Anti-Choice Organisations

Fury of Turkey’s women as PM likens abortion to murder

By Fulya Ozerkan (AFP)

ANKARA — Some 300 women are to protest to the Turkish government Tuesday after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sparked fury among women’s rights advocates by likening abortion to murder.

Activists have expressed outrage at the premier’s remarks, branding him a “woman’s enemy.”

The representatives from women’s associations will meet Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Sahin, who has supported Erdogan’s stance.

Erdogan, who also opposed recourse to Caesarean deliveries, sparked the row when he told a population conference on Friday he considered abortion a conspiracy to curb his country’s economic growth.

Appealing to women not to use the right to terminate a pregnancy, he said, “You either kill a baby in the mother’s womb or you kill it after birth. There’s no difference.”

The prime minister further fanned the flames when he told women’s branches of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that “Every abortion is an Uludere,” referring to a botched attack on Kurds by Turkish warplanes in December that claimed 34 lives.

In Istanbul, dozens of women protested at the weekend, unfurling banners reading, “Is the right to abortion the prime minister’s business?”, “Uludcere is murder, not abortion,” and “It’s our womb, we have Caesarean delivery or abortion.”

Women’s organisations accused the Turkish premier of making politics over women’s bodies and urged him to address priority issues that concern women.

“Caesarean births and abortion have legal footing in Turkey. The prime minister’s attempt to change the country’s agenda by attacking women is a grave mistake” said Canan Gullu, head of the Federation of Women’s Associations.

“In such a party congress, the prime minister should have talked about women’s problems including unemployment, domestic violence, or their inadequate standing in political life, instead of making politics over women’s bodies,” she said.

Female deputies from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) also joined the fray, urging Erdogan to “give up standing guard over women’s vaginas.”

Erdogan, whose governing Justice and Development Party takes its roots from Islam, has repeatedly called on women to have at least three children.

In 2004, his government backed a law criminalising adultery but had to abandon it after intense pressure from the European Union.

The prime minister’s latest salvo however has raised concerns at a possible government bid to ban abortion in Turkey that has been legal since 1983, allowing women to terminate a pregnancy in the first 10 weeks.

Sahin defended Erdogan, saying he was referring to unwanted pregnancies which could have been avoided by family planning methods.

“It is every family’s most natural right to plan the number of children they want to have,” she said. “It is out of the question for us… to interfere in this right.”

Initially abortion was permitted only to save the life or preserve the health of a pregnant woman and in cases of foetal impairment but growing rates of illegal abortion prompted the government to liberalise the law in the 1980s.

The latest figures show abortions on the rise throughout the country, from around 60,000 in 2009 to nearly 70,000 in 2011.

Sahin also backed Erdogan’s criticism of the high number of Caesarian births in Turkey, where they now represented half of all deliveries.

“The World Health Organisation says this rate should not exceed 15-20 percent. If you take a look at the European Union averages, this rate is not over 20 percent,” she said.

Howver, in a statement posted on its website, the Turkish Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology said the world as a whole had seen an increase in C-section delivery rates.

Posted: 05/13/2012 1:07 pm

Mónica Roa did not think twice when the lights went out in her office at 5:00 p.m. last Monday. Power outages are a common occurrence in Bogotá, so Roa, a well-known human rights attorney, and two colleagues continued on with their meeting. But at 6:30 pm, a bullet hit the window next to Roa’s desk, sending glass shards into the room. As she raced to the stairwell to alert others, she heard another shot. Her bodyguard, who was outside when the attack happened, counted six shots in total.

In all likelihood, the attack against Roa was timed with this week’s sixth anniversary of Colombia’s landmark Constitutional Court decision revising one of the world’s most prohibitive abortion laws. Roa, the program director of the international rights group Women’s Link Worldwide, had filed the closely-watched case, which eventually liberalized the no-exceptions law and allowed for abortion in the instances of rape, incest, severe fetal abnormality, or when there is a risk to the life or physical or mental health of the woman.

The country watched spellbound as the first person to seek an abortion under the new law came forward — an 11-year-old girl who had become pregnant after being raped by her step-father. Her grandmother had heard about the change in the law and brought her to a local hospital. Women’s Link Worldwide represented the girl as the hospital, which had been unaware of the legal change, at first resisted and then sought to make sense of its new obligations.

