On Tuesday May 28th the Lithuanian Parliament secured the abortion ban bill, proposed by the Electoral Action of Poles, to go to the parliamentary Committees on Human Rights, Health Affairs and Legal Affairs for further considerations. 46 MPs voted in favour, 19 were against and 25 abstained.  It will be sent back to the Seimas during the fall session.


The bill was supported by 20 representatives of the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, eight members of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania political group, eight representatives of the Labour Party and individual members of other political groups. Only members of the Liberal Movement political groups unanimously voted against the bill.


Under the proposed bill abortion would be possible only if it posed a threat to life or health of the woman or was the result of criminal acts. In such cases, abortion would be performed only by 12th week . Currently, abortions are allowed by the 12th week with no additional conditions. Around 10 000 abortions are performed in Lithuania every year.


This proposed anti-abortion bill has aroused a lot of controversy in the country. One month ago the Lithuanian Social Democratic Women’s Alliance appealed to members of the Seimas to dismiss the bill proposed by the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania. “Banning abortion is an act of violation of the European Convention of Human Rights which Lithuania has signed” as was written in their statement. The Alliance pointed to Poland as a negative example of introducing such law: “Polish women risk their life and health by terminating their pregnancies abroad”. They also underlined that abortion is not treated as a method of family planning and women should have the right to make their own decision in regards to pregnancy.


If Lithuania introduces the law which will dramatically limit women’s right to choose and access abortion it will be the fourth country in the EU, after Poland, Ireland and Malta to have banned abortion. The proposed bill is almost a copy of the existing Polish law which bans abortions except in case of rape, incest, fetal malformation or a threat to the woman’s health or life.


The Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania had already submitted an anti-abortion proposal in the Seimas in year 2005, it was even backed by it in 2007 until eventually dismissed.










You know who just doesn’t have enough rights in this country? You guessed it, rapists. Thank goodness House Republicans are here to look after these put-upon American citizens.

As much of the nation focuses on the Steubenville gang rape story, your failed Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-WI) was busy protecting rapists’ rights. Buried deep in the latest Fetus Rights Bill (aka, Sanctity of Human Life Act , H.R. 23: To provide that human life shall be deemed to begin with fertilization), wherein feti are given more rights than the women carrying them, is a section that will allow a rapist to sue his victim in order to stop her from getting an abortion, specifically if she were trying to get an abortion in a state that allows them while she lives in a state that does not.

Section 2(2) states, “The Congress affirms that the Congress, each State, the District of Columbia, and all United States territories have the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions.”

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones summed up the impact of this intentionally vague subsection, “In fact, if this bill were passed and the Supreme Court upheld it, I’ll bet that a rapist could go to court and sue to prevent his victim from getting an abortion. He’d argue that the fetus was legally a human being, and the court has no power to discriminate between one human being and another. He’d probably win, too.”

Yes, the rapist can sue to stop the abortion caused by the rape he perpetrated upon an unwilling female. Laura Beck at Jezebel points out, “Her rapist could theoretically sue to stop the abortion from happening, and probably win.”

This explains why Ryan was so busy listening to his iPod during the fiscal cliff negotiations. He has only introduced two bills that have passed over his entire 13 year career, one dealing with an excise tax for arrows and the other renaming a post office. His only other purpose in Congress is to keep reintroducing the Fetus Rights bill in order to avoid doing the math on his budget. Ryan started off the 113th congress with a bang by introducing his bill yet again.

It’s great that rapists have a voice in D.C., because what they crave the most is more power and control over their victims – and what better way to achieve that than to reward a rapist with the power to force his victim to carry his fetus to term. Representative Ryan has managed to incentivize rape.

Republicans haven’t addressed this hopefully unintentional consequence, but taken in context with their refusal to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, it is beginning to look as if Republicans are actively seeking to give criminals more access to women. But still, they deny that there is a Republican war on women. See, there wouldn’t be a war if you ladies would just be willing to turn over all of your rights to men, even if they are rapists (in Republicanese, we are to call the victim the “accuser” so as to suggest that most women lie about being raped… and then, if it was a legitimate rape, you would have shut that sh*t down, so this is all your fault).

