Wednesday, October 31, 2018
UN Human Rights Committee Recognizes That Criminalization and Denial of Abortion Access Violates Human Rights
(Nov. 1, 2018) UN Human Rights Committee Recognizes That Criminalization and Denial of Abortion Access Violates Human Rights, by Cynthia Soohoo:
While U.S. politicians continue to talk about criminally prosecuting women who have abortions and the Trump Administration seeks to provide greater protections for health care providers who refuse to provide abortion and other health services for religious reasons, a respected U.N. human rights body has made it clear that governments should not criminalize individuals for terminating their own pregnancy or abortion providers and that the governments must ensure that “conscience claims” do not create a barrier preventing access safe and legal abortion.
This week, the U.N. Human Rights Committee released General Comment 36 “on the right to life," which provides an authoritative interpretation of human rights protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”). In addition to addressing the death penalty, the use of deadly force by law enforcement and assisted suicide, the Comment summarizes current human rights standards on access to abortion. The Comment recognizes that access to abortion is not just a privacy right and that prohibiting pregnant people from voluntarily terminating their pregnancies can also violate the right to life and health of a pregnant person (in cases where the pregnancy endangers their life or health) and that in certain situations forcing a pregnant person to continue a pregnancy against their will can be torture or cruel inhuman and degrading treatment.
The General Comment provides that while governments can adopt measures designed to regulate abortion “such measures must not result in violation of the right to life of a pregnant woman or girl, or her other rights.” Any state "restrictions on the ability of women or girls to seek abortion" cannot “jeopardize their lives, subject them to physical or mental pain or suffering . . . discriminate against them or arbitrarily interfere with their privacy.” The Comment reflects Concluding Observations made to state parties to the ICCPR by the Human Rights Committee as well as decisions the Committee has issued stating that a woman must have safe, legal, and effective access to abortion where (1) the pregnancy endangers her life or health, (2) where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or (3) where the pregnancy is not viable. Other UN Human Rights bodies have issued similar Concluding Observations and decisions.
Further, because governments must not regulate abortion in a way that results in women or girls undertaking unsafe abortion, the Comment provides that states “should not take measures such as criminalizing pregnancies by unmarried women or apply criminal sanctions against women and girls undergoing abortion or against medical service providers assisting them in doing so, since taking such measures compel women and girls to resort to unsafe abortion.” (footnote omitted)
Finally, the Comment recognizes that while governments can regulate abortion, they should not introduce new barriers and must remove existing barriers that deny effective access to safe and legal abortion. In particular, the Comment provides that states should remove “barriers caused as a result of the exercise of conscientious objection by individual medical providers.”
The U.S. ratified the ICCPR in 1992. Its next report to the Human Rights Committee is due in 2019.
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Gizmodo (Oct. 22, 2018): FDA Investigation Targets Website That Mails Abortion Pills to Women in the U.S., by Melanie Ehrenkranz:
Aid Access, a website established by Women on Web founder Rebecca Gomperts, is the target of a new Food and Drug Administration investigation, as reported by The Daily Beast.
Aid Access requires women to fill out a consultation form online stating that they are no more than nine weeks pregnant. For women who pass the online screening process–they must say they are less than ten weeks pregnant, and live within one hour of a hospital – Gomperts, a doctor, fills the prescriptions herself and sends them to a pharmacy in India. The group has already mailed medication abortion to about 600 women.
The FDA investigation, the agency says, was triggered by the website's sale of mifepristone.
“Mifepristone, including Mifeprex, for termination of pregnancy is not legally available over the Internet,” the FDA said in a statement to Gizmodo. “The agency takes the allegations related to the sale of mifepristone in the U.S. through online distribution channels very seriously and is evaluating the allegations to assess potential violations of U.S. law.”
The FDA says that only approved health care providers can prescribe and offer mifepristone, and that the pill can only be dispensed in certain health care settings including “clinics, medical offices and hospitals, by or under the supervision of a certified prescriber.”
Gomperts told The Atlantic that Aid Access is legal because the FDA allows the importation of medicine for personal use. Mifeprex, the brand name for mifepristone, has been FDA-approved since 2000. The FDA, however, subjects mifepristone to a strict distribution protocol, which prevents it from being sold online or in retail pharmacies.
Numerous medical groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have challenged the FDA protocol, saying it is outdated and inconsistent with the requirements for other drugs with even greater risks.
Monday, October 22, 2018
The Guardian (Oct. 17, 2018): Queensland parliament votes to legalise abortion, by Ben Smee:
Abortion will become legal in Queensland after the Australian state’s parliament voted to support new legislation and erase a 119-year-old “morality” section of its criminal code.