That was just the start of the struggle to implement the law. Women’s rights activists say the Constitutional Court ruling and subsequent case law are exceptionally clear in defining how the decision should be implemented. However, the country’s most powerful legal officer, Procurador General and author ofThe Gender Ideology: Tragic Utopia or Cultural Subversion, Alejandro Ordoñez, has been throwing up roadblocks to enforcing the decision, rooted in his personal religious beliefs.

Especially unsettling is a criminal complaint filed against Roa earlier this year by Ordoñez’s deputy Ilva Miriam Hoyos. The charges against Roa appear to be a response to a new case that has now reached the Constitutional Court by Women’s Link Worldwide along with over 1,200 Colombian women. The case requests that the Procurador and his deputies give true and accurate information on sexual and reproductive rights, complying with the Constitution and the jurisprudence of the Court. News of the Hoyos complaint was leaked from the press office of Ordoñez, pointing to his participation in the persecution of a private citizen.

Women’s Link recently launched a campaign that seeks to spotlight the need to have a Procurador who complies with his/her Constitutional duties and defends the rights of all Colombians.

Ordoñez’s position is up at the end of 2012; however, he is seeking another four-year term. Ordoñez’s staunch conservatism presents an embarrassing challenge for Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who TIME Magazine recently featured on its cover as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. There is quiet speculation that President Santos could eventually be favored for the secretary general position at the United Nations.

The UN is clear on abortion. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has strongly disapproved of restrictive abortion laws, especially those that prohibit and criminalize abortion in all circumstances. It has also confirmed that such legislation does not prevent women from obtaining unsafe illegal abortions and has framed restrictive abortion laws as a violation of the rights to life, health and information. The Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Human Rights Committee, and the Committee against Torture have all expressed similar concerns.

Approximately 25 per cent of the world’s population lives under legal regimes that prohibit all abortions except for those following rape or incest, as well as those necessary to save a woman’s life. The 2006 high court decision launched Colombia as a regional and global beacon in advancing reproductive rights. Any harm to citizens like Roa, and any legal backsliding on women’s rights would only be a poor reflection on the country and its promising leadership.

Follow Barbara Becker on Twitter:

11 May 2012 16:26

Source: Trustlaw // Anastasia Moloney

By Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA (TrustLaw) – Doctors and hospitals in Colombia are getting away with refusing to provide abortions to those women legally entitled to them, says a human rights activist who spearheaded a campaign to liberalise the country’s abortion law.

In May 2006, human rights lawyer Monica Roa brought a case before Colombia’s constitutional court to get the country’s blanket ban on abortion partially overturned. The court ruled abortion was allowed in cases of rape, incest, fetal malformation, or if the life of the mother or fetus is in danger.

The law states doctors have the right to refuse to perform an abortion on the grounds of conscientious objection, but they still have a legal obligation to refer a woman to a colleague who will provide the procedure.

But referrals are still not a widespread practice, said Roa, programmes director at global women’s rights group Women’s Link Worldwide.

“Very few doctors understand what accessing their right to conscientious objection actually means and implies,” she told TrustLaw. “Non-compliance with the constitutional decision has not been sanctioned and punished.”

Only one health-service provider has been fined for refusing to provide a legal termination since the abortion law was introduced, she added.


Health authorities across Colombia report that only 1,102 legal abortions have taken place since the new abortion law came into effect in 2006.

“All the attempts to overturn the court’s decision since then have been defeated and the law is still strong and binding, which is important,” Roa said. “But women still have not been able to access their abortion rights without obstacles and without being stigmatised,” she added.

“Overall, more women know more about their rights and the abortion law but they don’t know how to make it happen.”

Of some 400,400 abortions carried out in the country annually, only 322 are legal procedures performed in health facilities, according to the New York-basedGuttmacher Institute, a nonprofit sexual health research group.

This means women are still putting their lives at risk by having backstreet abortions.

“Too many women are still using the clandestine routes,” said Roa.

Conservative social attitudes are a key obstacle preventing women from receiving legal abortions, Roa said.

