Catholic Church


Parliamentary Assembly

Assemblée parlementaire

   

Doc.13110

24 January 2013

 

Failure to provide assistance to rape victim in Cologne, Germany, 15 December 2012

 

Written question No. 624 to the Committee of Ministers

by Ms Carina HÄGG, Sweden, Socialist Group

 

On 15 December 2012 in Cologne, Germany, two Catholic clinics rejected assisting a suspected rape victim in providing a gynaecological check-up for reasons claimed to be related to the ethics rules and procedures governing the hospitals which fall under the authority of the Catholic hierarchy in Germany. The 25 year old young woman woke up on a bench in a public park after having been drugged at a party she attended in Cologne with no memory of what happened in the intervening hours. With her mother, she went to a general practitioner who suspected that the young woman could have been the victim of rape/sexual assault. The general practitioner prescribed emergency contraception which is standard practice under German law in cases of rape/sexual assault, thus providing the young woman the ability to exercise her right to decide according to her own convictions whether to carry through or interrupt a possible pregnancy resulting from the sexual assault. After informing the police and in order to investigate possible criminal acts the general practitioner contacted two nearby hospitals for further medical testing, ie. conducting a ‘rape-kit’ – these were St.Vinzenz-Krankenhaus in Cologne-Nord and Heilig-Geist-Krankenhaus in Longerich (both happen to belong to the Foundation of Cellitinnen of Holy Maria).

 

However, both hospitals rejected the check-up of the suspected rape victim. Their Ethics Commissions had held consultations with Catholic Church authorities, after which the decision was taken to rule out such gynaecological check-ups in such cases since they are connected with a possible unwanted pregnancy as well as providing the victim with emergency contraception. The refusal to provide medical treatment based on Catholic ethics was maintained by the two hospitals even after the general practitioner clarified that he had already provided the suspected rape victim with the emergency contraception (which the Catholic hospitals would therefore not have had to provide).

 

In Germany, failure to provide assistance to a person in danger (unterlassene Hilfeleistung) is an offense according to paragraph 323c of the Penal Code (Strafgesetzbuch).

 

Ms Hägg,

 

To ask the Committee of Ministers:

 

– whether such actions by the Catholic hospitals in Cologne are in line with both the letter and the spirit of the laws in relation to the protection of victims of sexual assault/rape, specifically paragraph 323c of the German Code penal?

 

– whether it is known how many hospitals / health centres may be able to legally circumvent national laws in relation to the protection and assistance to victims of sexual assault based on  so-called ‘ethical’ grounds in Council of Europe member States?

 

– whether the public at large as well as victims’ associations and women’s groups should be informed in advance of all such hospitals / health centres in Council of Europe member States which may legally be allowed to circumvent national laws in relation to the protection and assistance to victims of sexual assault based on so-called ‘ethical’ grounds so that they may be able to better guide victims of sexual assault/rape?

Advertisements
By Miriam Defensor Santiago, Special for CNN
December 31, 2012
Supporters of the RH Bill celebrate, as lawmakers pass the landmark birth control legislation on December 17.
Supporters of the RH Bill celebrate, as lawmakers pass the landmark birth control legislation on December 17.

Editor’s note: Miriam Defensor Santiago is in her third term as a member of the Philippines Senate and a co-sponsor of the Reproductive Health Bill. She is also the founder of People’s Reform Party. Last year she was selected to be a judge in the International Criminal Court, though she has still to take office.

Manila, Philippines (CNN) — We were like David against Goliath. We fought long and hard, and in the end we prevailed.

After 14 long years in the dustbins of Congress, mainly due to strong opposition from the Catholic Church, the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill was approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives on Monday, 17 December 2012.

Indeed, there is no force more powerful than an idea whose time has come. And the time for a Philippine reproductive health law is now.

Read: Philippines leader signs divisive bill

The Philippines remains one of the poorest countries in the world because, among other things, for a long time, it refused to acknowledge what could easily be seen when one glances out the window: the country desperately needs a reproductive health law.

