Activism


Mon, 25 Feb 2013 11:18 GMT

Source: Trustlaw // Anastasia Moloney

An activist dressed as a nun holds a placard that reads “they decided on your body” above pictures of the parliamentarians who are against abortion, during a rally outside a church in support of legalisation of abortion in Valparaiso city, about 121 km (75 miles) northwest of Santiago, September 28, 2012. REUTERS/Eliseo Fernandez

By Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA (TrustLaw) – When Carolina answers an evening call in the Chilean capital of Santiago, she is acutely aware that she could be giving potentially life-saving information to a woman on the other end of the line.

Carolina is one of 30 self-described “militant feminist” volunteers who run an abortion hotline in Chile, providing information to women about how they can induce an abortion using the drug misoprostol.

The World Health Organisation recommends misoprostol, both taken on its own and combined with another drug mifepristone, as a safe and effective way for women to have an abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.

In a country where abortion is a crime under any circumstances – even in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the mother or foetus is in danger – the hotline has become a lifeline, offering women a way to sidestep Chile’s blanket ban.

“Regardless of any laws, if a woman feels she needs an abortion she will get one. We know women in Chile have abortions every day. Abortion is a reality,” said Carolina, a volunteer at Lesbians and Feminists for the Right to Information, the Chilean group that runs the hotline.

“What we aim to do is to help women avoid having unsafe and clandestine abortions. The phone line is our strategy to fight that,” Carolina told TrustLaw in a phone interview in Santiago.

Originally invented as an ulcer drug, misoprostol induces an abortion by causing contractions of the uterus and is from 75 to 90 percent effective when taken correctly, WHO says.

Neither misoprostol nor mifepristone is risk-free and incomplete abortions can happen. But doctors say inducing an abortion with oral drugs rather than a surgical operation means it is less likely for an infection or a uterus perforation to occur.

UNSAFE ABORTIONS

In much of Latin America, Asia and Africa, restrictive laws or blanket bans on abortion force millions of women with unwanted pregnancies to have illegal and often unsafe abortions every year, according to WHO.

Some 47,000 women die from botched abortions each year around the world, says WHO. In Latin America meanwhile, deaths from botched abortions, often caused by severe bleeding, infections or a combination of both, account for 17 percent of maternal deaths in the region, the United Nations agency says.

That is why volunteers like Carolina are adamant it is vital to give women the information they need to stop preventable deaths from unsafe abortions.

“All women have the right to know about how to get a safe abortion,” Caroline, 32, said.

Since the hotline started in 2009, it has received more than 12,000 calls, up to 15 a day.

Sometimes it is a single mother of three who says she cannot afford to have another child. Other times, it is a young woman who does not feel ready to be a mother.

“We receive calls from young, old, poor, rich, married, single women, those with children and those without. Abortion is something that affects all kinds of women in Chile,” said Carolina, a sociologist.

Chile, like much of Latin America, is predominantly Catholic and the Catholic Church and conservative lawmakers argue that abortion infringes on the right of an unborn child, which should be protected by law at all costs.

Abortion, therefore, is both a taboo issue in Chile and a crime that can lead to imprisonment for those who perform abortions or assist on them. Because of this, hotline volunteers prefer to keep a low profile. They wear masks when promoting the hotline at public meetings and most choose not to give their full names.

It also means volunteers like Carolina are careful to only share public information with callers over the age of 18 based on a script approved by a lawyer.

“We don’t convince women to have an abortion. All women who call have already made up their minds to have an abortion,” said Carolina.

“We just provide women with information about how to have a safe abortion using misoprostol, correctly following WHO protocols.”

BLACK MARKET PILLS

On top of the country’s absolute ban on abortion, women in Chile face the additional challenge of getting hold of misoprostol.

The drug was pulled off pharmacy shelves in Chile, where it had been available with a prescription, under Michelle Bachelet, the former first female president of Chile, who now heads the U.N. Women’s agency.

It means women have to try their luck on the black market. It costs around $250 for the 12 pills needed for an abortion.

Chile’s safe abortion hotline was the brainchild of Dutch doctor and former Greenpeace activist, Rebecca Gomperts. Through her pro-choice group, Women on Waves, Gomperts has helped launch the abortion hotline in Chile, along with hotlines in Argentina, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

“Medical abortion is such a revolution. Women …  can take their health, and life, in their own hands,” Gomperts told TrustLaw in an interview last year.

“PUSH AND PULL”

In Chile, any moves to decriminalise the country’s abortion laws are still a long way off, Carolina says.

