Thursday, April 30, 2020

If/When/How Launches New Judicial By-Pass Wiki to Help Youth Access Abortion

April 30, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, If/When/How, Lawyering for Reproductive Justice accelerated the launch of a new tool to help young people, lawyers, advocates, and medical professionals navigate the maze of forced parental involvement laws in 37 states across the country.

The Judicial Bypass Wiki provides a one-stop site for state-by-state information on parental involvement requirements and the judicial bypass process for young people under the age of 18.  It also offers community-sourced updates, local contacts, and best practices for accessing court services — vetted by the legal and policy experts at If/When/How. 

“For a young person who’s seeking abortion and trying to navigate forced parental involvement laws, it’s like putting together the pieces of a puzzle,” said Jessica Goldberg, J.D., If/When/How Youth Access Counsel. “While there are a lot of good resources out there, they can often be hard to find and may not all appear in one place, or be linked to each other. The Judicial Bypass Wiki is a central hub of information that lifts up the work state advocates are doing to support young people, and helps connect young people to the resources they need.”

April 30, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Abortion in the context of COVID-19: a human rights imperative

April 21, 2010, Jaime Todd-Gher and Payal Shah have published a new article in Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, discussing why abortion is an essential health service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amidst states' evolving emergency responses, the authors make the case that abortion care must be included and ensured from the outset and access must be provided in bold, novel and evidence-based ways. The authors discuss states' human rights obligations which include a duty to ensure that individuals do not have to undertake unsafe abortions when faced with a pregnancy that is unwanted and/or threatens their life or health.  These obligations are not waived in times of crisis; in fact, they become more pressing. 

The article calls for enabling self-managed abortion by guaranteeing access to medications and telemedicine counseling and ensuring women are not criminalized for inducing their own abortions as a critical step towards fulfilling states’ binding human rights obligations and avoiding preventable abortion complications, including during the COVID-19 crisis. While not a solution in all cases and contexts, it could be an important step forward. Countries like Ireland, England, and France have already taken this step. 



April 21, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Anti-abortion protesters continue to gather at clinics despite stay at home orders

April 21, 2020

As states impose social distancing requirements and emergency measures to ensure adequate medical resources to combat COVID-19, several states are taking the opportunity to ban abortions.  Yet anti-abortion protesters are continuing to gather at clinics harassing patients and providers in violation of stay-at-home orders with mixed responses from state officials and the courts.

In a press statement, Reverend Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, President of the National Abortion Federation has criticized these protests because "In many places, these protesters are able to walk right up to patients as they enter or exit the facility or surround them as they walk to and from their cars." While anti-abortion protests have long been part of the lives of abortion providers and patients, according the Ragsdale, their behavior "can feel particularly threatening to patents now that concerns about the coronavirus are heightened.  We have even heard reports of protesters intentionally coughing on clinic escorts and making physical contact with patients and providers attempting to enter clinics."

Earlier this month, police in Charlotte, NC. were forced to disperse a crowd of 50 anti-abortion protesters outside of Charlotte's Preferred Women's Health Center and arrested 8 people for violating the governor's stay at home order. After the arrest, Senator Ted Cruz tweeted support for the protesters, asserting that the gathering was "fully consistent w/ public safety" and violated First Amendment Rights. Police have also arrested protesters outside of a clinic in Greensboro and issued a citation outside a Planned Parenthood in San Francisco.

In Michigan after citations were issued to protesters who gathered outside of Detroit clinics, violating the state's stay at home order, some of the protesters alleged that their protest was a religious gathering, and one protester sued, claiming that he was engaged in peaceful expressive activity and maintained a safe distance.  The state agreed to dismiss the charges against him and the Governor's office issued guidance stating that under the state's stay at home order:

Persons may engage in expressive activity protected by the First Amendment within the State of Michigan, but must adhere to social distancing measures recommending by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including remaining at least six feet from people outside the person's household.

While the guidance appears to balance First Amendment rights with responsible public health restrictions, enforcing the guidance may be more difficult in practice. In a letter to the governor, Reverend Ragsdale expressed concern that anti-abortion protesters have not been practicing social distancing and have been engaging in "large gatherings of protesters" outside of clinics and intentionally harass abortion patients and providers.  "These protesters have used the guise of holding "worship services" to gather outside of clinics, needlessly increasing the risk of exposure to and transmission of COVID-19, both among each other and to health care providers and the patients they serve."





April 21, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 20, 2020

UN Issues Statement on Ensuring Women's Human Rights During COVID-19 pandemic

April 20, 2019

Today, the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women released a statement providing guidance on state human rights obligations to ensure women's human rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.  In issuing the statement, Working Group Chair, Meskerem Geset Techane cautioned that “Measures to mitigate the risks to health and life posed by COVID-19 must consider the specific risks faced by women and girls, based on factors such as their sex, gender, age, disability, ethnic origin, and immigration or residence status among others.”  Otherwise, many different forms of discrimination they already face would be exacerbated.

Among the factors that states should consider are: "The dramatic increase in women’s caregiving responsibilities, the rise in what was already an epidemic of sexual and domestic violence, the continued feminization of poverty, [and] the proliferation of barriers to healthcare, especially pregnancy-related healthcare." The statement noted that women are disproportionately impacted from social and economic shocks because of their disproportionate representation in "precarious, informal, poorly paid work, including domestic work."

The statement specifically warned against responses to COVID-19 that unnecessarily violate the reproductive rights and endanger the health of pregnant people , noting that in some countries:

the human rights of women are being violated during and after pregnancy and childbirth in an attempt to allegedly expedite the process or prevent contagion (e.g. cesarean sections and forceps delivery performed without medical indication, denial of epidural, prohibition of partner’s presence, and separation of newborns from mothers). Some governments are creating new barriers to access to abortion services, by deeming it a non-essential medical procedure.



April 20, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)