Politics


Safe & Legal Abortion in Poland Now! |

Prawo do bezpiecznej i legalnej aborcji dla Polek!

 

In late August or September 2012 the Polish parliament will vote on a new bill that would liberalize the current restrictive law on abortion and expand access to contraception and comprehensive sexuality education.

 

Poland currently has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. The law is a fiction, however. Far from stopping abortions from happening, it has merely pushed them underground. It is estimated that illegal abortion generate up to US$ 95 million a year in backstreet abortions.

 

We need your support to convince Members of the Polish Parliament to support this new bill so that Polish women can again enjoy the full spectrum of their reproductive and sexual rights.

Please endorse the letter at the link below written by the Federation for Women and Family Planning to the Polish Parlamentarians by signing this petition individually or as an organization/network, to help us promote this important cause.

Please share this request for solidarity within your contacts and networks:

Thank you!!
Federation for Women & Family Planning, Warsaw, Poland

www.spiked-online.com/site/article/12528/

Tuesday 12 June 2012

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Jennie Bristow

ESSAY: Encouraging women seeking abortion to give birth and do adoption instead ignores the birth mother’s feelings.

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This essay was previously previewed in the May edition of spiked plus.

Reforming Britain’s adoption system, to streamline and speed up the process of placing children in care with adoptive parents, has emerged as a significant policy issue for the Lib-Con coalition government. The Queen’s Speech last month included setting a new ‘time limit’ on cases of children going into care, stating that family courts should make a decision on whether a child should be taken from their parents and placed in care within six months. This measure wasreported as part of the government’s drive to ‘speed up’ the adoption process, because of its belief that too many children stay too long in care and miss out on the stability of a caring permanent home.

In Britain, official concern about both the speed and the number of adoptions has been rumbling on for some months. On 23 February, the Lib-Con coalition’s education secretary, Michael Gove, speaking ahead of the government’s forthcoming adoption action plan, ‘reiterated concerns around low adoption numbers and delays and bureaucracy in the assessment process’. On 27 February, the BBC reported new rules issued by the schools’ inspection body Ofsted, stating that ‘local authorities in England will only get an outstanding rating for adoption in future if they place children within 12 months’.

In 2011, children’s minister Tim Loughton appointed an ‘adoption tsar’, Martin Narey, former chief executive of the children’s services charity Barnado’s, who had been commissioned by The Times (London) to write a review of Britain’s adoption system. The Narey report was published in July, making a number of quite controversial recommendations. Although the government has denied The Times’ claim that this would provide a ‘blueprint’ for the reforms, many of its proposals are already being aired by government ministers.

There are some problems with Britain’s current adoption system. There are also some big questions to be asked about the current policy agenda to increase the speed at which children are taken away from parents and placed into care – or, in the case of adoption, placed permanently with another family. That is the subject of another article.

But an issue that has also emerged in relation to the adoption agenda is an assumption that this should be more heavily promoted as an alternative to abortion. In this regard, two central assumptions deserve serious questioning. The first is that the number of abortions should be reduced, while the number of adoptions is increased. The second is the proposal that women who have abortions should be more rigorously ‘counselled’ about choosing the option of adoption instead.

Numbers and targets

The issue of Britain’s abortion numbers has been raised as a problem by policymakers for decades, and always begs the same two questions: what would be the right number of abortions, and how might policymakers achieve this objective?

Last year, some figures were provided by Nadine Dorries, the anti-abortion Conservative MP, when she tabled an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill designed to strip abortion providers of their ability to offer information, advice and counselling to women considering having an abortion. Dorries arguedin March 2011 that offering women ‘independent’ counselling instead could reduce Britain’s abortion numbers by 60,000 per year.

Dorries also talked about the need to promote adoption more strongly as an alternative to abortion. ‘It is a fact that 400 babies were available for adoption in this country last year’, she said in March 2011. ‘Many women now wait until their late 30s, early 40s to start a family and they then realise they can’t and turn to adoption. But it just isn’t an available option anymore because the abortion process is so streamlined that adoption is just fading out.’