“Chile is a very, very conservative country in all senses. The opinion of the Catholic Church holds a lot of weight in Chile. Maternity is seen as something sacred,” Carolina said.

“Currently, it’s not a priority among Chilean lawmakers to change the abortion laws and push for reform. Abortion isn’t an important issue in public debate.”

While there’s little headway on reproductive rights in Chile, elsewhere in Latin America attitudes have been changing.

In Colombia, for example, an absolute ban on abortion was partially lifted in 2006. A year later, abortion was made legal in Mexico City during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and more recently last year in Uruguay.

“There’s a push and pull going on in Latin America,” Marianne Mollmann, a senior policy advisor on sexual and reproductive rights at Amnesty International, told TrustLaw.  “The countries that are stuck are Central America and Peru.”

As for Chile, the country remains a bastion for strict anti-abortion laws that force women to rely on underground activists and their telephone hotline to get a safe abortion.

 

Taking Calls on Abortion, and Risks, in Chile  

 

By Aaron Nelsen   

Published: January 3, 2013  

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/04/world/americas/in-chile-abortion-hot-line-is-in-legal-gray-area.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1& 

  

Roberto Candia for The New York Times

Volunteers for the Safe Abortion Hot Line in Chile routinely wear masks when showing support in public for the organization in a country where abortion is illegal under any circumstances.

 

SANTIAGO, Chile – Every time the phone rings, Angela Erpel feels her nerves swell. Sometimes it is a scared teenager on the other end, or a desperate mother of three. There are the angry ones, too, with callers playing the sounds of crying babies or sending text messages with pictures of aborted fetuses.  

 

Then Ms. Erpel, 38, a sociologist who volunteers at Chile’s Safe Abortion Hot Line, gathers herself and settles into a familiar dialogue on the use of misoprostol, a drug that will induce a medical abortion.

 

“We don’t give them a moral guide or advice; we only provide information,” she said.

 

Since the hot line began in 2009, volunteers spread across this long, thin country have taken turns answering tense calls from women seeking information about abortion every evening from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. There have been more than 12,000 calls so far, and they continue rolling in at a steady clip.

 

In a country where abortion is entirely illegal, even in cases of rape or when a woman’s life is in danger, the hot line is a risky endeavor. Operating in a legal gray area, volunteers face a daunting prison sentence if a conversation veers too far from a lawyer-approved script. The hot line already has had three lawsuits brought against it, though all were eventually dropped.

 

According to the law, having an abortion carries a penalty of 5 to 10 years in prison, depending on the circumstances, while doctors and others who perform an abortion or assist with one could face up to 15 years, prosecutors say. In practice, however, fewer than 500 cases have been prosecuted over the last several years.

 

“I think there is a certain sensitivity to the social conditions behind these abortions, such as poverty or rape or teenage pregnancy,” explained Paula Vial, a lawyer and former public defender in Santiago.

 

Beyond the legal consequences, the 30 hot line volunteers are keenly aware of the social ramifications of taking an active role in such a polarizing issue. They wear masks when promoting the hot line at public gatherings, and are often vague about the details of their volunteer work in their daily lives. Many fear losing their jobs or driving a wedge into personal and family relationships. Indeed, Ms. Erpel was the only volunteer willing to go on the record about her work with the hot line, and even she is usually circumspect about it.

 

“It’s complicated,” she explained. “I’m open about being in an organization, but not necessarily that I work directly with abortion.”

 

Abortion was not always a clandestine affair in Chile. The current law that strictly bans it was one of the final acts of the dictatorship. In 1989, shortly before relinquishing power, Gen. Augusto Pinochet ended a tradition of legal abortion dating to 1931, in which a pregnancy that threatened a woman’s life, or a fetus that was not viable outside the womb, could be terminated. Chile’s law now is one of the strictest in the world.

 

By contrast, Uruguay legalized abortions in the first trimester for any reason last October, joining Guyana and Cuba as Latin American countries with broadly legalized procedures. Abortion is also legal in Mexico City. But Chile has remained a socially conservative country, after 20 years of economic growth and the election in 2006 of a woman as president.

 

“The hierarchy of the Catholic Church has had a very strong influence in public policy,” said Claudia Dides, a spokeswoman for the Movement for the Legal Interruption of Pregnancy.

 

In a pivotal case in 2008, Karen Espíndola, then 22, learned in her 12th week of pregnancy that her fetus had holoprosencephaly. Fetuses with the condition have a single-lobed brain, and most die before they are born. It is a common reason for terminating a pregnancy.