The Catholic Church in Colombia and conservative political parties and groups are vocal and influential opponents of abortion under any circumstances.

Women’s Link Worldwide is urging the Colombian government to provide better access to family planning services and improve sex education in schools.

“There’s been a lack of leadership at the national level in getting the education, health and justice sectors to work together in an integral way to grant better access to contraception pills and sex education in schools, including reproductive rights,” Roa said.

(Editing by Rebekah Curtis)

What October Baby lacks for in quality, it makes up for in heavy handedness. The stiff acting and bland writing would normally just makeOctober Baby a dull movie. But, coupled with ignorance and surprisingly good sales – $1.7 million in its first weekend – it also poses a threat to the narrative around choice by pushing a misleading and deceptive message about abortion.

The protagonist of October Baby is a college-aged woman, Hannah, who realizes she is adopted and the result of a failed late-term abortion. Her doctor speculates that this late-term abortion attempt is the cause of her health problems such as her bad hip and asthma.

Hannah proceeds to go on a trying-to-be-quirky but actually maudlin coming-of-age road trip to find her biological mother. The trip is packed full of slow-motion crying scenes and temper tantrums.

Of course a person has license to be wrought after learning she was adopted at the age of 19 and her parents have kept it a secret all that time. But, Hannah is downright infantile – reflecting the GOP’s seeming perception that women are children that need to be watched over. Hannah regularly stomps off from mild disputes with arms crossed and falsetto whimpers, while the men in her life level reasonable concerns in even tones. The girl literally pouts in her father’s car while he and her romantic interest, Jason, have an argument about her future.

Can I point out again that this is a 19-year-old college student? Yet her father spends most of the movie telling her friends how they are allowed, or rather not allowed, to behave around Hannah.

I haven’t even gotten to how abortion is directly discussed in the movie. But, how women are treated and men are elevated to the status of patriarch and protector is what the choice debate is all about. GOP leaders don’t think women can make choices for themselves and that they need to be protected – not just from spooky outside forces – but from themselves. Jason is always there to provide a condescending pat on the head. What more could a dopey girl want in a man? Certainly not someone who wants an egalitarian relationship not dictated by archaic standards. (Spoilers: Jason finally goes on a giggly date with Hannah because her patriarch called him and said the two should get together. So many gals love it when their parents set up their dates for them, right? No need to be an autonomous individual then.)

To the issue of abortion!

On her road trip, after getting out of being arrested by pulling that notorious “I’m the result of a failed late-term-abortion” card, a cop tells Hannah that while searching for her mother she should “hate the crime, not the criminal.” Sure, the guy is speaking somewhat metaphorically, but coming from a cop it sure makes abortion sound like a crime. Which, may I remind you Red States of the USA, it is not!

A scene that is supposed to be emotionally pivotal occurs when Hannah meets a nurse who was present during her abortion attempt/birth. Cue the crying montage! Cut to nurse weeping alone in her cheap apartment. Cut to Jason lurking protectively outside the complex. Cut to Hannah tearing up the card with her bio-mother’s phone number, before cutting to a scene where she stares intently at the poorly taped up card.

But, back to the scene prior to crying: the nurse relays that she was made to do horrible things at the clinic she worked at for a doctor who had been the recipient of threats of violence. She tells Hannah that her biological mother was a woman who wanted to get an education and insinuated she got the abortion at 24 weeks because of convenience. Less than two percent of abortions happen after 20 weeks. And, late-term abortions are not doled out casually. In most states there needs to be threat to life and health of the mother, or the fetus needs to be non-viable for a late-term abortion to be legally performed.

The nurse wraps up about the bio-mom by saying that she did get that education and career after all. And, we in the audience are supposed to bellow: At what cost? This made my eyes roll so loud that I got “shhhd” by other audience members. Ok my eye-rolling didn’t get shushed, but it seemed plausible.