Max Pemberton explained the problems with Dorries’ statistics, in his Daily Telegraph column responding to her comments last March. ‘The truth is that childless couples are not being denied the opportunity to adopt, as she claims’, Pemberton argued. ‘There are more couples hoping to adopt babies than there are babies up for adoption, but the key word here is babies. In fostering and care homes, there are thousands of children desperate to be adopted, but there is a dearth of parents willing to accept older children, those with disabilities or those with siblings.’

Pemberton went on to stress that the decline in adoption rates ‘has nothing to do with rates of abortion, and there is not a shred of evidence to support Ms Dorries’ assertion’: ‘A far bigger factor, as the British Association of Adoption and Fostering pointed out when I spoke to them, is the change in social attitudes towards single mothers and improved financial support for them from the state, which means more young women are keeping their babies. In addition, barbaric practices in which babies were wrenched from their mother’s arms and put up for adoption have been abolished. The decision to remove a child from his or her biological mother is now made by the courts only after careful deliberation. This takes time, so that many babies are toddlers by the time the decision is finalised.’

Pemberton’s argument is quite correct, and indicates why we should be very careful indeed of any attempts to link rising abortion rates with declining adoption rates. Intuitively, it may seem obvious that the widespread availability of legal abortion means that women with an unwanted pregnancy will have an abortion rather than have the baby adopted at birth.

But this ignores the changing wider context, including the shift in attitude to unmarried mothers, which may make women with an unplanned pregnancy more likely to carry the pregnancy to term and to keep the baby. It ignores the change in adoption practices, which since the Second World War have been made much more official and permanent, organised formally via the state rather than informally via the family. It ignores the advances there have been in relation to fertility treatment, where the first port of call for a couple struggling to bear children is likely to be IVF rather than adoption. And it ignores the genuine shift in attitudes to abortion – which sees this as an acceptable, sensible and responsible personal solution when a woman has an unwanted pregnancy. Of course, there are those who see this attitude shift as an example of an immoral, callous culture; but many others clearly accept the difference between an embryo and a born child, and recognise women’s control over their fertility to be a progressive gain.

As for the adoption numbers: one central proposal by the Narey review, which has been endorsed by the prime minister David Cameron, is to boost the number of adoptions. One of Narey’s strongest and most controversial recommendations is to produce a ‘league table’ of adoption numbers, recommending that the children’s minister ‘regularly produce comparative information for local authorities, identifying rolling totals of adoptions finalised along with the time taken to complete those adoptions’.

So while policymakers seek to find ways to reduce the number of abortions, Local authorities are also under pressure to increase the number of adoptions, and will be thus compared to one another. This reduction of the complex issues of abortion and adoption to cold statistics in league tables betrays a worryingly bureaucratic tendency.

The reality in Britain today is that abortion and adoption are not ‘equivalent’ options. Abortion is neither an easy decision nor a pleasant experience, but it is a culturally accepted and widely provided solution where an individual woman has an unwanted pregnancy. Adoption can be another solution, but it requires carrying a pregnancy to term and giving a born child up to strangers, a scenario that many women find harder to contemplate than terminating a pregnancy one, two, or even five months in.

Counselling women to ‘choose’ adoption

The Narey review on adoption is primarily concerned with raising the number of adoptions of children already in the care system. But he also explicitly addresses the issue of adoption in the context of pregnancy counselling. ‘Pregnant women in the UK are mostly seen as having a choice between giving birth and bringing up their child or aborting the pregnancy’, he states. ‘What seems to have disappeared in the UK — certainly in comparison to the US — is consciousness about a third option: of going to term but allowing the child to be adopted.’

While Narey stresses that he is ‘emphatically in the pro-choice camp when it comes to abortion’, his report argues that ‘pregnancy advisory charities, children’s charities and local authorities need to highlight that third option [of adoption] better’.

Nadine Dorries has notoriously described Britain’s abortion service as putting women on a ‘conveyor belt’, which pushes women to terminate their pregnancies before giving them the chance to think through their other two options: keeping the baby or putting the baby up for adoption. Frank Field, the Labour MP who initially supported the Dorries amendment, also aired the view that women could be somehow counselled to choose adoption over abortion. ‘It is bizarre that we have couples scouring the world for children to adopt, yet we don’t know whether it is an option put during abortion counselling’, said Field in September 2011.