 

Ms. Espíndola sought an abortion, appealing to the president and setting off a national conversation over abortion. In February 2009, Ms. Espíndola gave birth to Osvaldo, who died in 2011.

 

“In reality he was never conscious he was alive,” she lamented. “He fought to breathe; he was fed through a tube. We all suffered a lot. Nobody here is a winner.”

 

Chile has witnessed a swell of liberal social movements in recent years, with gay men and lesbians pressing for the country’s first hate-crime legislation, environmentalists stalling dam-building projects in Patagonia, and students pushing for an overhaul of the education system.

 

Advocates contend that abortion rights sentiment bubbles near the surface as well, but the government has pushed back.

 

After criticizing the abortion hot line in the news media, the Ministry of Women started a hot line of its own. It is attended by psychologists and social workers who answer calls from men or women looking for information or support when facing what the ministry calls an “abortion situation” or “post-abortion syndrome.”

 

“Maternity, one of the most satisfactory experiences in the life of a woman, can go through difficult and desperate moments,” Minister Carolina Schmidt said at the time the government hot line began.

 

Other influential anti-abortion organizations offer to guide women considering abortion away from the procedure.

 

“If you help that person define what is troubling them and making them think of an abortion, and together you find a solution, in the end the person decides for life and her child,” said Victoria Reyes, director of assistance for Foundation Chile United. “We are convinced the second victim of abortion is the woman; the woman who has an abortion carries that guilt.”

 

The government reported several hundred adoptions in 2011, but it estimates 120,000 abortions, in a country with a population of about six million women from 15 to 64 years old.

 

Misoprostol, sold under the brand name Misotrol in Chile, has changed the way many of those abortions are performed. The drug was originally developed as an ulcer medication, and its warning label advised that, in excess, misoprostol would cause a woman to miscarry. Before long, women in countries with little or no access to safe abortions were using the drug to do that very thing.

 

Misoprostol “is a revolution for women,” said Rebecca Gomperts, founder of the Dutch organization Women on Waves. “Even where abortion is illegal and women don’t have a doctor, or they are poor, they still have a way to do a safe abortion.”

 

The abortion hot line is Ms. Gomperts’s creation. A medical doctor and former Greenpeace activist, she realized in 1999 that it was possible for a ship sailing under a Dutch flag to take women from countries where abortion is illegal to international waters to administer misoprostol.

 

Before departing Chile, Women on Waves helped set up the abortion hot line, training volunteers how to discuss misoprostol according to World Health Organization guidelines.

 

There are now five abortion hot lines in South America: in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

 

Misoprostol was taken off pharmacy shelves in Chile under Michelle Bachelet, the former president who now runs the United Nations’ agency for women’s advancement, so access to the drug is almost entirely a black market transaction.

 

Dozens of Web sites offer misoprostol at exorbitant prices, and sometimes of dubious quality.

 

One 29-year-old lawyer who became pregnant a few months ago said she paid $300 for the necessary 12 pills.

 

“To meet someone in a clandestine place, hoping they aren’t a police officer, wondering if they are even giving you the right pills, knowing that you could go to prison when all you want to do is exercise your right as a woman is horrifying,” the lawyer said on the condition of anonymity to avoid prosecution.

To its volunteers, the Safe Abortion Hot Line stands as a simple equation – 30 women and a single cellphone that gets passed among them. This month, they expanded: they released an abortion manual on using misoprostol.

 

Occasionally, women call back the hot line after a successful abortion, but more often the volunteers never know the outcome.

 

“That’s always the hardest part,” Ms. Erpel said.  

http://www.ipas.org/~/media/Files/Ipas%20Publications/MAMattersNov2012.ashx

 

PERSPECTIVES: ‘It was worth the sacrifice’: Kenya’s Dr. John Nyamu on why he spent a year in prison

 

From: Ipas, Medical Abortion Matters (November 2012)

 

Until 2011, abortion was illegal in Kenya except to save a woman’s life. For years the climate of fear and secrecy surrounding abortion hurt women, their families, and health-care providers. Unsafe abortion in Kenya still causes an estimated 30 percent of maternal deaths and countless other injuries.

 

Now, a newly ratified Kenyan constitution allows for legal abortion on much broader terms-and, when the new law is fully implemented, it stands to dramatically increase women’s ability to exercise their reproductive rights.

