregnant out of wedlock (in 2013, Ireland’s Prime Minister at the time, Enda Kenny, issued a state apology for the Church-run Magdalene Laundries, where such women were confined as unpaid workers, often in drudgery and cruelty).
Though the Yes side—those who want to eliminate the Eighth Amendment—can count on the support of many of the country’s leading politicians and is still ahead in the polls, the gap seems to be narrowing. The most recent polls show that almost one in five voters are still undecided, a figure that raises the spectre of a surprise victory for those who want to keep abortion illegal.
The vote is also an opportunity for tech companies to show how transparent they can be about political advertising and how much they can protect themselves against foreign interference (American anti-abortion activists are among those trying to influence the outcome of the vote). Google announced earlier this month that it would refuse advertising related to the referendum. Facebook said that it would bar such advertising by foreign groups.
Friday’s vote will be a test of whether women in Ireland will continue to be coerced and shamed if they do not want to carry their pregnancies to term. The Eighth Amendment, which has been in place since 1983, has not stopped abortion in Ireland. Making the procedure illegal never has—and that is worth remembering, not only in Ireland but in the United States, where the Trump Administration has given new impetus to those who would like to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Between 1980 (when abortion was not legal in Ireland but was less restricted than after the amendment) and 2016, 168,703 Irish women and girls obtained abortions in England and Wales, according to the United Kingdom’s Department of Health and Social Care. In 2016, the latest year for which such statistics are available, the number was 3,265. This is almost certainly an underestimate, since it only includes women and girls who give Irish addresses when they show up at hospitals in Liverpool and other English cities. The number also leaves out a smaller group of Irish women who go to countries other than England, such as the Netherlands. And it does not count women who obtain abortion-inducing pills on their own.
In 1992, the Irish legislature passed an amendment that made it legal for women to travel abroad for an abortion. This outlawing-and-outsourcing arrangement has come at an enormous cost to Irish women. In November of 2011, a woman named Amanda Mellet, a charity worker living in Dublin with her husband, had a routine scan for her first pregnancy. It revealed that, at twenty-one weeks, the fetus had a chromosomal disorder that kills ninety-five per cent of babies in utero and had heart defects that made survival impossible. A midwife informed Mellet that she had two choices: continue the pregnancy or “travel,” which, as she told the Washington Post recently, brought to mind “Ireland’s history of spiriting deviant women away in conditions of secrecy and shame.”
To Mellet, the journey she made to Liverpool for the abortion felt like a banishment that deliberately denied her the care and the counselling that she should have had in her own country. She flew home twelve hours later, still bleeding. “Not only did we have to make this horrible decision about what to do in the case of a fatal condition,” she told the Post, “we had to leave the country like criminals, speak in euphemisms to hospital staff in Ireland, pay thousands to end a pregnancy, all the while my heart breaking at having to say goodbye to my darling baby girl.” In a case brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights on Mellet’s behalf, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled, in June, 2016, that the state had violated Mellet’s rights to freedom from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, as well as her privacy and equality before the law.
It is not just the most terrible cases that should be considered when thinking about the Irish ban on abortion—or about the American pro-life movement’s push to ban the procedure here. If Irish voters set aside the amendment, Irish legislators will be able to enact new laws that will likely make abortion freely available to women in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, with restrictions thereafter—a framework similar to that of many other countries in Europe. That will certainly provide safety and dignity for women in tragic predicaments. But new laws will also help women in more commonplace ones, who aren’t prepared, for any number of reasons, to bear a child, and who should not be forced to do so. It will allow women, in other words, the ordinary autonomy that all men have.
Polls in Ireland close at 10PM local time on May 25th.
Wednesday, May 2, 2018
The New York Times (April 26, 2018): Supporters of El Salvador’s Abortion Ban Foil Efforts to Soften It, by Elisabeth Malkin:
El Salvador remains one of six Latin American countries with a total ban on abortion after the Legislative Assembly failed to debate and vote on a measure that would have relaxed the ban in two circumstances: when the mother's life is in danger and in the case of a minor becoming pregnant as a result of rape.
In El Salvador, abortion is criminalized and punishable by up to eight years in prison for both doctor and patient. Human rights groups around the world have a lobbied for a change in the harsh policies that sometimes criminalize women who have late-term miscarriages. These women have historically been charged with abortion or even aggravated homicide.
Advocates aiming to soften the total ban had been lobbying for months, but their efforts were unsuccessful when the former, left-wing-led national legislature adjourned last week without voting on the proposals. A new Legislative Assembly convenes this month, dominated by conservatives who are not expected to revive the debate or offer reform proposals.
Friday, April 20, 2018
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.
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
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.
Thursday, April 12, 2018
Irish Times (Apr. 10, 2018): Pharmacists push to provide free contraceptive scheme, by Pat Leahy & Priscilla Lynch:
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.
Wednesday, April 4, 2018
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.
Friday, March 23, 2018
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.
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
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."
Monday, October 16, 2017
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.
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.
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
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."
Thursday, September 21, 2017
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.
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
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.
Thursday, February 9, 2017
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.
Saturday, October 22, 2016
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.
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
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.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
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.