The Narey review and the Dorries amendment on pregnancy counselling are different initiatives, and there is no suggestion that they have been designed to complement each other. But there is a strange coincidence of timing in the way these arguments have been promoted and their assumptions about the role of counselling in women’s pregnancy decision-making.

Women considering abortion are provided with information, advice and counselling about three pregnancy options – continuing the pregnancy to term and keeping the baby, continuing the pregnancy to term and giving the baby up for adoption, and aborting the pregnancy. While a proportion of women do end up choosing the first two options, it is an insult to women’s understanding of themselves and their situation to imply that those who opt for abortion could just as easily wait until they give birth and hand the baby over for adoption.

The role of pregnancy-options counselling is to give women the space to talk about the reasons for her decision, and to ensure that she is sure about her decision before aborting her pregnancy. The key feature of this counselling is that it is non-directive: it is aimed at supporting the woman’s own decision about what she feels is right for her. The implication of the argument that if women were given more information about adoption they would be more likely to choose it as an option runs completely against the grain of non-directive counselling, and fails to grapple with just how different the abortion/adoption decision is for the woman who is carrying the pregnancy.

As for adoption: as Max Pemberton argues, the biggest problem is not to do with babies, but with older children who may have spent several years stuck in residential or foster care, and for whom prospective adoptive parents are reluctant to come forward. While the number of adoptions of babies is very small, toddlers and very young children are more likely to be adopted than any other age group: as the Office for National Statistics notes, ‘the proportion of children adopted aged one to four has steadily increased over the past decade’ and now accounts for 58 per cent of children adopted in 2010. This raises the question: why would baby adoption be on the agenda at all, when children aged five and over are so much more in need of attention?

Early intervention and the ‘welfare of the child’

As Max Pemberton pointed out, there is a chilling logic to Dorries’ argument, that is, ‘women who have unwanted pregnancies can be turned into baby-making machines for the infertile’. This viewpoint, he argued, ‘also presents children as mere commodities’. In fact, ‘Adoption does not exist to fulfil the need of an adult to become a parent. The sole consideration should be the welfare of the child. Adopting a child is an incredible act of grace and love. If people are only willing to adopt a cute, bouncy baby, then their motivation should be carefully reviewed.’

It is tempting to see the argument that women should be counselled to adopt rather than abort as a rather shameless attempt to push women into childbirth for the sake of providing children for the childless. But this gets the dynamic behind the push towards early-years, fast-track adoption back to front. What is truly startling about the Narey proposals for adoption reform is the extent to which they privilege assumptions about the welfare of the child over any rights, feelings or experiences that the birth parent might have.

The first chapter of the Narey review begins: ‘Adoption is the ultimate intervention in the life of a child and one that, we know, can and does transform lives, particularly when the adoption is made at an early age. But adoption generally becomes a possibility only when a child has been taken into care – that is, removed from his or her birth parents. And that process can often begin too late and then take far too long, endangering the chances of a successful adoption (if that is what is best for the child) or in some cases preventing adoption. Central to this report is my belief that there is a very strong case for radically increasing the number of adoptions in England and in the rest of the UK. But to do so will require us to intervene earlier in the lives of large numbers of deeply neglected children and to resolve their permanent future much more quickly. Delay in intervention and then delay in achieving permanency for children is deeply damaging.’

The policy dynamic towards early official intervention into the lives of children whose families are struggling has been well established by the Lib-Con government, and Frank Field MP has been one of the principal architects of this approach. Whatever the pros and cons of early intervention as a strategy within social work, it has some profound consequences when its logic is adoption. Because, as Narey indicates, adoption is the ‘ultimate intervention’, removing a child permanently from his or her birth parents, on the justification that the damage caused by the child’s birth parents outweighs the legal (and moral) rights that the parent has over that child.

Whether adoption is warranted in individual cases is a judgement for professional social workers to make. And it may well be the case that, if a child is going to be adopted, that child will fare better if the adoption takes place at a very young age. But as a policy dynamic, the notion that children should be adopted out of their families in greater numbers, at a faster pace and at a younger age, carries enormous risks. This is particularly true if it runs parallel with a policy approach designed to encourage women to choose adoption over abortion, and thus reduce the number of abortions.