 

Ipas’s senior clinical advisor Mary Fjerstad recently sat down with Kenya’s much-respected Dr. John Nyamu to discuss the long and difficult path he and so many other Kenyans have traveled to get where they are today.

 

Mary Fjerstad: Doctor Nyamu, would you tell me what the situation was like in Kenya when abortion was considered a criminal act? [Editor’s note: Before constitutional reform, abortion in Kenya was highly restricted with few legal indications for having the procedure.]

 

Dr. John Nyamu: Most health-care workers were afraid of talking about it openly. Abortion was never performed in government hospitals unless the life of the woman was in real danger. Even then it was very bureaucratic as one doctor could only do the procedure with permission in writing from two other doctors; one doctor had to be a psychiatrist and the other doctor had to be a senior doctor in the hospital. Abortions were performed by D&C or induction. In reality, these legal abortions were provided almost exclusively at Kenyatta National Hospital, provincial hospitals and very rarely in district hospitals. (Kenyatta National Hospital is the major teaching hospital in Nairobi).

T

here were wards in hospitals where women who had unsafe abortions were treated for uterine and bowel damage due to perforations and developed sepsis, brain damage and many women died.

T

here was tremendous secrecy about abortion, women were aborting late. The penalty for a doctor who performed an [illegal] abortion was 14 years [in prison]; pharmacists could be imprisoned for three years for giving abortifacient medicines and women themselves could be imprisoned for seven years for having an abortion.

 

Some private clinics were providing safe abortion. They were harassed regularly by local police, usually by extortion. They were used virtually as the personal ATMs of the police [ATM = Automatic Teller Machine, a banking machine from which you can withdraw cash using a bank card]. A policeman would say, “I’m short of cash, give me your cash or I’ll arrest you.” The entire staff, including nurses, doctors and women seeking abortion could be arrested. Due to the fear, the providers kept servicing [the police] to buy their freedom.

 

Your case was profiled by The Center for Reproductive Rights’ paper in 2010, “In Harm’s Way: the Impact of Keny’s Restrictive Abortion Law.” Can you briefly describe what happened to you that led to this paper?

 

In 2004, [data were shared] which showed worrying trends and consequences of unsafe abortion in Kenya. This was followed by a major crackdown on clinics, hunts for women who had abortions, some clinics were closed and I was targeted. There were 15 fetuses found along a major road with some documents from a hospital I had worked at previously but had since closed. My clinic was raided and two nurses and I were arrested. This appeared to have been very well organized with all the media including print, radio and TV present to report on the matter.  When we were asked to pay bribes, we refused-because we knew the fetuses were not from our clinic and the documents were planted on the road-and we were locked up. [Editor’s note: subsequent pathology examinations found that the fetuses were still-born fetuses, not aborted fetuses.]

 

The three of us were ultimately charged with two counts of murder, rather than an abortion-specific offense. Since murder is a non-bailable offense in Kenya, we had to stay in remand prison pending our trial. We all spent a year in prison. One of the nurses was six months pregnant and delivered while she was in prison. One of the nurses still works for me and the other got her green card and has since immigrated to the United States.

 

A senior doctor, a gynaecologist, was instructed by the Director of Medical Services of the Ministry of Health to accompany the police and inspect the two clinics operated by Reproductive Health Services. The purpose of the inspection was to verify if there was any abortifacient equipment. He gave witness in court that the two facilities had legal equipment normally found in a gynecologist’s clinic and he would be surprised if he did not find it as he uses the same equipment for his work. The police forensic department was asked to look for DNA on the equipment from the clinic. DNA was taken from any instruments or equipment with blood on them-even the couches and lab coats were confiscated. The results from the government chemist found that there was no DNA linkage between the fetuses found on the road and any blood specimens from the clinic. The doctor also found that the clinic was duly registered and all staff had proper and up-to-date licenses.

 

The case was eventually ruled as improper [Editor’s note: They were acquitted of all charges]. With that ruling, the attorney general decided not to pursue prosecution due to lack of evidence.

 

Was it horrible being in prison for a year?

 

Yes, it was horrible, but it was worth the sacrifice. I was held at the Kamiti Maximum Prison, which is where the hard-core criminals are remanded. I was confined in a small cell for a whole year. I really felt persecuted, but as I said, it was worth the sacrifice.

 

Why do you say it was worth the sacrifice?