Not having a reproductive health law is cruelty to the poor. The poor are miserable because, among other reasons, they have so many children. Providing reproductive knowledge and information through government intervention is the humane thing to do. It can help the poor escape the vicious cycle of poverty by giving them options on how to manage their sexual lives, plan their families and control their procreative activities. The phrase “reproductive rights” includes the idea of being able to make reproductive decisions free from discrimination, coercion or violence.

Read: A14-year fight for birth control

Many poor women do not receive information on how to receive reproductive health care. Our underprivileged women have to accept standards lower than what they need, want, or deserve. According to the Department of Health, the mortality rate for Filipino mothers increased to 221 per 100,000 live births in 2011 from 162 per 100,000 live births in 2009. But not only do the women suffer, the children do, too. The children remain undernourished and undereducated because their parents are ignorant about reproductive health care and choices.

In short, the bill merely wants to empower a Filipino woman from the poorest economic class to march to the nearest facility operated by the Department of Health or the local government unit, to demand information on a family planning product or supply of her choice. The bill, at the simplest level, wants to give an indigent married woman the freedom of informed choice concerning her reproductive rights.

If the bill is highly controversial, it is not because it is dangerous to humans or to the planet. It is not subversive of the political order. It is not a fascist diktat of a totalitarian power structure. The reason this bill is emotionally charged is because of the fervent opposition of the Catholic Church in the Philippines and those who wish to be perceived as its champions.

Yet the majority of Catholic countries around the world have passed reproductive health laws, even Italy where the Vatican City is located. Other nations include Spain, Portugal, Paraguay, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia and Argentina.

Apart from the Catholic Church, all other major religions in the Philippines support the RH Bill. Other major Christian churches have not only officially endorsed the bill but have published learned treatises explaining their position. Support also comes from the Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, the Iglesia ni Cristo and the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches.

The position of these Christian bodies is supported by the most authoritative body of Islamic clerics in the Philippines, the Assembly of Darul-Iftah of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. These constitute the top-ranking ulama, deemed to have the authority to issue opinions on matters facing Islam and Muslims. In 2003, they issued a fatwah or religious ruling called “Call to Greatness.” It gives Muslim couples a free choice on whether to practice family planning.

The Filipino people, regardless of religion, are in favor of RH. In June 2011, the Social Weather Stations, a survey group, reported that 73% of Filipinos want information from the government on all legal methods of family planning, while 82% say family planning method is a personal choice of couples and no one should interfere with it. An October 2012 survey among young people aged 15 to 19 years old in Manila shows that 83% agree that there should be a law in the Philippines on reproductive health and family planning.

This is the will of the Filipino people; it is the democratic expression of what the public wants from government. The anti-RH groups are mute on this ineluctable fact.

Reproductive health care is a human right. The people are entitled to demand it from their government and the government is obligated to provide it to its constituents.

The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics

Description: Description: Description: Description: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5132/images/DVD_blast/dvdcover300.jpg

“The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics,” a new documentary-style filmproduced by Catholics for Choice, sets the record straight about Catholic social teaching on issues related to sex and sexuality. Catholic bishops the world over have politicized the pulpit, seeking to drown out the voices of Catholics who disagree with them. This film offers a straightforward explanation of what Catholic social teaching really is on the controversial issues that drive the news cycle-and it’s not simply the dictates of the bishops.

“Contrary to popular opinion, there is more to Catholics’ beliefs than what the hierarchy espouses,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “We put together this film with some of the top theologians in the world to get at the heart of Catholic teaching: that people become Catholics through their baptism and are given both a free will and a conscience to make important decisions. We hope that anyone seeking to discuss ‘what Catholics think,’ how they vote or, most importantly, what Catholics believe, will consider this film.”

Please watch the movie, share it with your family and friends, and let us know what you think via e-mail or on our Facebook page.

