Illegality


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-23253296

10 July 2013

Sebastian Pinera supports Chile’s outright ban on abortion

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has praised as “brave and mature” a pregnant 11-year-old rape victim who said she was happy to have the child.

The girl said during a TV interview the child would be “like having a doll”.

Experts criticised Mr Pinera’s comments as having no scientific foundation.

Mr Pinera supports Chile’s abortion laws, which outlaw the practice in all circumstances. His critics want it legalised in cases of rape, and want the girl to be allowed an abortion.

The 11-year-old girl appeared in a TV interview on Monday, saying: “I’m going to love the baby very much, even though it comes from that man who hurt me.

“It will be like having a doll in my arms.”

The girl was raped repeatedly over a two-year period by her mother’s boyfriend, who has since been arrested.

Mr Pinera said he had asked the health minister to personally look after the girl’s health.

“She surprised us all with words showing depth and maturity when she said that, despite the pain caused by the man who raped her, she wanted to have and take care of her baby,” he said.

Forensic psychologist Giorgio Agostini said the girl would not have the mental or emotional capacity to understand her situation.

“What the president is saying doesn’t get close to the psychological truth of an 11-year-old-girl,” he told the Associated Press news agency.

“It’s a subjective view that is not based on any scientific reasoning.”

The girl’s case has already sparked a public debate about abortion.

Campaigners argue that the laws, which date back to the authoritarian rule of Gen Augusto Pinochet, should be changed to allow for abortions in cases of rape or when the mother’s health is at risk.

Michelle Bachelet, the likely presidential candidate next year for the left-leaning opposition, supports the campaign.

Ms Bachelet earlier commented that the 11-year-old girl need to be protected.

“I think a therapeutic abortion, in this case because of rape, would be in order,” she said.

Chile is one of seven Latin American countries where abortion is completely banned.

Last month, the case of a seriously ill woman in El Salvador made international headlines when the courts upheld the ban on abortion even though the woman’s life was at risk and the foetus was unlikely to survive.

She was eventually allowed to have a caesarean section.

Latin America’s abortion laws

  • Outright ban in El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Chile, Honduras, Haiti, Suriname
  • Cuba, Guyana, Puerto Rico and Uruguay have most liberal laws
  • Brazil’s senate is currently debating legalisation of terminations during the first 12 weeks
  • More than 4 million abortions carried out each year
  • Between 1995-2008 some 95% were considered to be unsafe

Sources: World Health Organization, Guttmacher Institute

 

By Nyasa Times Reporter

July 3, 2013

Health ministers from several African countries have vowed to tackle the high number of deaths of women due to unsafe and crude abortion by among other efforts, expanding the provision of safe abortion services.

The commitment was made by ministers of health and gender and senior government officials from Ghana, Liberia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia at a regional meeting of ministers on unsafe abortion and maternal mortality in Africa.

The meeting took place on June 18-19, 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya and Malawi was represented by the then deputy ministers of health and gender Halima Daud, and Agnes Mandevu Chatipwa respectively, Lastone Chikoti, the Reproductive Health Officer in the ministry of health and Elsie Tembo the Second Principal Secretary in the ministry of gender.

“We note that unsafe abortion constitutes between 13-30 percent of the unacceptably high rates of maternal deaths in our countries, and acknowledge that concrete and urgent action must be taken to address this challenge if maternal death and injuries are to be effectively reduced.

“We additionally recognize that unsafe abortion constitutes a violation of women’s human rights, and affirm the link between protection, promotion and realization of women’s human rights to the improvement of sexual and reproductive health outcomes for women and girls in our countries,” reads the communiqué by the minister in part.

The ministers mentioned other countries which are providing safe abortion services and simultaneously reduced their maternal mortality rates.

The ministers thus committed themselves to individually and collectively as countries tackle the problem by examining laws, using evidence to raise awareness on issue.

“We will try to integrate evidence and advocacy on the issue of unsafe abortion into the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) and in other efforts to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity in our respective countries.

“We will also encourage our governments to include the issue of unsafe abortion as part of the issue of maternal health in Cooperation Frameworks with donor countries and development partners,” said the ministers.