 

My arrest and imprisonment was in the media virtually every day. The publicity was an opening for people to realize the magnitude and consequences of unsafe abortion in Kenya; women were dying in great numbers. Before that, abortion was never spoken of in public. There are only about 250 OB/GYNs in Kenya; some districts have none. The media sensation from this case galvanized the Kenya Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society (KOGS), the National Nurses Association of Kenya, the Federation of Women Lawyers, human rights advocates, women’s rights organizations and many others to form an alliance of reproductive health rights advocates.

 

This alliance exists to date and is known as the Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance (RHRA). The RHRA is an advocacy platform to agitate for the reduction of maternal mortality and morbidity due to unsafe abortion. This alliance also offers technical support to abortion service providers through Reproductive Health Network (RHN). The public became aware of abortion and the toll of unsafe abortion. The window was open to the public to realize the terrible toll of unsafe abortion in Kenya.

 

This debate extended to the drafting of a new Constitution in 2010. The Constitution says that “every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services, including reproductive health care.” My arrest, imprisonment and [the resulting] publicity generated a public awareness that led to a transformation in the understanding that safe abortion is essential to preventing maternal morbidity and mortality.

 

Is there any further action in your own case?

 

Yes, I have since sued the government for malicious prosecution and subsequent confinement for one year in remand prison. The case has been in court for the last six years without yet being assigned a hearing.

 

What does the expansive definition of health in the new constitution mean in terms of when an abortion is considered legal?

 

Abortion is legal if the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman; as an emergency treatment; or when it endangers health, with health defined broadly: physical, social and mental. If in the opinion of a trained health professional an abortion is provided in good faith (in other words, where the pregnancy jeopardizes the woman’s physical, social or mental health), it is legal. [Editor’s note:Under the new law, a woman can make her abortion decision with one health-care provider; others are not required to be involved or sign off on the decision.]

 

What categories of health-care providers can perform legal abortion?

 

Physicians, nurses, midwives and clinical officers [who have completed training to perform abortion services] can now perform legal abortions.

 

What are the next steps in transforming the policies to establish safe, legal abortion in Kenya?

 

Ipas and other organizations took the lead in writing a document called, “Standards and guidelines for reducing morbidity and mortality from unsafe abortion.” The title is taken from a similar document from Zimbabwe and is brilliant. Kenya, like other countries, wants to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of 75-percent reduction in maternal mortality; this can’t be achieved if safe abortion isn’t available.

 

The other milestone on transformation is the revision of codes of ethics and scope of practice for all the professional associations in Kenya. These have been done and are waiting to be launched.

 

This transformation to legal abortion access in Kenya is a testament to very brave, inspired people dedicated to the common good who have sacrificed a lot. How have all the changes we’ve discussed affected providers of safe abortion and women?

 

Providers are now aware of the enhanced protections that have been offered by the constitution. This in turn has increased access to safe abortion services and thereby enabled women to realize their reproductive health rights. In addition, incidences of provider harassment are now on the decrease.

https://www.facebook.com/events/175080575964011/

An International Day of Action for Legal Abortion in Ireland following the tragic and unnecessary death of Savita Halappanavar will take place on Wednesday 21st of November. There will also be a picket at the Irish Parliament, The Dail.

Pickets will take place at Irish Embassies or central city locations across the world to register our disgust at the death of this woman due to the ambiguity around the issue in Ireland. Ireland’s abortion laws are antiquated and must be changed. This would never have happened if women had the right to choose in Ireland.

Demand change now, picket your local embassy! Post details of our local event here and we’ll add them to the description. http://www.dfa.ie/home/index.aspx?id=285 Protesters at embassies are being asked to hand in a letter of protest. A standard letter will be available soon, or you can write your own.

 

IRELAND
Rally at the Dail, 150 Pearse Street, Dublin 2 Dublin, Ireland

INDIA
Protest Wednesday, 21 November 2012
17:30 until 19:00 in UTC+05:30
at the Town Hall in Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka

UK
London
Press call/picket at the Irish Embassy in London
at 9am to allow or the student protests later in the day

Edinburgh
Scottish Solidarity Protest 5:30pm
Irish Consulate, 16 Randolph Crescent, Edinburgh

GERMANY
Vigil for Savita and protest Irish abortion law outside the Irish embassy in Berlin
6pm Botschaft von Irland Jägerstraße 51 10117 Berlin

BELGIUM
Vigil at 6pm at Irish Embassy, Chaussee d’Etterbeek 180, Bruxelles 1040, Belgium

 

http://www.paulmurphymep.eu/international-day-of-action-for-legal-abortion-in-ireland-following-tragic-unnecessary-death-of-savita-halappanavar

 

 

International Day of Action for Legal Abortion in Ireland Following Tragic, Unnecessary Death of Savita Halappanavar

 

· Protests to be held at Irish Embassies across the world and at the Dail Wednesday 21st November

· Letter of Protest signed by MEPs to be sent to Taoiseach

Socialist Party / United Left Alliance MEP Paul Murphy today called for an international day of action for legal abortion in Ireland following the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar:

“The death of Savita Halappananavar is the tragic and unnecessary result of the failure of Irish governments to introduce abortion legislation. The failure to separate Church and state has resulted in the Catholic Church in Ireland having an over-bearing, conservative grip on health and educational policies.