I counter that straw man (big ole’ patriarchal dominating straw man by the way) with facts. Women get abortions – regardless of the laws on the books, and women are safer when abortion is legal. (So, that should make the paternalistic women-protecting GOP happy, right?) About 30 percent of women will get an abortion before the age of 45. And, in countries where abortion is illegal and harder to obtain, women get them at higher rates and experience greater risk to their health than where abortion is legal. As mentioned earlier, women don’t get late-term abortions because they are silly fickle things who don’t have a solid man to help them make up their minds. Women get later abortions because their health is threatened or the fetus isn’t viable. Instead of insinuating that abortion is criminal, we should be making sure the procedure is accessible at an earlier stage of pregnancy and safer at later stages of pregnancy when women do have to make that difficult decision.

October Baby was produced and supported with funding from evangelical groups like Focus on the Family. The directors, brothers Andrew and Jon Erwin, said that this wasn’t meant to be a political movie, but rather intended to inspire thoughtful discussion. But, in their false representation of abortion they’re amplifying fear rather than appealing to viewers’ higher cognitive reasoning.

Despite their stated purpose, the directors are playing the same simplistic game the GOP has been playing in trying to reduce a complicated issue down to fear tactics and misplaced sentimentality.


A girl walking from school. (File Photo) (Photo Courtesy Katy Gabel/AllAfrica)

Abortion is an emotive issue anywhere in the world. Few discussions about abortion are ever moderate. They often draw the most extreme, passionate, distorted and even unreasoned views. And so it has been in Rwanda in the last few days.

The debate here has been fueled by two things. First, is government’s intention to amend the law on abortion. This has been interpreted (erroneously as it turns out) to mean that government intends to legalise abortion. It is this misinterpretation of intention that has excited passions.

Now, Rwanda has some of the most enlightened economic and social legislation. But it has not yet got anywhere near legalising some of the more controversial and divisive issues like abortion. In some instances, it has tended to decriminalise them, while in others, it has sought to reduce sentences and allow for extenuating circumstances.

In the present debate, the latter seems to have been the intention. The amendment to the law seeks to reduce sentence given to offenders. As Mr Tharcisse Karugarama, the Minister of Justice, said in a BBC Kinyarwanda programme, Imvo ni Imvano on March 24, offenders should be helped to heal instead of being heavily punished.

Second, was the publication of figures of cases of abortion in Rwanda. It was reported that 60,000 abortions take place in the country every year. Most of these are unsafe, with 40 per cent leading to complications that require treatment.

The number of abortions is probably higher than this because most of them go unreported. We do not even know how many die or whose reproductive capacity is irreparably damaged.

This is the context of the current debate. Most of what I have seen has been wrong. For instance, in all the public discussions, nearly all participants have been men – usually, old men. Most of the men have been religious leaders. You cannot expect a balanced view from this limited group with strongly-held views on the topic.

First of all abortion directly affects women. They are the ones who make the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy or not. It’s their lives that are in danger. And they cannot be said to be less concerned about their pregnancy than the men who pontificate about the sanctity of life from the emotional safety of the pulpit or office. Where are the women? They are markedly absent from the debate. Their views on the subject or reasons that compel them to acts of desperation have not been heard.

Also, where are the voices of young people, who are likely to be entangled in the whole question?

I think it is a waste of time to talk about an issue and seek to prescribe measures regarding it when those directly affected are excluded from the conversation.

Secondly, the views of the men who are brought to discuss abortion are so well known; there is nothing new to learn from them. They cannot be expected to offer any other solutions. All men of the cloth, of whatever faith, are vehemently opposed to abortion. They will not even listen to circumstances where terminating a pregnancy may be the only way to save a life or the sanity of an individual. Can they feel the anguish of a mother taking such a drastic decision? Can they feel the pain – physical and psychological – that may have accompanied conception and continue to dog the woman? They can only take refuge from the real world behind a veneer of smug piety and condemn what they have never felt or are indeed incapable of feeling.

I heard someone from civil society condemn abortion in stronger terms than the bishops did. It was easy to tell where his organisation gets its funding from.

But we have to consider this question. Why do abortions continue to take place despite the legal, moral and religious injunctions? Clearly, there are serious issues to look into, and sanctimonious posturing simply won’t do. The debate should address these issues.