Watch the Film

http://www.catholicsforchoice.org/SecretHistory.asp

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/14/savita-halappanavar-medically-unnecessary-death

In the worst way possible, a woman refused a life-saving abortion in Ireland has proved ‘pro-life’ advocates wrong

Jill Filipovic for Feministe, part of the Guardian Comment Network

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 14 November 2012 10.19 GMT

“This is a Catholic country,” was what Irish doctors told Savita Halappanavar after she learned she was miscarrying her pregnancy and asked for an abortion to avoid further complications. She spent three days in agonising pain, eventually shaking, vomiting and passing out. She again asked for an abortion and was refused, because the foetus still had a heartbeat.

Then she died.

She died of septicaemia and E Coli. She died after three and a half days of excruciating pain. She died after repeatedly begging for an end to the pregnancy that was poisoning her. Her death would have been avoided if she had been given an abortion when she asked for it – when it was clear she was miscarrying, and that non-intervention would put her at risk. But the foetus, which had no chance of survival, still had a heartbeat. Its right to life quite literally trumped hers.

US politicians and “pro-life” advocates like Joe Walsh will tell you that there are no circumstances under which women need abortions to avoid death or injury. The Republican platform doesn’t include an exception for medically necessary abortion. And the Republican party is trying to put laws similar to those in Ireland on the books in the United States – laws that would allow emergency room doctors to refuse to perform abortions, even in cases where the pregnant woman’s life or health depends on terminating the pregnancy. The GOP isn’t exactly the most science-friendly or fact-reliant crowd in the world, but to them, women like Savita either don’t exist or just don’t matter. As Jodie at RH Reality Check writes:

“These are the lives of your sister, your mother, your daughter, your aunt, your friends, and your colleagues. These are the lives at stake. These are the very people that the fanatical anti-choice and religious right see as ‘not people’.

They are all Savita Halappanavar.

We are all Savita Halappanavar.

But we do not have to die at the hands of misogynists.

In honour of Savita Halappanavar; in honour of the nearly 22 million women worldwide each year who endure unsafe abortion; in honour of the 47,000 women per year worldwide who die from complications of unsafe abortion and the estimated 10 times that number who suffer long-term health consequences; in honour of the millions of women who do not have access to contraception, who have no control over whether and with whom they have sex or whether or with whom they have children, we can fight back. In honour of the young girls married young and the women forced to bear children long past the point they are able to care for more … for all these women, we must continue to act, to liberalise abortion laws, ensure every woman has access, remove the stigma, and trust women, like Savita, who know when it is time to end even the most wanted pregnancy.”

Just two months ago, a consortium of Irish doctors got together to declare abortion medically unnecessary. They claimed that abortion is never needed to save a pregnant woman’s life, and stated: “We confirm that the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women.”

I’m pretty sure Savita Halappanavar would disagree. I’m pretty sure she didn’t get optimal care.

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,

By Rafael Romo,  Wed July 25
  • A 16-year-old girl with leukemia hasn’t received treatment because she’s pregnant
  • Article 37 of the Dominican Republic’s constitution forbids abortion
  • Chemotherapy for the girl’s illness will likely terminate her pregnancy
  • Incident has sparked a renewed debate on abortion laws in the country

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (CNN) — In the Dominican Republic, a ban on abortion is preventing a teenage girl from receiving treatment for a life-threatening disease.

At the Semma Hospital in the captial city of Santo Domingo, a 16-year-old girl is dying of acute leukemia. Doctors say the girl, whose name is being withheld to protect her privacy, needs an aggressive chemotherapy treatment. But there’s one problem: the teenager is nine weeks pregnant and treatment would very likely terminate the pregnancy, a violation of Dominican anti-abortion laws.

Rosa Hernandez, the girl’s mother, is trying to convince doctors and the Dominican government to make an exception so that her daughter’s life can be saved. “My daughter’s life is first. I know that [abortion] is a sin and that it goes against the law … but my daughter’s health is first,” Hernandez said.

According to Article 37 of the Dominican constitution, “the right to life is inviolable from the moment of conception and until death.” Dominican courts have interpreted this as a strict mandate against abortion. Article 37, passed in 2009, also abolished the death penalty.