Republican men in Congress may not know anything about the female body, including OB/GYN Rep. Gingrey who also co-sponsored this bill, but they still make better decisions about your body than you do, ladies. Think you’re going across state lines to exercise your rights? Not if the Republicans can stop you.

Luckily, this bill has as much chance of becoming law as House Republicans’ 34 attempts to overturn ObamaCare. But what else would you expect from Republicans’ Big Policy Wonk?

Lawsuit against Catholic Health Initiatives appealed to Colorado Supreme Court

By John Tomasic 
Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 8:54 am

Lori Stodghill was 31-one years old, seven-months pregnant with twin boys and feeling sick when she arrived at St. Thomas More hospital in Cañon City on New Year’s Day 2006. She was vomiting and short of breath and she passed out as she was being wheeled into an examination room. Medical staff tried to resuscitate her but, as became clear only later, a main artery feeding her lungs was clogged and the clog led to a massive heart attack. Stodghill’s obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, who also happened to be the obstetrician on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. His patient died at the hospital less than an hour after she arrived and her twins died in her womb.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Stodghill’s husband Jeremy, a prison guard, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on behalf of himself and the couple’s then-two-year-old daughter Elizabeth. Staples should have made it to the hospital, his lawyers argued, or at least instructed the frantic emergency room staff to perform a caesarian-section. The procedure likely would not have saved the mother, a testifying expert said, but it may have saved the twins.

The lead defendant in the case is Catholic Health Initiatives, the Englewood-based nonprofit that runs St. Thomas More Hospital as well as roughly 170 other health facilities in 17 states. Last year, the hospital chain reported national assets of $15 billion. The organization’s mission, according to its promotional literature, is to “nurture the healing ministry of the Church” and to be guided by “fidelity to the Gospel.” Toward those ends, Catholic Health facilities seek to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church authored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Those rules have stirred controversy for decades, mainly for forbidding non-natural birth control and abortions. “Catholic health care ministry witnesses to the sanctity of life ‘from the moment of conception until death,’” the directives state. “The Church’s defense of life encompasses the unborn.”

The directives can complicate business deals for Catholic Health, as they can for other Catholic health care providers, partly by spurring political resistance. In 2011, the Kentucky attorney general and governor nixed a plan in which Catholic Health sought to merge with and ultimately gain control of publicly funded hospitals in Louisville. The officials were reacting to citizen concerns that access to reproductive and end-of-life services would be curtailed. According to The Denver Post, similar fears slowed the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth’s plan over the last few years to buy out Exempla Lutheran Medical Center and Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center in the Denver metro area.

But when it came to mounting a defense in the Stodghill case, Catholic Health’s lawyers effectively turned the Church directives on their head. Catholic organizations have for decades fought to change federal and state laws that fail to protect “unborn persons,” and Catholic Health’s lawyers in this case had the chance to set precedent bolstering anti-abortion legal arguments. Instead, they are arguing state law protects doctors from liability concerning unborn fetuses on grounds that those fetuses are not persons with legal rights.

As Jason Langley, an attorney with Denver-based Kennedy Childs, argued in one of the briefs he filed for the defense, the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.”

The Catholic Health attorneys have so far won decisions from Fremont County District Court Judge David M. Thorson and now-retired Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Arthur Roy.

In September, the Stodghills’ Aspen-based attorney Beth Krulewitch working with Denver-based attorney Dan Gerash appealed the case to the state Supreme Court. In their petition they argued that Judges Thorson and Roy overlooked key facts and set bad legal precedent that would open loopholes in Colorado’s malpractice law, relieving doctors of responsibility to patients whose viable fetuses are at risk.

Whether the high court decides to take the case, kick it back down to the appellate court for a second review or accept the decisions as they stand, the details of the arguments the lawyers involved have already mounted will likely renew debate about Church health care directives and trigger sharp reaction from activists on both sides of the debate looking to underline the apparent hypocrisy of Catholic Health’s defense.