Loud cheers in the legislative assembly chamber on Wednesday evening brought an end to a 50-year struggle by women’s groups in a state once notorious for its conservative politics.
Abortion was codified as an “offence against morality” under the Queensland criminal code, which the current premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said in parliament was written before women had the right to vote.
Both the Labor and the Liberal National party granted their members a conscience vote, and most expected a close result. In the end, the laws passed 50-41.
Abortion will become legal until 22 weeks gestation, and after 22 weeks with the approval of two doctors. Safe access zones will restrict protesters and people who harass patients from coming within 150 meters of abortion clinics. Doctors under the law may refuse to treat a woman on moral grounds, but will also be legally required to refer patients to another medical practitioner.
Children by Choice, the all-options counselling service, was at the forefront of debates about abortion in Queensland for decades.
“Children by Choice has been fighting for this important reform to cruel and archaic laws since 1972 and we are so proud of all of the people who have advocated on behalf of Queenslanders who couldn’t advocate for themselves,” Children by Choice manager Daile Kelleher said.
The anti-abortion group Cherish Life put out a statement vowing to continue its campaign and to target Queensland members of parliament who supported the new laws at the next state election.
Friday, October 19, 2018
FIGO.org (Oct. 16, 2018): International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) Speaks Out on Violence Against Women:
The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (Fédération Internationale de Gynécologie et d'Obstétrique - FIGO) is a global organization that represents national societies of obstetricians and gynecologists. FIGO is meeting for their XXII World Congress in Rio de Janeiro this week. Early in the week FIGO announced, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), a Global Declaration on Violence Against Women, citing stark statistics of the violence women suffer and the wide-reaching effects of such harm, including on reproductive health and safety.
The organizations found that 35% of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetimes. Most of this violence is committed by intimate partners. Circumstances of unrest, armed conflict, and displacement exacerbate the statistics. Women in South Sudan, for example, experience intimate partner violence at a rate double the global average.
WHO estimated that women who have been physically or sexually abused by a partner are 16% more likely to have a low-birth-weight baby.They are more than twice as likely to have an abortion, almost twice as likely to experience depression, and, 1.5 times more likely to acquire an STI, and in some regions, HIV, as compared to women who have not experienced partner violence.Health services are critical for supporting survivors to heal, recover and thrive. If accessed in time, health services can prevent unwanted pregnancies and the transmission of HIV, STIs, following rape. Unfortunately, these services are often not available and survivors lack access to basic, lifesaving care.
The Declaration on Violence Against Women announces members' dedication to, among other things, promoting women's health and rights, including sexual and reproductive rights. It announces concern over the "global public health problem" of violence against women and how it affects women physically, mentally, and sexually as well as how the violence affects the children of surviving women.
The Declaration concludes with several calls to action, urging delegates' governments to ratify CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) and ensure the treaty's thorough implementation. It also calls for strengthened health systems, better allocation of budgets and resources to prevent and respond to violence, and the promotion of widely-available health services. The Declaration further advises obstetricians and gynecologists to "advocate for strategies to address violence against women in their communities, towns, cities or countries and [to] collaborate with civil society and voluntary organizations, particularly women’s health and rights organizations, which advocate for women affected by violence"
The World Congress continues to meet through the end of this week.
Friday, October 12, 2018
The Detroit Mercy Law Review will host its 2019 Symposium, Women and the Law, on Mar. 8, 2019. The deadline for proposals is Nov. 9, 2018 at 5:00pm EST.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to: the history of women in the law, how women have impacted the law, how the law impacts women today, how future legal decisions could affect women’s rights (e.g. if Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) were to be overturned), what challenges women still face in the legal profession,
the role of gender in the law, and any other topic regarding women and the law. Proposals should be approximately 250-500 words, double-spaced, and detail the proposed topic and presentation. Submit to Samantha Buck, Symposium Director, at email@example.com. Please indicate whether your proposal is for a presentation only or if you would also like to publish an article with the Detroit Mercy Law Review on your presentation topic. If you are interested in submitting an article, it will be due to the Law Review on Friday, Mar.15, 2019. Please submit a current CV or resume along with your proposal. We will notify chosen speakers by Nov. 30, 2018. Preference will be given to those willing to submit an article for publication.
Thursday, October 11, 2018
The Atlantic (Oct. 11, 2018): When Abortion Is Illegal, Women Rarely Die. But They Still Suffer, by Olga Khazan:
On Thursday, The Atlantic published a piece surveying nations that maintain bans on abortion, in light of the belief that abortion is expected to become further restricted with Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.