Turkish women rally against plans to restrict access to abortion

Miguel Montalvo, the director of the bioethics council that rules on the application of the law, says the council is leaning toward allowing the treatment. “At the end of the day the patient may decide for himself or herself. In this case, the family may decide what’s more convenient for the patient,” Montalvo said.

Women’s and human rights groups are outraged, saying the girl should have received chemotherapy immediately.

Lilliam Fondeur, a women’s rights activist, complains that conservative politics is preventing necessary treatment to save the teenager’s life.

“How can it be possible that so much time is being wasted? That the treatment hasn’t begun yet because they’re still meeting, trying to decide if she has the right to receive the treatment to save her life — that’s unacceptable,” Fondeur said.

Some Dominican opposition lawmakers say there should be a new debate over the abortion ban in the Caribbean country and the problems created by the constitutional ban go beyond this case. Opinion leaders like former representative Victor Terrero say clandestine abortions are also putting the lives of many women at risk.

“The constitution is going to have to be modified sooner rather than later,” Terrero said. “We cannot allow under any circumstances that pregnancies that present complications for women be permitted to continue as normal.”

Bautista Rojas Gomez, the Dominican minister of health, has publicly indicated he favors chemotherapy over protecting the pregnancy, but doctors are still reluctant to act for fear of prosecution.

Pelegrin Castillo, one of the architects of Article 37, says the constitutional ban does not prevent doctors from administering the treatment. It does, however, prevent them from practicing an abortion in order to treat the patient with chemotherapy.

“It’s an artificial debate,” Castillo said. “What we have clearly said is that in this case doctors are authorized by the constitution to treat the patient. They don’t have to worry about anything. They have the mandate of protecting both lives.”

And while the debate rages on around the country, back at the hospital the clock keeps ticking for the 16-year-old pregnant girl.

  • Gillian Kane

    Gillian Kane is senior policy advisor for Ipas, an international women’s reproductive health and rights organization.

     

  • Last month the World Congress of Families (WCF), an international conservative network, met at the Palacio de Congresos in Madrid to share tactics in defense of the “natural family.” For its participants the natural family is a standard for social values that harkens back to a mythical era when men headed the household, women tended the kitchen and children, and sex was for procreation only.

    Because these ideals don’t line up with the way many people live and think about their lives, it’s tempting to dismiss the WCF as a gathering of out-of-touch extremists. Scratch the surface, though, and what you find are well-connected and well-funded groups hard at work codifying their “traditional values” through national and regional legislatures and judiciaries.

    The conference theme, “Marriage and Family, the Future of Society,” echoed many of the concerns of conservative religious organizations here in the U.S. (the WCF, unsurprisingly, is headquartered in Rockford, Illinois). While drolly retrograde panels like “Authentic Women and Rediscovering Homemaking” and “Solutions to Homosexual Behavior” featured prominently, embedded in these and most other panels were serious themes articulating a conservative worldview and strategies for protecting and promoting them in the public sphere.

    Personal improvement sessions like “Keeping Families Together,” “The Case for Marriage, Purity and Abstinence: How to Develop Character,” and Promoting Fatherhood (Crisis in Manhood),” were outnumbered by those analyzing opposition tactics like, “Threats to Life and Family in International Law,” “The Homosexual Lobby,” “The Natural Family and the Revolution against the Family,” and counter-strategic sessions like “How to Fight Back against International Law,” or “How to Impact Public Policies and Elections.”

    2012 marked the first time the WCF devoted an entire day to organizing with parliamentarians and civil society. The invitation-only International Parliamentary Forum met to develop concrete political and legislative solutions in defense of the natural family. By far the biggest block of participating parliamentarians was from Spain’s newly installed conservative party, the Partido Popular (PP).

    With a political platform staunchly opposed to reproductive and sexual rights, the Partido Popular is a natural ally for the WCF. Among their first announcements upon entering office was the promise to restrict Spain’s progressive abortion laws; specifically denying youth access without parental consent (youth rights versus parental rights was a central theme of many conference presentations). The PP’s promise to replace a required public school class—which includes instruction on respect for human rights and sexual diversity, among other topics—with one that would exclude “contents that could be used for ideological indoctrination,” drew high praise from participants.

