Saturday, August 25, 2007

Scholarship on Abortion in the Middle East and North Africa, Spain, and Trinidad and Tobago

The following articles have been posted on SSRN:

Leila_hessini Abortion and Islam: Policies and Practice in the Middle East and North Africa, Reproductive Health Matters, Vol. 15, No. 29, pp. 75-84  (May 2007), by Leila Hessini (Ipas). Here is the abstract:

This paper provides an overview of legal, religious, medical and social factors that serve to support or hinder women's access to safe abortion services in the 21 predominantly Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, where one in ten pregnancies ends in abortion. Reform efforts, including progressive interpretations of Islam, have resulted in laws allowing for early abortion on request in two countries; six others permit abortion on health grounds and three more also allow abortion in cases of rape or fetal impairment. However, medical and social factors limit access to safe abortion services in all but Turkey and Tunisia. To address this situation, efforts are increasing in a few countries to introduce post-abortion care, document the magnitude of unsafe abortion and understand women's experience of unplanned pregnancy. Religious fatāwa have been issued allowing abortions in certain circumstances. An understanding of variations in Muslim beliefs and practices, and the interplay between politics, religion, history and reproductive rights is key to understanding abortion in different Muslim societies. More needs to be done to build on efforts to increase women's rights, engage community leaders, support progressive religious leaders and government officials and promote advocacy among health professionals.

Abortion in Democratic Spain: The Parliamentary Political Agenda 1979-2004, Reproductive Health Matters, Vol. 15, No. 29, pp. 85-96 (May 2007), by Belen Cambronero-Saiz (University of Alicante - Dept. of Public Health, Spain), et al.  Here is the abstract:

Since Spain's transition to democracy, abortion has been a public policy issue both inside and outside parliament. This paper describes the history of abortion law reform in Spain from 1979 to 2004 and analyses the discourse on abortion of members of the Spanish parliament by sex and political allegiance. The analysis is based on a retrospective study of the frequency of legislative initiatives and the prevalence of different arguments and positions in debates on abortion found through a systematic search of the parliamentary database. Little time was given to abortion in the parliamentary agenda compared to other women's issues such as violence against women. There were 229 bills and other parliamentary initiatives in that period, 60% initiated and led by pro-choice women. 143 female and 72 male parliamentarians took part in the debates. The inclusion of socio-economic grounds for legal abortion (64%), and making abortion on request legal in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (60%) were the most frequent forms of law reform proposed, based most often on pro-women's rights arguments. Male and female members of anti-choice parties and most male members of other parties argued for fetal rights. Pro-choice parties tabled more bills than anti-choice parties but till now all reforms proposed since 1985 have been voted down.

Knowledge and Perception of Abortion and the Abortion Law in Trinidad and Tobago, Reproductive Health Matters, Vol. 15, No. 29, pp. 97-107 (May 2007), by Cedriann J. Martin (Advocates for Safe Parenthood: Improving Reproductive Equity), et al.  Here is the abstract:

As for most of its Caribbean neighbours, Trinidad and Tobago's leading cause of maternal morbidity is unsafe abortion. Yet activism to introduce public policy and legislation that effectively address this aspect of women's reproductive rights and health has been met with public outcry. With almost hysterical opposition coming from certain religious quarters, there is the unsubstantiated impression that Trinidadians are over-whelmingly opposed to abortion law reform. A national survey was therefore carried out of people's knowledge and views on the current abortion law in Trinidad and Tobago. The survey found that although almost half of respondents had an unfavourable perception of abortion, more than half of them were in favour of broadening the legal grounds for accessing terminations. Incest, rape and danger to a woman's life were cited as the most significant circumstances under which abortions should be permitted. The vast majority of respondents agreed that voting on abortion law reform by members of the legislature should not be based on personal beliefs. The findings demonstrate that there is not the degree of opposition to abortion law reform that is widely assumed. On the other hand, given the wide variance of views and perceptions, we argue that public health concerns and human rights should always trump public opinion.

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