According to a 2010 ministry of health study called Abortion in Malawi: Results of a Study of Incidence and Magnitude of Complications of Unsafe Abortion, 70,000 Malawian women have abortions every year, which is 24 abortions for every 1000 women aged 15-44. 31,000 Malawian women are treated for complications of unsafe abortion annually.

Approximately 17 percent of maternal deaths in Malawi are attributable to unsafe abortion, making it one of the primary causes of maternal mortality. 30percent of all admissions in country’s gynecological wards are due to unsafe abortion.

 

http://www.nyasatimes.com/2013/07/03/african-health-ministers-agree-to-tackle-unsafe-abortion/

 

 

3 March 2013

 

Ipas News

 

Inter-American Human Rights Commission to hold

landmark hearing on abortion rights

 

On Friday, March 15th, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will hold a landmark hearing on the negative impactof criminal abortion laws. It is the first time the IACHR will hear testimony on theharmful effects these laws have on the lives of young girls and women and their families in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Peru.

 

Ipas and Ipas Bolivia, in collaboration with Women’s Link Worldwide, ISER/Brazil, Promsex/Peru, Argentina, the Special Rapporteurship on the Right to Sexual and Reproductive Rights/Dhesca Brazilian Platform and Asociación por los Derechos Civiles/Argentina, will present findings from legal research on the impact of abortion criminalization on women’s lives, health and criminal justice systems. These findings indicate that states are systematically violating women’s rights to health, equality and non-discrimination, privacy and due process of law. The organizations will present recommendations to the IACHR on measures to be taken by states to respect and protect women’s human rights.

 

Legal indications for abortion are extremely limited throughout Latin America, and several countries-Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Chile-have outlawed abortion entirely, even when necessary to save a woman’s life. Previous regional human rights decisions have called on states to ensure access to abortion in narrow circumstances-such as when a pregnancy threatens a woman’s health or if she’s been raped. This hearing will address the broader social and legal impact of criminal laws.

 

The hearing will be take place 11:30 a.m. at the IACHR’s Rubén Darío Room (8th floor), 1889 F Street, NW, Washington, DC. It will also be webcast live on IACHR’s web site. It will be conducted in Spanish, with translation available.

http://www.wsm.ie/c/mass-civil-disobedience-abortion-northern-ireland

Workers Solidarity Movement

Mass Civil Disobedience in North Illuminates Role Of States In Abortion Discussion

Date: Mon, 2013-03-11 12:21

In an act of mass civil disobedience directly challenging the legitimacy of the state to regulate women’s reproduction against their own will, over 100 people in Northern Ireland under the banner Alliance for Choice have signed an open letter declaring they have taken, or supported others to take, a pill to induce an abortion.

The political action is designed to coincide with a vote in Stormont tomorrow that, if passed, would make it illegal for women to receive abortions in private clinics in the north. The proposed amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill is being pushed by fundamentalists within what’s traditionally described as “both communities.” The proposal to change the law was tabled by the DUP’s Paul Givan, who chairs the Stormont Justice committee, and the SDLP’s Alban Maginness both of whom will never get pregnant. The Alliance party and Sinn Fein will oppose the amendment.

The act of civil disobedience itself is interesting from many perspectives, not least the way in which a coherent analysis within the letter makes apparent the links between women’s reproductive autonomy and the social/political policies of austerity that function to increase poverty and social inequality within national borders. That analysis is shared by the Pro Choice movements in the south.

Its also throws into stark relief one of the ambiguities of public discussion around abortion in the south. Whilst looking northwards, mainstream media seems to have little problem in conflating religious, social and political perspectives with the function of the state itself. Its one I and other anarchist share, and the contested nature of political identity and structural oppressions that gave rise to both to the civil rights movements as well as the provos make help illuminate that. That the state itself is an ideological entity is a given and assumed, even as the workplace practices of contemporary journalism give little reward or encourage for this to be untangled and explored. Neither is the tactic of civil disobedience in examined beyond the word ‘protest’.

For example this act of civil disobedience forces the northern state – via its police force and criminal justice system – to act or not act in a public fashion. The political act of disobedience is calculated to illuminate and educate about unjust structures of social/political/economic power as well as forcing the state to act in ways that regardless of the specifics, all actors know the state will itself be judged upon by the wider public.