Whatever policymakers’ intentions, the message here is that women should adopt not abort, because that is better for the baby, regardless of its impact on the woman; and that babies born in difficult circumstances should be taken away from struggling birth parents as quickly as possible, because that might be better for the baby, regardless of the impact on the mother. As a society, do we really want to be so cavalier about the rights and feelings of the woman who bears a child?

Jennie Bristow is editor of Abortion Review and author of Standing Up To Supernanny and co-author of Licensed to Hug. (Buy these books from Amazon (UK) here and here.)

June 4, 2012 by Henri Mamarbachi in Other

Hundreds of Moroccan women a day are resorting to backstreet abortions, a leading doctor has estimated, prompting calls for reform in a country where the termination of pregnancies remains illegal.

Campaigners say some of those resorting to illegal  are the victims of rape, driven at least in part by the  attached not just to having a child out of wedlock but even having suffered rape.

The victims include girls forced to work as maids and women trapped in forced marriages, they say.

And the voices calling for a repeal of the ban on abortion are growing louder.

A national congress will be held on June 12 in Rabat, under the auspices of the Moroccan Association for the Fight against Clandestine Abortion, headed by Professor Chafik Chraibi.

Deputies and Health Minister El Hossein el Ouardi are expected to attend.

“What is happening in Morocco is dramatic,” said Chraibi, a renowned gynaecologist.

Backstreet abortions, mainly among young people, led to the women concerned being rejected by their families, he said. Women could end up being marginalised, forced into prostitution and sometimes committing suicide.

While it is impossible to get accurate figures for what is still an , Chraibi told AFP: “We believe that 600 abortions are carried out daily by doctors and another 200 non-medical abortions.

“In Tunisia, where it is legal to have abortions, it’s 20 times less,” he added.

“A dozen doctors are now in prison for having carried out illegal abortion. A from the Al Jadida region was sentenced to a year in prison, after carrying out an abortion for a young woman,” said the doctor.

And another result of the lack of access to legal abortions was the high number of abandoned children, he added: around 17,000 a year.

The association he runs has been championing a reform of the law. And he argues that legalising abortion could only have a positive effect.

“Our message is that we must work on prevention, as according to the World Health Organisation, 13 percent of maternal mortality is due to abortion.”

 

The debate over abortion is just the latest front of an ongoing conflict between conservative supporters of traditional values and more liberal, reform-minded campaigners.

A recent case of a 16-year-old girl who committed suicide after being forced to wed her rapist — a provision of Moroccan law allowed him to thus escape prosecution — provoked outrage in Morocco.

Chraibi however said he was more optimistic than ever that there would be change on the abortion issue.

In the past, he said, the political parties were afraid to get involved. But now, the “issue has become a common problem, and the  backs us.”

The minister is not a member of the Justice and Development Party (PJD), the Islamist party that is the senior partner in the ruling coalition. He is with the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS).

But Bassima Hakkaoui, the minister for women and the family, is a PJD member.

She accused the pro-reform advocates of “using the issue of child rape for political means and in a negative manner, which has deeply hurt the image of Morocco overseas.”

Her remarks provoked a storm of criticism from feminist activists.

Fauzia Assouli, president of the Federation of the Democratic League of Women’s Rights, accused the minister of trying to divert attention from the central issue.

“This type of discourse comes from a fixed mindset,” she said.

“Questions such as rape, abortion and child labour are the responsibility of the state,” she added.

“We are going in all directions. It is difficult to move forward with a conservative government,” she told AFP.

But at the same time, she said, there was a growing sense of awareness, a sense of momentum among activists.

www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/30/indiana-prosecuting-chinese-woman-suicide-foetus

Bei Bei Shuai took rat poison when her boyfriend left her, leading to the death of their unborn child. Now she’s facing life in prison

Ed Pilkington in Indianapolis

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 30 May 2012 18.36 BST

Link to this video

When her baby Angel died in her arms at 1.30am on 3 January 2011, Bei Bei Shuai was so distraught she was instantly transferred to the mental health wing of the Methodist hospital in Indianapolis. Grief stricken and under heavy sedation, she was unaware that within half an hour of her baby’s death a detective from the city’s homicide branch had arrived at the maternity ward and had begun asking questions.