Khazan writes that legal experts believe the majority-conservative court likely won’t overturn Roe v. Wade, but rather will chip away at abortion rights by narrowing the circumstances in which a woman can obtain the procedure. Still, abortion rights advocates fear that increasing restrictions will force low-income women into desperate situations and increase the rate of self-managed abortion, in which interest has spiked in recent years as access to safe and legal abortion erodes in many states.
If other countries provide guidance, Khazan writes, "abortion restrictions won’t reduce the number of abortions that take place." According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortion rates in countries where abortion is legal are similar to those in countries where it’s illegal, and in countries where abortion is illegal, botched abortions still cause about 8% to 11% of all maternal deaths, or about 30,000 deaths each year.
But, Khazan observes, doctors have gotten better at controlling bleeding in recent decades, and there has also been a major revolution in how clandestine abortions are performed thanks to medication abortion (mifepristone and misoprostol).
Mifepristone and misoprostol have made Brazil's rate of treatment for severe complications from abortion decline by 76 percent since 1992. In Latin America overall, the rate of complications from abortions declined by one-third since 2005.
Meanwhile, in El Salvador abortion is illegal, but one in three pregnancies still ends in abortion. Many women there who want to abort their pregnancies, Khazan finds, obtain misoprostol on the streets.
"Those who have internet access and reading skills can look up information about how to take it properly."
Federal prosecutors in El Salvador are known to visit hospitals and encourage doctors to report to authorities any women who are suspected of self-inducing their abortions. But because federal prosecutors are only visiting public hospitals and not private hospitals, poor women are much more likely to be reported for their illegal abortions than rich women.
In Brazil, where abortion is also illegal, about 250,000 women are hospitalized from complications from abortions, and about 200 women a year die from the complications. About 300 abortion-related criminal cases were registered against Brazilian women in 2017.
In Ireland prior to the repeal of its criminal abortion ban, women would travel to England to get the procedure—often using a fake English address so they could get the procedure for free under the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. Others, Khazan writes, "would order abortion pills from Women on Web, a Canada-based service that ships the pills to women in countries where abortion is illegal."
Whether a self-induced abortion is dangerous likely depends on where a woman gets her pills and what kind of information is available to assist her. Irish women’s outcomes were better than the Brazilian women’s possibly because they had access to regulated services like Women on Web. Brazilian customs officials, meanwhile, confiscate shipments of medication abortion into the country, forcing women to turn to the black market.
The American market for abortion drugs will boom under a Kavanaugh Supreme Court, says Michelle Oberman, a Santa Clara University law professor, but it will also become more difficult to penalize abortion providers for illegal abortions, since with medication abortion there is no doctor, only the woman. In that case, Oberman says, “everything I saw [in Ireland] will happen here”: the hospital reports, the prosecutions, the jail sentences.
Many states have already prosecuted women for doing drugs while pregnant or for otherwise allegedly harming their fetuses. Overwhelmingly, those punished tend to be poor women and women of color.
Tuesday, October 9, 2018
BBC News (Oct. 4, 2018): Irish Parliament Debates Bill to Legalise Abortion, by Deirdre Finnerty:
The Irish parliament is debating legislation to legalize abortion services nationwide. It is the first time the Irish parliament has addressed the issue since the Eighth Amendment - a near total constitutional ban on abortion - was removed by referendum in May.
Irish Health Minister Simon Harris hopes abortion services will be available in Ireland starting in January.
Known as the Regulation of the Termination of Pregnancy Bill, the legislation allows for abortion services to be provided "on demand" up to the 12th week of a pregnancy, and in the case of a fatal fetal abnormality or where the physical or mental health of the mother is in danger.
Harris has said that abortion would be made available free of charge.
Introducing the bill in the Irish assembly, Harris said the referendum was a resounding affirmation of support for right of women to make choices about their lives.
"More on women's health, women's equality, more on continuing to shape an inclusive and equal society," said Harris.
Separate legislation will be introduced at a later date to allow for "safe access" zones - designated areas that prevent protests around abortion providers.
The Irish government must work with doctors to implement services and provide training and support. Dr. Mary Favier, founder of Doctors for Choice, told the Irish Times that planning for abortion by the Department of Health had been "a shambles."
"There's been no clinical lead appointments. There's been no technical round tables established. There's been effectively no meetings held," she said.
Mike Thompson, a general practitioner in east Cork, told the BBC that the government's proposed timeline of January 2019 was "ambitious" and "challenging."
"Unless there is a clear and robust guideline, no GP will provide the service. It has to be safe," Dr. Thompson said.