At press time, Colorado Health did not return messages seeking comment. The Stodghills’ attorneys declined to comment while the case was still being considered for appeal.

The Supreme Court is set to decide whether to take the case in the next few weeks.



European Court of Human Rights announced its judgment today in the case P. and S. v. Poland. Federation for Women and Family Planning and its lawyers have been involved in the case from the very beginning. It is a case of a teenage girl who was pregnant as a result of rape. Despite the fact that there was a relevant document issued by the prosecutor, she had been denied legal abortion in several hospitals. As a result she had to undergo the procedure in a hospital located 500 kilometers from her place of residence. Besides that, her right to confidentiality of medical information was breached, which resulted in severe harassment by pro-life and Catholic activists. The girl was also separated from her mother and placed in a juvenile shelter.

The Court determined violations of Article 8, (right to respect for private and family life) as regards the determination of access to lawful abortion in respect of both applicants (by six votes to one) and as regards the disclosure of the applicants’ personal data (unanimously);  Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) in respect of P., and a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of P.

The court held that Poland was to pay P. 30,000 euros (EUR) and S. EUR 15,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 16,000 to both applicants in respect of costs and expenses.

Read the judgment in full here: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/fra-press/pages/search.aspx?i=003-4140612-4882633


Unspoken Violence on Abortion, a Case Study of Indonesia

by Samsara YK on Friday, June 15, 2012 at 3:43am ·

By : Inna Hudaya & Zulkamal Hidaayat Zakaria



Most people in Indonesia has been viewing abortion as an immoral action because it against the positive norms of society. As some countries did, Indonesia preserves cultural and religious based principles which support a banning on abortion. For sure, abortion is illegal in Indonesia. Unfortunately, the government seems unaware of the side effect of such policy and fails to communicate majority and minority interests which are involved. Majority is people who support government policy on banning abortion and minority is people who against government policy on banning abortion. In this setting, the government and society also failed to identify women as a victim of the government policy. This policy has disposed women who commit abortion as criminals. Those women have been dealing with people who can’t accept abortion although it is associated with women authority over their body and future. As a result, women are more vulnerable to violence because the policy has labeled women who commit abortion as criminal instead of victim.


Criminalization of Abortion

The important point in understanding abortion issue in Indonesia is to recognize that it is illegal but it can be done for some specific reasons. Abortion is illegal but it can be done if the pregnancy will jeopardize the mother or fetus and if the pregnancy is caused by rape. This abortion can be taken before the gestational age of six weeks unless to save mother’s life. Even if it is possible to have an abortion until 6 weeks of gestational age, women still do not have authority over their own decision. For instance, married woman needs consent from her husband and unmarried woman needs a parental consent. In case of rape, the parental consent needs to be given with the approval statement from psychologist or psychiatrist.


Based on the Health National Law No 36/2009, the penalties were 10 years imprisonment or a fine of 1 billion IDR for anyone who had induced abortion. In fact, due to the restricted access on sex education, reproductive health and health service especially contraception, women are more vulnerable to unwanted pregnancy that leads to the need of safe abortion.


Women who are young, unmarried, less educated, poor and living in rural area, are the most vulnerable groups and severely affected while dealing with unplanned pregnancy. At this point, unsafe abortion is the available and accessible option for them. On the other hand, the criminalization of abortion did not impact only on the number of unsafe abortion and maternal mortality but it had created many kinds of violence toward women’s rights. This policy has provided an open chance for industry of abortion to develop. Most of abortion clinics in such industry are illegal, especially in Java Island. Those clinics provide abortion services for women without the considering the rights of patients. Women were taking for granted in this situation. Moreover, many drug dealers used to cheat on women who could not report it to the police because abortion is illegal. Frankly, the circumstance has been creating many forms of violence and problem toward the issue of abortion to grow.


Based on the facts above, criminalization of abortion is violation against women rights instead of solution. The government policy was not only possessing women as an object of violence but it was also letting people to take advantage on the situation of women itself. It is hypocrisy of nation who they believe that abortion is sin and create other forms of sin which is violating women rights.