While Shuai was embarking on a journey into bereavement that continues to this day, the Indianapolis authorities were also setting out, albeit along a very different path. On 14 March last year Shuai was arrested and taken into custody in the high-security Marion County prison, where she was held for the next 435 days, charged with murdering her foetus and attempted feticide. If convicted of the murder count she faces a sentence of 45 years to life.

Bei Bei Shuai is at the sharp end of the creeping criminalisation of pregnancy across America. Women who lose their unborn babies – whether in cases of maternal drug addiction or in Shuai’s case a failed suicide attempt – are increasingly finding themselves accused of murder.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Shuai told the Guardian she is determined to defend herself as she prepares for a murder trial scheduled for December. “I have a strong desire to stay in America,” she said, three days after she had been released from jail on $50,000 bail. “I want to stay and fight this case. I have the best legal team, and I’m not afraid anymore to face the charges.”

On 23 December 2010 Shuai became so depressed after she had been abandoned by her boyfriend – a married Chinese man who broke his promise to set up a family with her – that she decided to end her life. She consumed rat poison, and after confessing to friends was rushed to the Methodist hospital.

Doctors took steps to save her, but on 31 December there were signs that the baby, then at 33 weeks gestation, was in distress and a Caesarian was performed. On the second day of Angel’s life the baby was found to have a massive brain haemorrhage and on 2 January was taken off life support.

Shuai held Angel for five hours as the baby gradually faded and died. “Why do they want to take my baby away?” she kept asking, in between bouts of fainting. Shuai begged for her own life to be taken so that her child’s might be spared.

“There is no doubt that Shuai was suffering from a severe mental illness,” her defence lawyer Linda Pence said. She first met the defendant when she was in the mental wing, a few days after Angel died. “I personally observed a very depressed woman, a grief-stricken individual.”

That is not how the prosecutor saw it. For the first time in Indiana‘s 196-year history, the state has applied felony charges against a woman that hold Shuai criminally liable for the outcome of her pregnancy. Earlier this month the Indiana supreme court declined to hear the case, rendering a 3 December murder trial almost inevitable.

Lawyers and women’s advocates in Indiana were astonished by the prosecution’s hard line. To attempt to take one’s own life is not a crime in Indiana, so the decision to charge a pregnant woman appeared to be creating a double standard.

The feticide law, introduced in Indiana in 1979, was designed with violent third parties in mind: abusive boyfriends or husbands who attacked their pregnant partners, causing them to lose their unborn babies. It was enhanced to carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in 2007 after a bank robbery in which a pregnant woman was shot in the stomach, killing her fetus but leaving her alive.

“From a legal standpoint, this case is absolutely frightening,” said Pence, who has set up a website and fighting fund to support Shuai’s defence.

Pence fears that Shuai’s prosecution could set a precedent that will catch others in its trap. In the future, could women who smoke or drink during pregnancy and suffer a miscarriage be prosecuted for murder, or women with HIV who pass it on to their child in the womb? “No one wins from the criminalisation of pregnant women – all this will do is persuade women to flee the state, avoid treatment or have an abortion,” Pence said.

Shuai sees the threat now facing her from a different perspective – as the obliteration of her American dream. She was raised as a single child in Shanghai by parents she described as loving and caring. She graduated from Shanghai university as an accountant, worked for a year in a Chinese government department and then came to the US about 10 years ago as a legal immigrant with her then-husband, who was offered a job in Indianapolis as a mechanical engineer.

Shuai said she was delighted to come to the US. “I knew America as the best country in the world, with the best education system. People get more freedom. I really wanted to see what it was like.”

She found the initial arrival in her Indiana town – a tiny one compared to Shanghai – a bit of a culture shock, but over time she said she came to appreciate it more and more: “Seeing all the natural trees and flowers, the fresh air.”

She was full of dreams – the dream of continuing her studies, the dream of forming her own family, of owning a house and car. “Everybody tells me that they have their American dream, trying to make their life better. People tell me that all the time, and I am the same, I am one of them,” she said.