“I am calling for an international day of action for Wednesday 21st to call for legal abortion to be introduced in Ireland. Protests will be held in cities and at Irish embassies across the world to put pressure on the Irish government to introduce legal abortion. Already I know that protests will take place in cities across Britain, in Belgium, Germany and Sweden.

“Along with Mikael Gustafsson, chair of the women’s Rights and Equality committee, I have initiated a letter of protest at the failure of the Irish state to legislate for abortion rights. The letter has already been signed by over 20 MEPs.

“International pressure can only embarrass the government, the people of Ireland must turn out in vast numbers at Saturday’s protest and maintain a campaign thereafter to force the government to legislate for full abortion rights.”

SOLIDARITY REQUEST:

 

Protest the death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland

 

PLEASE SIGN AND SEND THE E-MAIL BELOW TO THE FOLLOWING:

 

To: Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Irish Prime Minister)

cc: Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore (Irish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs)

 

E-mails:

taoiseach@taoiseach.gov.ie

enda.kenny@oireachtas.ie

eamon.gilmore@oir.ie

 

Copy also to the Irish Embassy in your country. Find contact details here: http://www.dfa.ie/home/index.aspx?id=285

   

 

Re: Death of Savita Halappanavar in Galway

 

Honourable Taoiseach,

 

We are writing to you to express our concern about the recent death of Savita Halappanavar, who was repeatedly denied an abortion in Galway. This tragic case demonstrates once again that the prohibition of abortion in Ireland is not just undermining the autonomy of the women across the country, it is leading to unacceptable suffering and even death.

 

Savita Halappanavar made repeated requests for an abortion after presenting at University Hospital Galway on 21 October while miscarrying during the 17th week of her pregnancy. Her requests were refused, and she died one week later after several days in agonising pain and distress.

 

The situation of Savita Halappanavar provides the clearest possible evidence that laws that permit abortion only to save the life of a woman, such as the Irish law, are clinically unworkable and ethically unacceptable. There are numerous clinical situations in which a serious risk posed to a pregnant woman’s health may become a risk to her life, and delaying emergency action only increases that risk. There is only one way to know if a woman’s life is at risk: wait until she has died. Medical practitioners must be empowered by law to intervene on the grounds of risk to life and health, rather than wait for a situation to deteriorate.

 

You will be aware that the European Court of Human Rights, as well as a number of United Nations human rights bodies, have called upon the Irish government to bring its abortion law in line with international human rights standards. Had these calls been heeded before now, the death of Savita Halappanavar would have been prevented.

 

With the death of Savita Halappanavar, Ireland joins the ranks of countries worldwide where abortion is denied to women and leads to their deaths.

 

We call on your government to take urgent and decisive steps to reform the legislation that led to the death of Savita Halappanavar. Until the Irish legal system is reformed the lives, health and autonomy of women across Ireland are in jeopardy.

 

Yours faithfully,

In Spanish, but here is a Google translation in English

 

http://www.elciudadano.cl/2012/11/10/59785/lineas-telefonicas-promueven-el-aborto-seguro-en-sudamerica/

Líneas telefónicas promueven el aborto seguro en Sudamérica

Hartas de las restricciones impuestas a los cuerpos femeninos, colectivas e individualidades sudamericanas han optado por la acción directa a través de líneas telefónicas autogestadas que guían a las mujeres a tener un aborto seguro con pastillas. Otra estrategia para llegar a la ansiada y necesaria despenalización total.

La Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) calcula que anualmente en el mundo se practican cerca de 20 millones de abortos de alto riesgo y que el 99,9% de la mortalidad materna por aborto en condiciones de ilegalidad ocurre en los países no desarrollados. Por esta razón, cada 28 de septiembre miles de mujeres americanas y caribeñas se manifiestan por su despenalización, que en la región suma cuatro millones de casos al año, en un marco de legislaciones restrictivas y criminalizadoras.