Criminalization of abortion is not a proper way to reduce the number of abortion. On the contrary, this policy made violence toward women remain unspoken. The only way to reduce the number of abortion is by giving sex education and reproductive health and an open access to health services so women will have a control over their sexual and reproductive life that will protect them from unwanted pregnancy.


SAMSARA Project for Change: Reclaiming Access to Safe Abortion

While the government and society failed to identify women as victim from the ongoing policy, women died and suffered from complications caused by unsafe abortion. There’s no time to wait any longer for the government to take action in saving women’s live. Saving the life of women doesn’t always mean to save women from severe complications, traumas, depressions and maternal deaths. Life also means the quality of women’s living condition which includes access to education, health, economy and bargaining position. Based on the situation in Indonesia, the most important thing is a real programs and strategies that will help women to access safe abortion services and create a supportive network in society to reduce stigma and discrimination. In the future, the social changes are expected to decriminalize abortion in Indonesia.


SAMSARA, an organization based in Yogyakarta has been working to promote the reproductive health, sexuality, gender, spirituality, culture and human rights on abortion issues. SAMSARA also provides access to education, information and counseling on abortion based on sexuality and reproductive health and rights. Through its work, SAMSARA has found an urgent need to inform and empower women so they have sufficient knowledge and support to choose and access a safe abortion. We believe that changes are indisputably needed, not only by supporting and empowering the women but also taking a pro active part in providing education to people; influencing social movements; expanding discourses and strengthening a supportive network.


Since 2008, we started a program called Safe Abortion Hotline where we assist women in making decision and finding a safe clinic for abortion. Actually, women should find the clinic of abortion by themselves. Our main job in this program is to provide advice to women to recognize a reliable abortion clinic, affordable, meets the medical standard and avoid them getting deceived by service provider. Mostly, women have to go through the process by themselves without any companion. In this situation, the hotline is available to assist women in the process.



In 2011, we integrated a Medical Abortion into the hotline program. The hotline promotes the use of Misoprostol which is one of recognized method in medical abortion as an alternative option for safe abortion until 9 weeks pregnancy. Hotline is assisting women in making decision, provide information and open access to safe abortion. In this hotline program, women need to confirm their decision before the hotline counselors refer them to service provider or assist them to have abortion at home. It is necessary to ensure that abortion is the decision of the women, not the decision of her partner or family.


If the women can access clinic, hotline will refer women to have surgical abortion. But most women can’t access a clinic because of the distance and price. Most women choose medical abortion. Once women get the pills, a counselor will be available by phone to assist women when women have abortion at home. Usually counselor will ask women to make notes about the process so all information will be helpful for following up the consultation process. Follow up consultation is needed to ensure that the abortion is completed. Hotline also works on the improvement of its service to help women in every step so they won’t face abortion by themselves when it is being taken.


Between May 2011 to May 2012 we received 1.425 calls, emails and face to face session. 71,1 % of the clients are unmarried women. SAMSARA considers Medical Abortion as an ultimate option for safe abortion in a restricted setting like Indonesia. Medical Abortion is not only cheaper, but it also protects the privacy of the women, gives full control and authority to the women and encourages women to focus and care over their body.


Safe Abortion Hotline is an action in reclaiming access to safe abortion. Since our government failed in respect, fulfill and protect women life, it is a time for civil society to act. The absence of real actions to change the circumstance will remain the unending violence on abortion for women. We can’t rely on government to saves women in crisis. Only by listening, supporting and working together, with or without government assistance, we can save women life. The choice is ours, whether to let the unspoken violence to continue or to change the unjust to a just world.


A friend of mine is a physician who wants to speak about transvaginal ultrasounds but whose position makes it precarious to speak publicly about it. So I’m letting this doctor borrow my site for an entry to speak anonymously on the matter. Obviously, I will vouch for the doctor being a doctor and being qualified to speak on the subject.