Earlier, anti-abortion doctors said they did not wish to be forced to refer a pregnant woman seeking a termination to another doctor. A bill allowing for doctors to opt out of providing a medical or surgical abortion if they do not wish to perform the procedure was introduced in the Irish parliament earlier this year. The legislation requires that doctors refer a woman seeking an abortion to another doctor who will perform the abortion.
The health minister said that conscientious objection was one thing, but refusing to refer women wishing to terminate their pregnancies to other doctors was quite another.
It is unclear how a small number of doctors objecting to providing abortion care will affect the rollout of abortion services in Ireland.
Monday, October 8, 2018
Rewire.News (Oct. 1, 2018): House Republicans Jam ‘Personhood’ Language Into New Tax Bill, by Katelyn Burns:
The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed a bill that would extend "the ability to count 'unborn children' as beneficiaries under 529 education savings plans."
The bill, referred to as the Family Savings Act, is a part of a current push for updated tax legislation. Anti-choice activists have promoted the addition of personhood language--effectively defining zygotes, embryos, and fetuses as persons with all the rights that entails--to legislation for some time. The cause is now embraced by many Congressional Republicans as well.
"Personhood laws" have consistently been rejected in ballot measures across the country.
Representatives and activists alike warn lawmakers to be vigilant of the tactic of sneaking anti-choice provisions into larger bills. “This is how extremist views creep into the mainstream," said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO). "Provisions like this one should never become law—they can lead to limits on access to abortion and even birth control.”
Supporters of the legislation--personhood language and all--claim that it will "finally" allow expectant parents to begin saving for their future child's education through a 529 plan. Parents-to-be, however, "can already open a 529 plan listing themselves as the beneficiary before switching it over to the child once they are born."
The Family Savings Act is not expected to pass in the Senate ahead of the midterms, but this is not the first time--and surely not the last--lawmakers have tried to slip similar provisions into tax reform or other legislation.
Thursday, October 4, 2018
Rewire.News (Oct. 1, 2018): Abortion Rights Got Two Important Legal Wins Last Week, by Jessica Mason Pieklo:
A Federal court in Kentucky ruled a 1998 state law aimed at limiting abortion clinics unconstitutional.
The law requires abortion clinics to have written transfer agreements with ambulance services and hospitals, often referred to as "transfer and transport" requirements. Even though the state's last abortion clinic (and a plaintiff in the lawsuit) has been able to maintain the licensure required by the law--and so stay open--the court agreed with the clinic's argument that Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) has used the law as a tool to try to cut off abortion access.
Judge Greg Stivers ruled:
The court has carefully reviewed the evidence presented in this case and concludes that the record is devoid of any credible proof that the challenged regulations have any tangible benefit to women’s health. The regulations effectively eliminate women’s right to abortions in the state. Therefore, the challenged regulations are unconstitutional.
The judge affirmed that “the challenged regulations are not medically necessary and do absolutely nothing to further the health and safety of women seeking abortions in the Commonwealth of Kentucky." The decision is expected to be appealed in the 6th Circuit.
October 4, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, In the Courts, Medical News, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Rewire.News (Sept. 25, 2018): Alaskan Survivors of Sexual Assault Urge Murkowski to Vote ‘No’ on Kavanaugh, by Katelyn Burns:
Even before last week's hearing for Dr. Blasey Ford's allegations against SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh, indigenous groups in Alaska have been voicing their opposition to the Judge's confirmation.
Alaskan sexual assault survivors--many of whom are Natives--are calling on Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to vote "no" on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination this week. Activists have also been protesting at Senator Dan Sullivan's office (R-AK), however, unlike Senator Murkowski, he announced his support for Kavanaugh shortly after the nomination in July.
Sexual assault is a pervasive problem in Native American communities. Natives, including Alaskan women, suffer from rape and sexual assault in staggeringly disproportionate numbers with little access to justice.
"According to the 2015 Alaska Victimization Survey, 50 percent of Alaskan women have been victims of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or both." Furthermore, 97 percent of Native Alaskan sexual assault survivors suffered the violence at the hands of non-Native perpetrators. Notably, tribal justice systems cannot prosecute non-Natives for sexual assault.
Survivors are also speaking out in defense of Dr. Ford's delay in coming out publicly with her allegations. “Most of the time we would be blamed for being provocative in some way. So I can understand why someone would wait years to bring up a sexual assault," said one Alaskan Native survivor.
Native communities also oppose Kavanaugh's nomination on his views of Native rights generally and his misunderstanding of tribal history and government systems.
October 2, 2018 in Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, Medical News, Politics, Public Opinion, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexual Assault, Supreme Court, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)