Also consider this. Some of the good men of the cloth are responsible for some unwanted pregnancies. And when the poor girl or woman tells the man of God about the pregnancy, he will either deny it or threaten her with divine retribution for daring to slander the servant of the Most High. He will then proceed to denounce loudly the immorality in our society. He will cry and lament the level of moral decadence.

Think about this as well. How many of the obviously well-to-do men discussing this subject have come up to offer help to starving or traumatised children and mothers – victims of rape, incest, coercion by those who have authority over them or some other form of abuse?

We cannot solve the complex question of abortion through hypocrisy, posturing or pious statements about the sanctity of life because this amounts to hiding our heads in the sand.

The debate is healthy, if it takes the right direction. And obviously it is a complex problem as there are serious ethical and legal issues to weigh. But the debate must not be stilted or left to a bunch of old men to determine. Let those who are most affected have their say.

In spite of new findings, the government continues to deliberate on the best plan of action.

Article | 3 April 2012 – 11:17am | By Lameck Masina

Blantyre, Malawi:

Officially illegal, but by no means uncommon, abortion is a controversial topic in Malawi.

Abortion is outlawed except in cases where pregnancy threatens the life of the mother. Section 149 of Malawi’s penal code condemns any person who administers an abortion to 14 years imprisonment, while Section 156 states that any woman who solicits an abortion is liable to 7 years in prison.

Despite this, abortions still occur, usually performed by untrained personnel.

A report conducted by Malawi’s Ministry of Health in conjunction with Ipas, a reproductive rights organisation headquartered in the US, found that 70,000 women had an illegal abortion in 2009 alone. It further showed that about 17% of maternal deaths in Malawi are the result of unsafe abortions.

The study, therefore, asked government to liberalise abortion laws so that a pregnant woman would have access to trained a medical practitioner if “she has ill health and needs an abortion and if the pregnancy is as a result of sexual coercion or if indeed the woman really feels that she cannot carry on with the pregnancy due to economic reasons”.

A money-saving initiative

The study also showed that Malawi is spending a significant amount of money on treating post-abortion complications. This was reiterated by the 2012 preliminary report on ‘Health System Costs of Providing Post Abortion Care in Malawi’, which estimates that basic post-abortion care costs around $45.

The report states, “Public health facilities in Malawi that provide post-abortion care spend approximately $1.06 million annually to treat women with complications of unsafe abortion”. It continues: “If safe abortion services were made available to women, approximately $435,000 would become available in public health care facilities each year to divert to other health care needs”.

A right for all

Women’s rights campaigners are also sounding the call to change the law with local and international rights organisations such as Women and Law in Southern Africa Research Trust WILSA-Malawi, the Coalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion COPUA, and Ipas all taking part.

Seode White, National Coordinator for WILSA-Malawi, explained to Think Africa Press that their fight is largely for the rights of poor, rural girls and women who do not have money to seek safe abortion services from private hospitals.

“Despite being illegal, the fact is that women from urban areas seek abortion in private health clinics where they get safe abortions while those poor girls in rural areas go to a backstreet clinic and get a very poor service. Some of them die and others end up not being able to have babies ever again,” she said.

“It’s high time Malawi take a leaf from other African countries like Zambia and South Africa where abortion is legal”.

In a sense, campaigners are simply trying to get Malawi to honour their commitment to the Maputo protocol, an agreement supporting greater reproductive rights for women.

Executive Secretary of the Malawi Human Rights Commission, Grace Malera, explained: “The Maputo protocol has an article that is subscribing to liberalisation [not only] when the pregnancy is threatening the life of the mother but as well as pregnancies that are resulting from rape and incest. In terms of the human rights, that is a right to health issue and we need to address it”.

Resistance to change

But not everyone is convinced of the need for more liberal abortion laws. David Odali, Executive Director of local human rights organisation the Umunthu Foundation, told Think Africa Press that liberalising abortion laws would be tantamount to giving people “a license to sleep around”, which would eventually lead to an increase in HIV transmission.

“If we have an open law on abortion, this would be subject to abuse because these women that are willingly getting pregnant will continue doing so knowing that once they are pregnant they have the option to end it”, he argued.