However when looking closer to home, this Irish state seems to be continually framed – and likes to present itself as – ideologically neutral, as if it were a paternal independent arbitrator between two opposing positions. But this self image is patently false and can only be sustained under a social imagination that separates out abortion from the state’s historical role in the systemic abuse of women. But that’s simply not tenable to an increasingly political literate population, nor is it to the growing feminist movements on the island. The state is patriarchal in so far it has continually reproduced social conditions of inequality against women.

The Catholic Church has seen a massive diminishing of it social power, a direct result of the breaking of silence surrounding the systemic brutality that enforced its cultural weight in Irish society. Its “socially conservative” (read deformed, sexually repressive and violent) dogmatism, simultaneously anti-women, anti-homosexuality, is being challenged by an increasingly counter-hegemonic discourse. Woman in the pro choice movements are no longing pleading for control over their own bodies from a church and state nexus which have previously deemed itself the only legitimate authority that can dispense or renege on that autonomy. Many are, quite sensibly, demanding complete autonomy for themselves and each other.

Also the narrative that ‘abortion debate’ revolves around two opposing yet valid abstract moral positions is itself a mispresentation. There is no emotional or intellectual equivalency between the positions of “I dont want to be forced to remain pregnant against my will” and “You should be forced to remain pregnant against your will because I think abortion is ‘bad’”. I have yet to hear a anti abortion argument that doesn’t relegate women’s existence to forced birthing factories. Appeals to God and a paradigm of ethics and morals founded upon his (yes of course his) existence can of course can be made – and as an anarchist I support the freedoms that facilitate that – but they should be given no greater intellectual weight that the musings of Thomas the Tank engine or other fictional entities.  The function of suppressing women’s right to bodily integrity and reproductive choices does need a meta philosophy to justify itself. It is not to role of critically thinking, emotionally literate human beings to do that however.

If you align yourself to the Catholic Church you need to get used to the idea that many people see this as reason enough to reject the idea that you are an ethically coherent and emotionally literate human being. You have some ground to make up given our collective history. Likewise if you are a member of a political organisation that oversaw generations of state sanctioned abuse. And indeed this is also the case if you “believe” in unending economic growth on a planet of finite resources and growing inequality and social injustice. You simply come with too much baggage and too much incoherency to expect your ideas be deemed valid or socially useful merely because you hold them.

What come from this is the basis of a position that makes coherent arguments against state coercion in all its forms, but that also recognises that the state itself is deeply ideological itself, rather than an arbitrator. The tactic of mass civil disobedience has yet to be used within this wave of feminist struggle for social justice in the south. However when that happens, the state itself will be forced to act, and in doing so illuminate part of itself that so far has remained invisible in mainstream media narratives

Heres the letter

Open Letter

We, the undersigned, have either taken the abortion pill or helped women to procure the abortion pill in order to cause an abortion here in Northern Ireland.

We represent just a small fraction of those who have used, or helped others to use, this method because it is almost impossible to get an NHS abortion here, even when there is likely to be a legal entitlement to one.

We know that Stormont Ministers and the Public Prosecution Service are aware that such abortions have been taking place in the region for some years, but are unwilling to prosecute for a range of reasons, at least partly to do with not wanting an open debate around the issue of when women here should have a right to abortion.

We are publishing this letter now because of the Givan/Magennis amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill which we believe is aimed at closing down the debate on abortion here, as much as it is about closing down Marie Stopes.

We want to emphasise that medical abortions happen in Northern Ireland on a daily basis but without any medical support or supervision. We were delighted when Marie Stopes came to Belfast as it meant that women who are unwell, and therefore eligible for a legal abortion, can access a doctor to supervise what we have done or helped others to do without medical help.

We live in the only part of the UK that still does not have a childcare strategy. We face huge cuts in children’s living standards if the Assembly passes the Welfare Reform Bill without major amendment. If our politicians showed as much zeal in protecting the lives of children who are already born, perhaps we would have fewer women seeking abortion because of poverty.