    What emerged after three days was a clear tension between agitating against governments, courts, and international human rights bodies that had “corrupted the meaning and dignity of marriage, devalued parenting, encouraged easy divorce and births outside of marriage, confused sexual identities, promoted promiscuity, created conditions that increased child abuse, isolated the elderly, and fostered depopulation,” and figuring out how to best manipulate those same systems into defending their particular religious values.

    One concern undergirding the varied topics covered by the speakers was that the protection of individual rights (youth rights, gay rights, reproductive rights) was taking place at the expense of “fundamental” religious, cultural, and parental rights. The idea of Christian persecution, or Christianophobia, was echoed throughout and the human rights framework was frequently misappropriated to serve the needs of a given speaker. Human rights were oppressive when they protected reproductive and gender rights (or “new” rights), whereas, when it came to protecting “traditional” rights to freedom of religion and speech, they were suddenly fundamental. New rights, they argued, cannot supersede traditional human rights. When they do, these rights violations must be redressed.

    This very argument is being used in the debate over the Obama health care reform law, one of the main objections to which is access to reproductive health care. Lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the mandate, however, do not directly confront abortion and contraception, but are based on the purported violation of the First Amendment. Stand Up For Religious Freedom, one of the lead networks agitating against health care reform, explicitly states that: “the American ideal of religious liberty is at stake. This isn’t really about contraception—it’s about the First Amendment.”

    The Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), one of four World Congress of Families co-conveners, has been extremely active in “defending religious organizations and businesses that refuse to comply with the mandate and abandon their faith.” To date they have filed three lawsuits against the Obama administration, each claiming that the health mandate is unconstitutional based on its violation of the First and Fifth Amendments.

    The ADF is also actively litigating religious freedom cases overseas. Because U.S. justices are increasingly citing progressive international jurisprudence in their opinions and decisions, much of the ADF’s international litigation is aimed at ensuring that foreign rulings serve its domestic objectives. This, despite ADF Chief Council’s Benjamin Bull’s comment that “The Constitution is the only arbiter of American law. Allowing foreign or international law to determine the legitimacy of American law is completely unjustifiable and rife with dire consequences.” Presumably it is fine for activist American justices to cite international jurisprudence if it advances their religious agenda.

    Roger Kiska, an Ave Maria-trained lawyer, runs ADF’s European office. Located in Vienna, it’s a Eurail ride from both the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and the European Court of Human rights in Strasbourg, where Kiska spends a great deal of time. Kiska is developing an allied attorney network dedicated to litigating European cases with the potential to impact ADF work in the United States. Kiska’s WCF presentation, “How to Fight Back against International Law,” included a four-point strategy that, while not revealing too many trade secrets, was notable for its venomous tone toward “humanists” and others who, he says, accuse Christians of demanding preferential treatment.

    The European premiere of the Hollywood film For Greater Glory perfectly complemented the persecution complex detectable in many presentations. Titled Cristiada in Spain, the film chronicles the Mexican Cristero War as experienced by Catholic militia who opposed attempts by the post-Mexican Revolution government to impose anticlerical laws. A New York Times review described the movie’s characters as “clear-cut saints and sinners.” Like the Cristeros fighting against the Mexican lay state, WCF members see their battle as one of religious freedom against an oppressive state bent on forcing them to reject their values and accept a secular, relativist one.

    While WCF participants make the case that they’re being denied their fundamental rights, they are in fact using “religious freedom” as a cover to deny women, children, sexual minorities, and others access to basic needs and protections. The WCF may want to take us back to the Dark Ages, but they’re not afraid to use modern human rights systems to get there.

    On the final day of the conference Paul Herzog Von Oldenburg, the Belgian president of the right-wing Catholic group Tradition, Family and Property, summarized it best: “our great aim, our great ideal, is to build a Christian civilization from the ruins of the modern world just as the medieval world arose from the ruins of the Roman world.”

Next Page »