Update, 9:14pm: This post is being linked to far and wide, so we’re getting lots of new readers and commenters. It’s important that before you comment you read the site disclaimer and comment policy. I delete comments I find particularly stupid. Try not to write one of them.

Update: 12:13am, 3/21: I’m going to bed, so I turned off the comments for the night. I’ll turn them back on when I get up tomorrow. Night!

Update: 1pm, 3/21: As a head’s up to people, at 8pm eastern time…

View original post 936 more words

One of the coalition parties in the Hungarian government is introducing an amendment to Hungary’s budget for 2012 that would delete the amount set aside for subsidizing abortions. We are seeking signatures by organizations to the attached letter until Saturday 10th December and will submit the letter on Monday.

If you wish to sign the letter, please send your name, position and organizational affiliation to the following two addresses by 24:00 (Central European Time) Saturday 10th December 2011:


We will also prepare a press release on this letter, and your name, position and organization may appear in it.

Best regards,
Gábor Kuszing, Patent Association, http://www.patent.org.hu<http://www.patent.org.hu/>
Stefánia Kapronczay, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, http://www.tasz.hu<http://www.tasz.hu>


The letter:


To: Orbán Viktor

Subject: Stop Budget Cut on Abortion

Dear Mr Prime Minister Orbán Viktor,

We are writing to express our concern that two Hungarian MPs of your coalition partner KDNP have introduced an amendment to the bill on Hungary’s 2012 budget to delete the 400 million forints (1.374 million euros) originally planned to support the medical bills of women who cannot afford to pay for an abortion. Currently the mandatory health insurance covers only the cost of abortions carried out on health-related grounds. If the pregnancy is the result of a crime or if the abortion is requested for other, legal, reasons, the price has to be covered by the woman herself. However she can ask for a reduction or waiver based on her socioeconomic situation. It is this option that your colleagues at KDNP want to abolish.

Studies cited by the Guttmacher Institute—a highly respected think tank relied upon by both sides of the abortion debate—indicate that restricting poor girls’ and women’s access to abortion results in women carrying unwanted pregnancies to term against their will. This should not happen if abortion is legal in a country. Research shows also that even the poor women who manage to scrape the money together do so at a cost: they use money they would otherwise spend on utility bills, food and clothing for themselves and their children, they pawn necessary household item and and are forced to wait 2 to 3 weeks longer than those women who find themselves in a more advantaged financial situation. This results in more complicated, later abortions, and some women will undoubtedly miss the deadline for a legal abortion altogether.

Deleting this amount from next year’s budget will deprive the poorest and most vulnerable of women and adolescents from the ability to exercise some control over their fertility. Thus the proposed measure would have a clear discriminatory effect, targeting those who are already in a disadvantaged position in society and making it even harder for them to regain control over their lives. Our sources in the Hungarian medical profession claim that much of this funding covers the abortion costs of teenage girls who live in poverty or in children’s homes, and of other women who are so poor that the cost of an abortion (29,710 forints or 102 euros) constitutes a major barrier in their access to legal reproductive health services. These girls and women could easily lose their chance to access education; their ability to raise their already existing children could be negatively affected if they were to give birth to another child; and they could be exposed to an even deeper level of poverty.

We would like to remind the Hungarian government of its obligations under human rights law, for example, under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). These treaties and their respective monitoring bodies specify that practices that discriminate against women and girls and barriers to health care must be removed in order for Hungary to live up to its international obligations. Any steps that worsen the situation for women and girls in their access to reproductive health care and that increase discrimination shall be seen as retrogressive and are as such prohibited under international human rights law.

For the above-mentioned reasons we request you to stop this amendment by speaking up against it and by instructing members of your party to vote against it.

Respectfully yours,



Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand

1 June 2011

ALRANZ Applauds Court Ruling in Abortion Case

ALRANZ tonight applauded the Court of Appeal judgment in the long-running anti-abortion court case as a victory for the reproductive rights of all New Zealand women.

“Today’s ruling issued by the Court of Appeal rejected a series of legal challenges to abortion access in New Zealand by the anti-abortion group Right to Life, which began in 2005,” ALRANZ president Dr. Morgan Healey said tonight.