Signed

Christiane McGuffin, Derry
Bronagh Boyle, Belfast
Goretti Horgan, Derry
Judith Cross, Belfast
Siusaidh Laoidhigh, Belfast
Roisin Barton, Derry
Virginia Santini, Belfast
Julia Black, Derry
Natalie Biernat, Derry
Adrianne Peltz, Bangor
Elizabeth Byrne McCullough, Belfast
Naomi Connor, Belfast
Catherine Couvert, Belfast
Caitlin Ni Chonaill, Belfast
Helen McBride, Armagh
Wendy McCloskey, Derry
Alice Lyons, Bangor
Maev McDaid, Derry
Janet Shepperson, Belfast
Mary Breslin, Derry
Anita Gracey, Belfast
Grainne Boyle, Belfast
Catherine Rush, Derry
Yvette Wilders, Limavady
Deirdre Kelly, Derry
Sarah Wright, Belfast
Sharon Meenan, Derry
Shannon O’Connell, Bangor
Ciara Smyth, Belfast
Shannon Sickels, Belfast
Jason Brannigan, Belfast
Connor Kelly, Derry
Claire Hackett, Belfast
James Doherty, Derry
Jill Letson, Derry
Noella Hutton, Derry
Glen Rosborough, Derry
Ann Harley, Derry
Ryan McKinney, Belfast
Kieran Gallagher, Derry
Jeanette Hutton, Derry
Julie Rogan, Derry
Matt Collins, Belfast
Pat Byrne, Derry
Susan Power, Derry
Aisling Gallagher, Belfast
Betty Doherty, Derry
Mel Bradley, Derry
Edward Gary Hill, Belfast
Sha Gillespie, Derry
Abby Oliveira, Derry
Joanne Butler, Derry
Majella Keys, Derry,
Gerard Stewart, Belfast
Maisie Sharkey, Derry
Orlagh Ni Leid, Belfast
M. Campbell, Derry
Tiarnan O Muilleoir, Belfast
Laura McFeely, Derry
Brenda Graham, Derry
Janet Shepperson, Belfast
Donna McFeely, Derry
Daisy Mules, Derry
Malachai O’Hara Belfast
Eileen Webster, Derry
Véronique Altglas, Belfast
Dianne Kirby, Derry
Helen Quigley, Derry
Sadie Fulton, Belfast
Aaron Murray, Derry
Aoife McNamara, Co.Down
Eileen Blake, Derry
Diana King, Derry
Paula Leonard, Killea
Kitty O’Kane, Derry
Sara Greavu, Derry
Eve Campbell, Derry
Katherine Rowlandson, Derry
Justine Scoltock, Derry
Eamonn McCann, Derry
Catrin Greaves, Belfast
Anita Villa, Derry
Caolan Brown, Derry
Asha Faria-Vare, Belfast
Chrissie Kavanagh, Derry
Elaine Power, Derry
Maria Caddell, Belfast
David Stewart Campbell, Lisburn
Ellie Drake, Belfast
Lisa Byrne, Derry
Siobhan Doherty, Derry
Stella Green, Belfast
Jim Collins, Derry
Guy Hetherington, Belfast
Amos Gideon, Belfast
Stephen Connolly , Belfast
Catriona Acherson, Belfast
Timothy Lavety, Belfast
Ellen Wilson, Belfast
Richard Bailie, Belfast
Manuela Moser, Belfast

The letter contains signatures of 100 individuals from Northern Ireland who have accessed or helped women to access illegal (under Section 58 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861) abortion pills, such as those available from Women on Web (WoW).

Update

Since the letter was published, the following names have been added:

Emma Campbell, Belfast
Judith Thurley BA (Hons) RGN, Belfast
Lynda Walker, Belfast
Claire McCann
Lily Hendron, Coleraine
Nick Ní Fhéasóg
Claire Molloy, Belfast
Peter McCormack, Belfast
Áine Jackman, Belfast
Seanín Ní Connalláin, Belfast
Ruth Wilson, Belfast

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.