Desafortunadamente, Chile, junto a Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras y República Dominicana, son los únicos países latinoamericanos que prohíben el aborto en cualquier circunstancia. Otros aceptan la interrupción del embarazo por razones terapéuticas o de violencia sexual, pero concretarlo implica superar todos los obstáculos impuestos por la burocracia médica, los sectores políticos conservadores y la iglesia.

TENGO UN GRAVE PROBLEMA

Según la propia OMS, el misoprostol (o misotrol) es la manera más segura para quienes deseen abortar sin complicaciones hasta las doce semanas, aunque su uso original es la prevención y tratamiento de las ulceras gástricas. Como potencial abortivo, en nuestro país se vende con receta, pero el mercado clandestino es amplio.

Por esta razón, en 2009, la agrupación Feministas Bio Bio replicó una inédita experiencia en estas tierras: la Línea Aborto Información Segura (LAIS), un servicio autogestionado de telefonía donde llaman mujeres que necesitan orientación para abortar de manera segura con misotrol. Rápidamente, fue necesario congregar más gente y el proyecto se hizo extensivo a Iquique, Valparaíso, Santiago, Temuco y Valdivia, lugares desde donde se contesta actualmente el teléfono.

“Decidimos responder con algo concreto y más radical, ya que no se ha avanzado nada desde la legalidad y se ha retrocedido en la concepción que tiene la gente sobre el aborto. La línea, además, es una estrategia para avanzar hacia la despenalización”, explica Zicri Orellana, de Lesbianas y Feministas por el Derecho a la Información, agrupación que hoy se hace cargo de la línea en la capital penquista, y que también realizan talleres y se aprontan a sacar un par de publicaciones relativas al tema.

“Apuntamos a que el aborto deje de ser un crimen, que no es lo mismo que la legalización, porque eso implica que el Parlamento defina bajo qué condiciones las mujeres pueden abortar. A nosotros nos interesa abortar cuando se nos de la gana: en nuestra casa, con nuestras amigas, de manera autónoma”, agrega.

Las telefonistas son voluntarias y están capacitadas para responder las dudas. Contestan desde las 7 de la tarde a las 11 de la noche, ya que todas son trabajadoras o estudiantes. “Informamos sobre cómo usar las pastillas, una vez que ya se han conseguido; no las vendemos. Por lo mismo, también ayudamos a identificar si son falsas”, explica.

No preguntan nada, sólo entregan información. Los datos entregados espontáneamente por las 10 mil llamadas acumuladas en sus tres años les permiten identificar un perfil: llaman mujeres desde 18 hasta 40, estudiantes y trabajadoras, madres, inmigrantes; a veces llaman sus parejas, pero no se entrega la información a hombres.

Zicri explica que ha habido 3 o 4 intentos de criminalizar la línea, pero no han fructiferado: “buscaban saber si vendíamos pastillas y si damos la información a menores de18 años, lo que no hacemos. También se intentó acusarnos de asociación ilícita, de inducción al aborto y de apología al delito, pero ninguna de estas denuncias fue admitida”.

Sin embargo, el Estado chileno si ha criminalizado a una niña de 15 años de la Octava Región, quien tras ocultar un embarazo producto de incesto, de violaciones y abusos sexuales, tuvo un parto adelantado en el que murió el feto. Hoy se encuentra esperando un veredicto judicial que manchará sus papeles de por vida y estigmatizada como infanticida por los medios de comunicación masivos.

LARGA DISTANCIA INTERNACIONAL

Pero la línea nacional tiene sus raíces en la experiencia ecuatoriana nacida en 2008. En la actual Constitución de ese país, vigente desde 2008, los casos de aborto no punibles son en caso de que el embarazo ponga en peligro la vida o salud de la mujer, y cuando este sea producto de una violación a una mujer demente o idiota. Datos de la OMS indican que en el país hermano cada cuatro minutos aborta una mujer.

Esta alarmante cifra inspiró la creación de la línea Salud Mujeres Ecuador, “ante la necesidad de que las ecuatorianas puedan acceder a información sobre aborto seguro, frente a la inoperancia del Estado en tratar este tema”, indican desde la Coordinadora Política Juvenil por la Equidad de Género. La dinámica y los horarios de atención son casi iguales a los de Chile.

Sus estadísticas muestran que el 35% de mujeres que llamaron a la línea tenían entre 18 y 22 años, siendo el promedio de edad de las mujeres que llamaron 20 años.