The dreams didn’t work out so easily. She couldn’t afford to go back to college, so instead studied under her own steam using the local library. Her marriage collapsed, and then when she did finally become pregnant it was with a married man.

When he abandoned her, he left Shuai on her hands and knees in a parking lot as he drove away.

Shuai is not allowed to discuss the events that led up to her suicide attempt, as that might prejudice her trial. But she can talk about the deep sense of shame she felt when she was arrested for killing her foetus.

“I remember the day I had to turn myself in. I felt hopeless and ashamed, for myself and my parents. I had never worn handcuffs before – when they put the cuffs on me it chilled me to my bones.”

Now released, her hands are free. But she is forced to wear a GPS ankle bracelet that is causing her feet to swell.

Shuai’s lawyers wonder whether it is coincidental that such an aggressive application of a law originally designed to protect pregnant women against violent men should first be applied against a woman who is Chinese. The question is all the more pertinent given the current spat between the US and Chinese governments over the treatment of the blind dissident Chen Guangcheng.

Lynn Paltrow, head of National Advocates for Pregnant Women that is co-counsel in Shuai’s defence, said: “It’s an irony that the US has paid such close attention to violations of human rights in China while at the same time Indiana has absolutely deprived a woman who is a legal immigrant from China of her constitutional human rights.”

The only hope for Shuai to avoid a murder trial is if the prosecutor, Terry Curry, decides to drop the charges. There is little chance of that, given his firm belief that he is following the correct path.

“It’s my job to enforce the criminal code as enacted by our legislature and that’s what our legislature has determined,” he said. Curry pointed to a suicide note that Shuai left the former boyfriend in which she wrote that she was “taking this baby with me”.

“What we allege is that her actions were directed specifically at the unborn child. It’s not that she was trying to take her own life, it was that she was trying to take the life of her foetus,” Curry said.

Curry’s determination to press ahead to trial is matched by Shuai’s determination to fight on. During her year in prison, she has improved her English language skills and now speaks fluently without a translator. Though there were dark times inside, including anxiety attacks and moments of despair, she said she has emerged stronger for it.

“It was a really bad experience. I thought nobody would care about me anymore, that I was a worthless person with no future,” she said. “But I learned a great deal. I learned that my life wasn’t the worst as I thought it was. Everything that has happened has made me think that I am so blessed. I have a second family here, and that gives me hope.”

Shuai kept the truth about her suicide attempt and prosecution for murder from her mother back in Shanghai for almost a year. But a couple of months ago, with the help of her lawyer, she finally confessed.

“My mother was so wonderful and supportive. She told me you don’t need to care about other people’s judgment, as she knew that was what hurt me most. There’s a Chinese saying: ‘A people’s mouth can be sharper than a knife.'”

Despite her ordeal, Shuai insists she remains dogged in her intention to make a life for herself in America, a country that she still regards as the greatest on Earth. But in the last analysis her decision to stay and protest her innocence is made on behalf of only one person.

“I want to prove to my daughter that her mother is not a murderer, and that she has been loved.”

www.womensenews.org/story/the-world/120530/uk-sees-rise-us-style-anti-abortion-tactics

By Sarah Ditum

WeNews correspondent

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Polls show most U.K. citizens support a woman’s right to choose abortion. But U.S.-style anti-choice tactics are picking up speed and fostering an aggressive activism movement marked by website hacking and clinic vigils.

BATH, England (WOMENSENEWS)–The United Kingdom may be a pro-choice nation in polling data, but U.S.-style anti-choice tactics are being used to attack that consensus.

Seventy percent of U.K. citizens polled in 2011 said it was a woman’s right to choose whether she continues her pregnancy.

 

But this pro-choice majority has long been opposed by vocal anti-abortion groups, such as the London-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, founded in 1966. And now U.S. anti-choice groups have expanded into the U.K., bringing more aggressive tactics that overshadow the homegrown movement.

 

One such organization is 40 Days for Life, founded in College Station, Texas, in 2004. The group’s self-proclaimed tactic is what they call peaceful prayer outside abortion clinics. (Its name refers to the length of the biannual vigils the group conducts.) However, employees of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service have reported that members of one vigil approached women attending the Bedford Square in London clinic. The Guardian has also reported that clinic workers accused 40 Days activists of filming people entering the clinics.