 

http://www.essentialbaby.com.au/pregnancy/pregnancy-nutrition-and-wellbeing/locking-up-pregnant-women-20130212-2e9ln.html

Locking up pregnant women

Date January 16, 2013

Amy Gray

Queensland’s Child Protection Inquiry has received a submission from the Queensland Police Union (QUPE) advocating that pregnant women who use drugs and alcohol should be locked up or placed under conditions to protect their unborn babies.

Inside the nine page document are a series of recommendations of changes to be made to the Child Protection Act, chiefly concerned with the QUPE complaining at having to do DoCs work and their plans to regulate all those wayward pregnant women.

As they state in their submission, the part of the Act which pertains to the rights and liberties of a pregnant woman “needs to be abolished.” A woman is now considered secondary to the pregnancy she carries.

 The QUPE calls on the inquiry for the rights to:

  • request intervention orders against pregnant women
  • take the mother into care pending birth
  • impose forced medical check ups
  • impos[e] conditions on the mother during the pregnancy, which may extend to where she resides and who she has contact with during her pregnancy

In case it’s not clear, the Queensland Police Union would like to start rounding up, monitoring and curtailing the personal choices and liberties of pregnant women.

Though this organisation has delivered a shoddily presented and ill-conceived set of recommendations to a panel, it does not mean it will be accepted or, even if it is, inquiry recommendations are often left to mould on shelves without adoption. So far, so ineffectual. What is newsworthy here is how the Queensland Police Union, whose members protect and defend their state, view women. And they don’t view them well at all.

Socially, this is not news for women. With every chastisement, unsolicited recommendation and unbidden hand that launches at our bellies, we’ve long known we were pregnancy-policed by the public. Now it appears real police would like to get in on the fun and tell us that we are hosts for the child – not a mother growing dependent life, not even two parties: we are the lesser life form because it’s all about the baby.

Helpfully, the Queensland Police Unionclarifies that it is not calling for anti-abortion laws, which must be a blessing for those living in a state with ambiguous abortion laws at best. Because it’s never a legal slipperly slope for female body autonomy when you request the legal rights of a woman be removed, right?

Let us leave aside for the moment the fact that this recommendation comes from the same union that complains about the workload of administrative duties relating to investigating children at risk and sex offenders in the community.

Instead, let us focus on the impact of this decision for women within society within the framework of statistics.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in their Drugs in Australia 2010 report state that “Alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use was significantly lower among pregnant women than women who were not pregnant. The proportion of pregnant women smoking has declined from 2001 to 2010.“

The report lists the findings of a National Drugs Strategy Household Survey which found that alcohol consumption amongst pregnant women dramatically drops, with 48.9 % abstaining completely, 48.7 reducing their alcohol intake and 2.0% maintaining their existing drinking (the level of which is not verified). Only 0.2% of respondents increased their intake of

When it comes to illicit drug use, 8.3% of women who were pregnant and/or breastfeeding in the past 12 months admit to the use of cannabis, pharmaceutical for non-medicinal purposes and other illicit drugs. Bear in mind that this figure includes women who had used drugs prior before they knew they were pregnant and, according to the report, “are significantly lower than for other women in the community”.

Bearing in mind the above statistics, if a system exists that penalises and curtails a pregnant woman for drug or alcohol issues, how likely would a woman be to actually seek assistance for the matter? The fear of being taken into ‘care’, restricted from seeing people she knows and other restrictions would prevent her from seeking the help she may need.

Karen Healy, President of the Australian Association of Social Workers agrees. In an interview with the Australian, she branded the proposal “concerning” and that “It could lead to women not disclosing they are using drugs to medical practitioners…It may actually reduce the capacity of medical professionals to monitor these children.”

So, not only would this recommendation actually not prevent the risky behavior, it could potentially not only drive it underground but also scare women away from support.

So, who will think of the babies, you ask? Who will protect them from their mothers? There is no doubt there are at risk pregnancies – but they are not widespread  and policing and punishment won’t help. Only rational programs and support will. There is no doubt this is a complex area but if we don’t learn from the horrors of past generations, we will never solve problems for the future.

Consider also the implications of who would be under review should this recommendation become enacted. Will it be across all classes? Or will only women from lower-socio economic backgrounds be targeted?