Most traditional and religious leaders in Malawi also consider abortion a sin and reject calls for its legalisation. Macdonald Kadawati, Chairman of the Public Affairs Committee, an umbrella organisation for the major faith communities in the country insisted that abortion was “not good for both the mother and the child”.

“The Bible tells us the point at which life begins…God has designed that one should be born and no one should take that life away because that is murder,” he says.

Sheikh Dinala Chabulika, National Coordinator of the Islamic Information Bureau, claimed that Islam generally regards abortion as murder and that “in Islam, abortion is only allowed when there is proof from a medical doctor that the life of a mother will be in danger during delivery.”

Despite resistance from religious leaders, however, the Ministry of Health has previously found that unsafe abortion isrampant among religious women in the country.

Watching and waiting

Despite research findings that have highlighted the health risks and economic costs incurred due to existing laws on abortion, health authorities have remained reluctant to declare their position on the possible liberalisation of these laws.

Health ministry spokesperson Henry Chimbali, for example, maintains that the authorities are still assessing the findings before they reach a conclusion. While the government assesses and pro and anti-abortion groups debate, dangerous illegal abortions continue.

Think Africa Press welcomes inquiries regarding the republication of its articles. If you would like to republish this or any other article for re-print, syndication or educational purposes, please contact:

by Jodi Jacobson, Editor in Chief, RH Reality Check

March 21, 2012 – 12:31pm

El Salvador today is not a good place to be a woman. In 1998, the government passed a new Penal Code creating a complete ban on abortion. No exceptions. This was a shift from an earlier law which allowed abortions in cases of threats to the health or life of the woman, as well as for rape, incest, or severe fetal abnormality. Passage of the ban made El Salvador one of only five countries in Latin America–including Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominican Republic, and Chile–that maintain an absolute ban abortion.

And now women’s groups are fighting it. Today, the Center for Reproductive Rights joined with local Salvadoran organization Colectiva de Mujeres para el Desarrollo Local to file a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights protesting the current law and based on the case of a woman who died in prison after being jailed for a miscarriage.

Reading the words of the ban underscores just how draconian it is. Chapter II of El Salvador’s reformed Penal Code, dealing with “Crimes Against the Life of Human Beings in the First Stages of Development,” penalizes women who induce their own abortions; give their consent to someone else to induce an abortion; doctors, pharmacists or other health care workers who practice abortions; persons who encourage a woman to have an abortion or provide the financial means to obtain an abortion; and persons who unintentionally cause an abortion. According to an October 2010 shadow report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Report on Violations of Women’s Human Rights Due to the Complete Criminalization of Abortion:

El Salvador’s restrictive abortion laws were further solidified in 1999 with a constitutional amendment defining a human being “from the moment of conception.

For good measure, and to make sure these laws were strictly enforced against apparently dangerous women trying desperately to control their lives, the country established a policing apparatus to prosecute, investigate and denounce any suspicious activities in public hospitals and other places in the country.

El Salvador’s ultra-conservative Catholic Church hierarchy played a leading role in passing the new law banning abortion under any circumstance.human rights analysis conducted in the years after the new penal code was put in place underscores how the shift in the Church’s leadership and philosophy, from the seventies when it focused on social justice and organizing peasants to the nineties, when things changed dramatically, contributed heavily to passage of the ban. According to the analysis, the Roman Catholic Church and right-wing Catholic groups in countries like El Salvador… “exert direct influence on regulatory changes that limit the exercise of women’s rights, counter to international agreements.”

The Catholic Church’s role as a protector of social justice and human rights, and its impact on social issues changed… with the appointment of the new Archbishop of San Salvador. He is a member of the right-wing Opus Dei and has the support of the ruling class as well as close ties with right-wing nongovernmental organizations. This change has influenced the stance of both the Church and the government with regard to social issues that affect women in particular.

In 1997, the Church and right-wing Catholic groups joined with others in a full-on campaign against abortion, mobilizing students from Catholic schools, campaigning through the media and using other means of pushing for the passage of the new penal code and the complete ban until it was passed.

Since its passage, according to CRR, “the ban has resulted in tragic and often fatal consequences” for the women living in the country, resulting in “the arbitrary imprisonment of women suffering from miscarriages and complications in their pregnancies.”