“ALRANZ is heartened by the ruling, which will bring some peace of mind to both women seeking abortion care and doctors who help provide it,” she said.

The anti-abortion group’s claim that the fetus has a right to life under New Zealand law was firmly rejected by the court, as was the 2008 ruling by Justice Miller that there was “reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions”, she said.

Dr. Healey said that in rejecting the 2008 ruling, the court has ensured that doctors can’t be pressured or second-guessed over authorizing abortions.

“This is crucial for ensuring women continue to have abortion access under our criminalised abortion system,” she said.

Under New Zealand law, two certifying consultants must approve every abortion under limited grounds set out in the Crimes Act. Right to Life argued that many abortions were wrongly approved under the mental health ground, and claimed that the Abortion Supervisory Committee wasn’t doing enough to ensure the law was being complied with.

“The court has rejected those arguments, protecting the medical integrity of doctors and the work of the Abortion Supervisory Committee,” Dr. Healey said.

However, the fact that our law is constantly facing these kinds of legal challenges speaks to the need for abortion to be decriminalized in New Zealand, she said.

ALRANZ noted that Right to Life was ordered to pay costs in the case.

For a timeline of the case, visit: www.alranz.org




Dr Sim-Poey Choong Chair, ASAP

Malaysia in the Asian context
The Malaysian situation clearly doesn’t have the urgency that is seen in other countries in Asia in such as India, Nepal, Indonesia or the Philippines where the high mortality and morbidity rates from unsafe abortions provide a dramatic argument for change.

This is seen for example, in our low MMR (<15/100,000) and our low mortality rates for abortion complications (2-5/year).

Malaysia is seen as a very progressive nation with good living standards, health care, and infrastructure; the iconic Petronas Twin Towers stands in the heart of KL, our capital city. Women have free access to education and high career achievements as ministers and CEOs which says a lot for the progress we have made in social development.

Other indicators are however a matter of concern –e.g. the incidence of teen pregnancies remains high, and contraceptive prevalence rate is low. As pointed out by Prof. Low in her article, social changes taking place in Malaysia has made teen pregnancies a very visible problem. This has resulted in the recent media hype over teen pregnancies and baby ‘dumping’.

But, like many economically developed countries, as in the USA, the stigma attached to abortion makes it the last ‘right’ for women to achieve in terms of equality in decision making and control of her own bodies and their sexuality.

Abortion within the Medical Fraternity
As a young doctor, I was truly puzzled over the medical profession’s irrational attitude to women’s sexual and reproductive health issues; evident from their early objections to the pill and IUCD as posing a danger to women ‘abusing their freedom’. A similar situation has now arisen over the introduction of medical abortion with mifepristone and misoprostol.

The stigmatization of abortion has made efforts to open up this issue, a long and difficult journey. Trying to bring up the subject for rational discussion, until recently, was virtually impossible, even within medical circles. This is despite the overwhelming evidence that abortion is widely available and practiced here.

Surprisingly, even doctors who provided abortions ‘on the quiet’ were ignorant of the penal code on abortion, amended in 1989. A survey done by RRAAM in 2008 revealed that only 57% of doctors and nurses knew the law and while a survey of client seeking abortions, more than half thought it was illegal.

A recent experience with a colleague illustrated this point dramatically; an O&G in charge of a local maternity home who performed occasional abortions came to me in great distress; he had dismissed a nurse for misconduct and she had then threatened to ‘expose’ him. I was surprised he had never bothered to examine the penal code on abortion until I brought it up!

Situation in the 70’s
In the 70s, the concern for abortion access came not from statistics (there were none) but from grassroots healthcare providers who meet women faced with unwanted pregnancies daily. Those facts were evident in my early years as a family planning volunteer. But somehow most women then found a way out, often by accessing competent abortion providers which presumably accounted for the relatively low complication rates.