As stereotypes and our national sport of bogan-bashing goes, poorer people are often depicted as drinking more than any other class in Australia. This is a particularly curious stereotype given statistical analysis shows that personal income rises, so too does alcohol consumption across both genders. (Drinking Patterns in Australia 2001-2007, Australian Institute Health and Welfare). One can’t shake the feeling these desired powers would be used almost exclusively against lower socio-economic brackets.

The more troubling aspect of this recommendation is disturbing matter of race that underpins it all. As part of the Inquiry’s aims, the Commissioner has called for recommendations to “reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system”.

So, is it a logical conclusion that the Queensland Police Union would apply these requested powers over the same over-represented community? That the focus of this would be of pregnant women of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage?

It is our indigenous communities who face the most intervention and there is no doubt there are challenges and problems for them, just as with many other Australians. But legislating against them (again) will not work, nor does the evidence show that it ever has worked.

The report from Queensland’s Child Protection Inquiry is due in April, a month before National Sorry Day. People around the country will gather to remember the apology from five years ago. It is a time when we recall the horrors suffered by Australia’s indigenous population. A population who still suffer from reduced education, health, social and economic opportunities than other Australians. A population whose children were stolen from them in an effort to make them assimilate and disappear into Australia’s population. A population targeted by the Queensland Police Union and other groups who still want to curtail their liberty and take their children.

What is the point of saying sorry if we keep trying to make the same mistake?

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2013/feb/12/us-aid-ban-abortions-rape-victims

 

Prohibiting the use of foreign aid to provide access to safe abortions has repercussions far beyond US borders

 

US aid policy still denies women access to abortion if they are raped in war. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Over many years, I have visited conflict-affected states where I have met women who have suffered the agony of rape, and where sexual violence is the shocking and specific consequence of conflict.

These women are often traumatised, stigmatised and ostracised by their families and communities. When they are pregnant as a result of rape, these consequences are compounded.

While there is welcome attention focused on the plight of women and girls raped in war, there are still significant gaps in the international response to this global scourge.

One of those critical gaps is the routine denial of access to safe abortion services for rape survivors, which violates their rights under international humanitarian law. The reality is that these women are entitled under the Geneva conventions “to receive, to the fullest extent practicable and with the least possible delay, the medical care and attention required by their condition”.

I remember meeting three women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who had been gang-raped the day before as they walked home from the market. I will never forget them, and I have often wondered what would have happened if they were pregnant, because abortion is illegal in Congo .

What we do know is that, often when women in such situations are denied access to safe abortion services, they resort, in desperation, to unsafe methods that can result in serious harm or even death. And this happens even though several international bodies, including the committee against torture and the human rights committee, have found that the denial of abortion to rape victims can be defined as “torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”.

So what exactly are the obstacles and restrictions facing them, when it is already clearly defined that when rape is used as a weapon of war, in armed conflict, women have an absolute right to non-discriminatory medical care under the Geneva conventions?

The blame for these draconian restrictions lies at the door of the US and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), whose largest single donor is the US . The US imposes a “no abortion” ban on its foreign aid, which in practice means that the EU, the UK , the UN and the ICRC neither talk about nor provide abortions.

ICRC is the Department for International Development’s (DfID) partner of choice and receives the largest amount of DfID funding made to humanitarian organisations. This means that the UK is severely compromised by restrictions that it apparently doesn’t support, and which allow for a situation where life-saving abortion is being denied, even to very young girls raped in conflict.

This clearly flies in the face of international humanitarian law. In a recent statement, DfID said: “In conflict situations where denying an abortion in accordance with national law would threaten the mother’s life or cause unbearable suffering, international humanitarian law principles may justify performing an abortion”.

Does that mean that when the suffering of an impregnated war rape victim is “bearable” she can be denied an abortion? And how does she prove that her suffering is unbearable?

DfID says it talks to Norway , a country that is showing real leadership and has asked the US to lift the abortion ban as a matter of compliance with the Geneva conventions. Why doesn’t the UK join Norway in the stand it is taking?

And isn’t it time that the UK stood up for the rights of women and girls who have been raped to have the same access to medical treatment as other war victims?

 

 

Stephanie Johanssen

Legal Counsel for European and UN Affairs

Global Justice Center

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