Such was the case of “Manuela” (a pseudonym). According to CRR, Manuela was a 33-year-old Salvadoran mother of two who was  convicted of murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison after suffering an apparent miscarriage and severe complications giving birth. No trial, no appeal. Thirty years.

From the moment Manuela arrived at the hospital seeking emergency health  care, slipping in and out of consciousness and hemorrhaging, doctors treated her as if she had attempted an abortion and immediately called the police. She was shackled to her hospital bed and accused of murder.

Manuela  was sentenced to 30 years in prison without ever having a chance to  meet with her lawyer, without an opportunity to speak in her own defense, and without the right to appeal the decision. Shockingly, the  judge overseeing her case said that “her maternal instinct should have  prevailed” and “she should have protected her child.”

After several months in prison, it was discovered that the visible tumors Manuela had on her neck for which she sought medical care several times without being accurately diagnosed, was advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a  disease that likely lead to the severe obstetric emergency she suffered.

“Tragically,” continues CRR, “Manuela did not receive the appropriate treatment for her disease and died in prison in 2010, leaving behind her two young children.”

Her illness could have been caught earlier if she had received adequate  medical attention when she consulted about her tumors in years prior, and if medical officials treating her during her emergency paid any  attention to her condition, rather than focusing on reporting her to  authorities.

This case exhibits all the most draconian aspects of already-draconian anti-choice laws, many of which are in now in force in various parts of the United States. Profound and fundamental mistrust of women. Abusive laws that remove from women any choice in whether, when, with whom, and under what life or health circumstances to have a child or another child. Policing of maternity wards. The criminalization and arrest of women who have had miscarriages. Disregard for the right to life of living, breathing women.

“El  Salvador’s laws have turned emergency rooms into crime scenes,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of CRR, “forcing pregnant women to live under a dark cloud of suspicion. The  international community must come together to demand an end to this  cruel treatment of women and make a commitment to safeguard fundamental  reproductive rights.”  Like Manuela, many women in El Salvador who miscarry or experience emergency obstetric complications are charged with aggravated murder, for which they can be  imprisoned for up to 50 years, and subsequently spend decades behind bars.

Is this just? Is this what is meant by “right to life?”

The legal campaign by CRR and Colectiva de Mujeres marks the first time an international judicial body will hear the case of a woman imprisoned for seeking medical care due to  obstetric emergencies, as a result of a total abortion ban. The case  argues that El Salvador’s absolute ban on abortion violates a number of  human rights, including the right to life, right to personal integrity  and liberty, right to humane treatment, and the right to a fair trial and judicial protection.

“Salvadoran  women have been unjustly persecuted by their government for far too  long,” said Mónica Arango, CRR’s regional director for Latin America and  the Caribbean. “We are bringing Manuela’s case before an international  human rights body so women won’t suffer the same tragic fate, and El  Salvador can finally be held accountable.”

“Liberalizing  restrictive abortion laws, like El Salvador’s, is essential to saving the lives and protecting the health of millions of women across the  globe every year,” said Northup. “Study after study has shown there are no positive outcomes to banning abortion outright.”

recent study by the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute  underscores what has been shown before: Restrictive abortion laws are not associated  with lower rates of abortion. According to the study, the 2008 abortion rate in Latin America—a region where abortion is highly restricted in almost all countries—was 32 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, while in Western Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad  grounds, the rate is just 12 per 1,000.

Apart from the very real, though largely invisible tragedies of women like Manuela imprisoned for miscarriage or those who may have been arrested for thwarting a law that assigns absolutely no value to their lives, there is another critical issue here as well.

The proliferation of abortion bans and other such laws at the state level in the United States, the efforts to eliminate access to contraception for a large share of women in this country, the heavy involvement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in laws and policies governing women’s rights, the increasing degree of degrading speech about women used by politicians together underscores just how much closer we are  every day to a theocratic/right wing state like El Salvador. How far will we let things slide before the lives and health of ourselves and our daughters mean nothing?  And how long will we stand by while the “religious right” abuses women, whether they live here or in El Salvador?

Follow Jodi Jacobson on Twitter, @jljacobson

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