 

A second group, Abort67, is the English offspring of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, an anti-choice lobby group with headquarters in Lake Forest, Calif. The group, founded by Greg Cunningham, a former advisor to President Ronald Reagan, has more extreme tactics than 40 Days. Primarily active in Brighton and London, they display graphic images of late-term fetuses outside clinics in protest.

 

This type of graphic protest, fairly uncommon among British anti-choice groups, has proven to be an effective scare tactic. A rape victim, who walked through a protest by Abort67 to enter an abortion clinic, told her local paper it left her feeling “intimidated… panicky and judged.”

 

Website Hacking

Beyond protests, the criminal hacking of an abortion provider’s website here also had U.S. ties. In April, James Jeffrey was convicted of attacking a British Pregnancy Advisory Service website and stealing the personal information of 10,000 women who had registered with the site. He was also convicted of vandalizing the site with slogans referring to the “abortion industry,” a term with roots in U.S. anti-abortion rhetoric.

 

Following Jeffrey’s conviction, the BBC reported 2,500 attempts to hack the British Pregnancy Advisory Service’s website again, with more than half of those attacks originating in the United States.

 

Parliamentary efforts are also taking a harder anti-choice line. Conservative Member of Parliament for Mid-Bedfordshire Nadine Dorries has twice attempted to introduce legislation to lower the legal limit for abortion in the U.K. to 21 weeks from 24 weeks.

 

After these attempts failed, Dorries began casting aspersion on abortion providers. She criticized counseling provided by clinics as “biased” during a parliamentary debate on National Health Service practices in September last year.

 

The charge – common in the U.S. anti-choice movement – implied that providers were financially motivated profiteers. It has since gained currency within mainstream right-wing papers in the U.K., such as the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.

 

This is despite the fact that the vast majority of U.K. abortions are provided either by not-for-profit bodies (mostly Marie Stopes and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service) on behalf of the National Health Service, or by the National Health Service itself. Just 4 percent of abortions are privately funded, according to the Department of Health.

 

Committee Established

Although Dorries’ amendment was defeated, Anne Milton, the parliamentarian under secretary of state for health, said during the September debate that she was sympathetic to Dorries’ aims. She established a committee to discuss the possibility of independent abortion counseling. Dorries is on that committee, which was due to submit a report at the end of April that hasn’t been published yet.

 

Pro-choice M.P. Diane Abbott resigned from the committee in January, calling it a front for anti-abortion ideology.

 

In the face of these attacks, U.K. pro-choice activists are becoming increasingly organized. In Brighton and London, where 40 Days for Life has been most active, an initiative called “40 Days of  Treats” delivered cakes and biscuits to the affected clinics for every day of the 40 Days for Life’s vigil.

 

When the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child held roadside vigils to mark the anniversary of the 1967 abortion act–which legalized abortion in cases where a woman’s health or life is at risk or if a child is likely to be born with a serious mental or physical disability–pro-choice activists throughout the U.K. held counter-protests.

 

Local groups have offered leadership in the pro-choice cause. The Bloomsbury Pro-Choice Alliance in London and the Brighton Feminist Collective have been particularly engaged in organizing direct action and producing literature to refute alarmist claims of anti-choice groups.

 

On May 16, a pro-choice parliamentary meeting organized by the Abortion Rights Campaign brought activists, journalists, abortion providers and parliamentarians together to discuss how best to resist attacks on the right to choose.

 

But these groups are now clearly on the defensive.

 

In March, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley ordered inspections of every abortion clinic in the U.K., following a sting operation by the Telegraph newspaper. Doctors who provide abortions say this has left them feeling attacked and demoralized.

 

Clare Murphy, head of public policy at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said in an article for the Independent in March that there is a worrying possibility that doctors will be deterred from training to perform abortions at all.

 

Sarah Ditum lives in Bath, England. She is a freelance journalist on politics, family and health.

www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ghRk6T37kn927jhIvh8Uk6Riptqg?docId=CNG.36fb559df99f10c4f48da787ec944761.8a1

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.

www.huffingtonpost.com/barbara-becker/women-colombia_b_1503584.html

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: www.twitter.com/equalshot

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