Exploitation by the profession
At that time, the penal code permitted abortion only ’to save the mother’s life’ (1971). However, as happens everywhere else, it was available for anyone who could afford it, often at exorbitant fees. While working as a consultant anaesthetist in private hospitals it became obvious to me that fees for abortions were often ‘disproportionate’ in relation to other similar procedure. (That was my main occupation for the 8 years of my professional life). At that time all abortions were D&Cs performed under a general anaesthetic.

Sneaking in Abortion Services via MR
In the 60s, the Karman Cannula had been established as a cheaper safer method for abortion under local anaesthetic, but it remained untapped in Malaysia until in the mid 70s, when the late Prof I. S. Puvan of University Malaya had the vision to see its potential and decided to introduce it as ‘menstrual regulation’ (called MR) thus by-passing the penal code by performing the procedure in early pregnancy without confirming it with a urine pregnancy test.

Thus in the mid 70s, as a result of his position and influence, MR gained some acceptance as a legal way of providing abortions. It was even practiced at certain government clinics officially for a time. Sadly, it was not taken up in a big way but MRs remained a low key service provided by some private clinics with charges remaining high.

FFPAM1 and Abortion services in Penang
Although the IPPF supported this move and introduced it to the Family Planning Associations of Malaysia (FFPAM), it was never taken up because of the sentiment of the grass roots members. However, on Prof Puvan’s advice, I agreed to set up a service in my group GP practice in Penang for the equivalent of US$20/- when the standard charge was then US$100/-.

As it happened, the demand for MR services raised so quickly that within a year my GP services were discontinued to focus on abortions for unintended pregnancies and post abortion contraception. Some government objections to my ‘open’ concept abortion clinic were expected, but none came. Actually, from the legal records, no doctor in Malaysia had ever been charged for performing an uncomplicated early abortion, even though, under the 1971 penal code, they clearly breached the law.

Legal Reform and after
There was a breakthrough in legal reform in 1989, when more abortion complications surfaced through the media, possibly one effect of urbanization and the need for smaller families. The clause added in was in line with the British Penal Code that they had amended in 1957 which is to allow abortion for threat of injury to the ‘mental or physical health of the woman’.

Many of us heaved a sigh of relief and I had hoped this was the cue for the family planning associations to take a leading role in providing this service; at that time I was in the executive council of the Federation of FPAs Malaysia, later becoming chairman (1992-6). Despite all my efforts, this never came through; such was the conservative sentiment amongst members at the time.

New Players in Abortion Advocacy
From FIGO, Ipas to RRAAM

There were few developments in advocacy in Malaysia until the FIGO conference took place in Malaysia in 2006 and the APCRSH/FFPAM conference a year later. Prof Anibal Faundes, a past president of FIGO, made a strong stand on the blight of unsafe abortions and the absolute need to recognize it as a major factor in women’s health, in consonance with her basic human rights. At those conferences, Ipas was promoting their safe abortion initiatives while the Asian-pacific Research and Resource centre for Women (ARROW), through an initiative by Ms Rashidah Abdullah, had put up a side symposium to address unmet needs in Malaysia.

All this together created an opportunity to discuss with Ipas the possibility of a project to address the abortion issue; the coalition was formally started in 2007 drawing members who had been activists working directly or indirectly with the family planning associations. Called the Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia (RRAAM), it was committed to promoting women’s reproductive rights and services (particularly, to contraceptive access for youths and marginalized groups and to safe abortions).

Further developments were initiated in 2008 when International Consortium on Medical Abortion (ICMA) and IPPF (ESEAOR) organized a regional forum on abortion access in Kuala Lumpur. Major players in reproductive health from 15 countries attended including some donor agencies to discuss and share ideas on the situation in Asia.

The members at the meeting concluded that while different countries faced different obstacles in making safe abortion assessable, there were many individual activists and agencies promoting the same cause in each country. However, there was no central coordinating group that could harness the different experiences to help each other. This became the rationale for creating the new coalition. The Asia Safe Abortion Partnership (ASAP) was thus formed to provide an active network of advocates.