En Septiembre de 2010, la línea fue suspendida por orden de la Fiscalía, quien había recibido una denuncia y una orden de investigación por parte de la Comisión de Salud de la Asamblea Nacional. Las activistas buscaron otro número, que sigue funcionando, y la denuncia quedó en nada.

Además de talleres, trabajan con otras organizaciones y pertenecen al Frente Ecuatoriano por los Derechos Sexuales y Derechos Reproductivos, “desde donde hacemos lobby en la Asamblea Nacional, para presionar en el tema coyuntural que es el Aborto por Violación”.

En el caso argentino la línea “Aborto: más información, menos riesgos” surge en 2009 “para facilitar la independencia de las mujeres, ante la mirada hegemónica médica que se cubre detrás de una ley, para establecer un doble discurso que les de ganancia económica. También para politizar el lesbianismo desde un lugar diferente al del matrimonio igualitario y la maternidad”, señalan sus coordinadoras.

Datos del Ministerio de Salud cifran entre 500 mil y 600 mil el número de mujeres que abortan al año en ese país, lo que quiere decir que toda mujer, en promedio, aborta dos veces en su vida.

HORIZONTES

Los contactos internacionales y los números de las tres líneas son similares: entre 10 mil y 15 mil llamadas desde su funcionamiento; 10 a 15 llamadas por día. Sin embargo, las perspectivas van más lejos. “Nuestro trabajo como colectiva va encaminado a la despenalización total del aborto, legal y socialmente. Queremos que el Estado garantice el acceso a todas las mujeres a un aborto, legal, gratuito y seguro en los hospitales públicos, lo que va de la mano con una educación sexual integral y con real acceso a métodos anticonceptivos”, explican desde Ecuador.

“No queremos hacer educación sexual porque no nos corresponde, aunque podemos aportar con nuestra experiencia. Lo que nos interesa es informar que el aborto se puede prevenir si los hombres usan condón, y si siendo mujer, eres lesbiana”, indica Zicri Orellana de la línea chilena.

“Buscamos que el misotrol se incluya gratuitamente en la provisión estatal y se promueva la investigación científica para mejorarlo”, dicen desde Argentina.

Para todas ellas el cómo abortar debiese ser un contenido mínimo de la educación, porque hoy el nivel de información es muy precario. “Hay mujeres que llaman a la línea diciendo que quieren abortar porque la noche anterior tuvieron una relación sexual y no se cuidaron. Es decir, ni siquiera saben que existe la “pastilla del día después”. Hay mujeres que no tienen idea de nada y eso no puede seguir pasando”, concluye Zicri Orellana.

El número de la línea en Chile es 889 18 590

+ INFO:

www.womenonwaves.org

Por Cristóbal Cornejo

El Ciudadano

By Selcan Hacaoglu on November 06, 2012

Four Turkish women went on trial today for staging an unauthorized protest outside the office of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan against government plans to curb abortion, the Halkevleri activist group said.

The protesters face a maximum three years in prison if convicted by the court for the protest in Istanbul, said Sevinc Hocaogullari, an official at the group. More than 80 of its members are on trial for similar protests in the capital Ankara and the western city of Eskisehir, she said.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in June after Erdogan called abortion “murder.” Abortion is legal in predominantly Muslim Turkey until a maximum 10 weeks from conception, and Erdogan’s government said it was considering a proposal to ban the operation after four weeks except in emergencies. Parliament in July barred Caesarean sections unless women can prove there is a medical condition preventing them from giving birth naturally.

“It is our body, our choice, not the prime minister’s, the family’s or the husband’s,” Hocaogullari said, accusing the ruling Justice and Development Party of attempting to ban abortion.

Health Minister Recep Akdag drew an angry response from women’s groups in June when he said the government could even take care of the babies of rape victims.

‘Cheap Labor’

Erdogan has repeatedly said that Turkish families should have at least three children, and has argued that a large population will enable Turkey to provide a workforce for an ageing Europe if it’s granted European Union membership. Turkey’s current population is about 75 million, and its birth rate fell from 1.5 percent in 2010 to 1.3 percent in 2011, according to the official statistics agency.

“The prime minister wants cheap labor to compete with China,” said Hocaogullari.

Erdogan may also be concerned to balance the country’s ethnic demographics. Mothers in the largely Kurdish southeast of Turkey have an average of 3.4 children, higher than the national average of 2. The government has been fighting autonomy-seeking Kurdish militants for decades in a war that has killed nearly 40,000 people.

To contact the reporter on this story: Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara at shacaoglu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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