For RRAAM, this provided us opportunity to become part of a regional and global movement. The network has obviously benefited members through it regular email forums, organizing workshops in abortion technology, advocacy strategies and values clarification. But apart from this, the realization of being members of an international movement has significant internal and external impacts.

Speaking for RRAAM members, we have broken out of a shell that labeled us as an isolated ‘eccentric non-conformist group’ and for the general public, RRAAM is now seen as part of an international movement in sync with the efforts of international agencies like IPPF, ICMA, Ipas, Gynuity, etc. and prominent regional players from Vietnam to Nepal. The gratifying response to the joint ASAP/RRAAM seminar on Abortion Access in January 2011 in Kuala Lumpur is, I believe, a testimony to this.

1. Now changed to Federation of Reproductive Health Associations Malaysia (FRHAM)

The New Times, Rwanda

Late last week The New Times reported the arrest of two women, Clemence Yezakuzwe and Chantal Nyirandengayobagira, after they underwent abortions.

These two women, aged 25 and 21 respectively, have fallen foul of our criminal code which makes abortion illegal unless it’s carried out to save the life of the mother, and is supervised by a trained medical officer.

Ms.Nyirandengayo-bagira is currently in hospital after she developed complications and started hemorrhaging profusely.

Police in her home district of Rutsiro, say that she will be charged with murder as soon as she’s back on her feet. The same fate awaits Ms. Yezakuzwe.

The two have differing reasons for undergoing the dangerous operation; Nyirandengayobagira because her husband had abandoned her and Yezakuzwe says she simply wasn’t ready for a baby.

We cannot doubt that they indeed participated in this illegal activity; however I cannot simply say “they broke the law, they deserve the wrath of it”. I find the law itself harsh, unenforceable, mistaken and morally wrong. 

Abortion is frowned upon in so many countries because of the belief that human life begins at conception.

So, in other words, as soon as the egg is fertilized and attached itself to the uterine walls, human life has begun. A life that must be protected by the society it finds itself in.

But this begs a few questions that I feel must be answered by our law makers.

Does life really begin at the moment of conception? Or at some other period later on, is it in the second trimester or just in the third?

Presently Rwandan law does not make this distinction and as a result abortion can be exactly what a judge and prosecutor think it is.

This is extremely dangerous especially with the increased use of the Morning-After pill. This contraceptive, used not later than three days after unprotected sex, induces a miscarriage.

Women who use this pill, which is readily available in Rwandan pharmacies, to stop them getting pregnant are, at least according to Rwandan law, if it’s followed to the letter, guilty of abortion.

The new criminal code, which has still not been passed by the Parliament, has to carefully define exactly what the criminal definition of ‘abortion’ is.

To keep it ambiguous is dangerous and will put women in unnecessary collisions with the law.

From time immemorial abortion has been part of the human experience and, while it’s been frowned upon for just as long, it’s never become an outdated practice. There, surely, must be a reason for this.

Carrying a baby to term, giving birth to it and then raising it is hard work. Once that choice is made one’s life is forever altered, your life now revolves around another human being who is helpless without you.

That kind of responsibility is huge and should not be taken lightly and if a woman, for whatever reason, feels that she’s not able to handle it, who are we to tell her that she must? Are we punishing her because she dared have sex?

When one realizes that most of our laws are made by men, living in patriarchal societies, I begin to suspect that controlling female sexuality is the hidden goal of these anti-abortion laws.

While we might pretend that we are protecting the interests of the child, are we really? How is it in the best interests of the child to be raised in a household that doesn’t love him/her? Or simply can’t cater for its needs?

Raising a child in a loving household is hard enough; imagine doing it after your husband has abandoned you? Are we to further punish women because they aren’t able or ready to have a child? Where is our compassion?

What does it say about my society that a woman is dragged from a hospital bed to a jail cell?

In this religious nation (to think otherwise is silly) legalizing abortions will probably cause a big fuss. But to bury our heads in the sand and refuse to see that abortions are happening all the time, is irresponsible.

Why not get off our moral high horses and make sure that our precious women have the best medical care they can get? That would be the Christian thing to do.


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