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.

 

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New racist anti-choice billboards show up in NYC

By MIRIAM | Published: FEBRUARY 24, 2011

Picture of a young black girl with the message "The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb"

The huge billboard featured above recently went up in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City. Sponsored by the Texas group Life Always, this billboard is just one in a series of similarly targeted billboards that have gone up around the country. This one is conveniently located around the corner from the NYC Planned Parenthood.

Responses from the organization behind the billboard specifically talk about targeting Planned Parenthood and the rates of abortion among African-American women.

Reproductive justice advocates are livid.

From Sistersong and the Trust Black Women Partnership:

Yesterday, racist billboards went up in Soho attacking black women and our human rights by claiming “the most dangerous place for an African American child is in the womb.” SisterSong, a coalition of 80 women of color and Indigenous women’s organizations, denounces this cynical attempt to use race during Black History Month as an excuse to assault women’s rights. Black women are not the pawns of these white people who erect such billboards. We find them offensive, racist, sexist and – most of all – disrespectful of our decision making, our 400-year history of raising and caring for black children, and our human right to make health care choices for ourselves.

Read the full statement here.

Also, an interesting note. The mother of the child pictured (who is only 6 years old)apparently had no idea how her daughter’s image was going to be used: “I would never endorse something like that,” says Tricia Fraser, Anissa’s mother. “Especially with my child’s image.” Her daughter’s photo was taken by an ad agency and then sold to a stock photo company, where the anti-choice group purchased it for the ad. Fraser is now demanding that her daughter’s image be taken off the billboard.

UPDATE: Want to take action against the offensive billboard? Contact the advertising company that hosts the billboard and ask them to remove it:

Lamar Advertising
General Manager: Peter Costanza, pcostanza@lamar.com
437 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016

Phone: 212-644-6147
Fax: 212-644-6148

 

New racist anti-choice billboard campaign to target Latinas

By MIRIAM | Published: JUNE 8, 2011

Billboard that reads, The most dangerous place for a Latino is in the womb

The racist trope regarding abortion rates in African American communities, promoted primarily through billboard campaigns, has expanded to include Latinas.

According to the Daily Caller, the billboard pictured is set to show up in Los Angeles next week, connected to a group called Latino Partnership for a Conservative Principles. Among the board members of the group is Luis Fortuno, the Governor of Puerto Rico.

The message is very similar to the billboard that we fought against in Manhattan earlier this year, with a few exceptions. This billboard is bilingual, which means that in the Spanish version of the statement the word madre (mother) appears, and is emphasized. In the English version that attacked African-American women, the word mother, even the word woman, was entirely absent. It was a shocking contrast to the fact that the ads themselves were actually targeting Black women as the ones putting Black children in danger, even though they never actually mentioned them.

I’m disgusted, but not particularly surprised. Like Steph, as a Latina, I’m angry that my community is being targeted. But I’m not more angry than I was when I saw the first billboards attacking African-American women. I already felt attacked by those original billboards, because these tactics aren’t actually about the communities they target.

They are instead about attacking abortion, trying to race bait, divide the pro-choice community along racial lines. They implicitly make women of color the culprit, the ones responsible for this myth of genocide in our communities. Whether it’s African-American women, or Latinas, or Indigenous women–they are simply using women of color to forward their anti-choice agenda.

Regardless of whether they are attacking your community, they are attacking all of us and we need to fight back.

I’ll keep an eye out for any action items targeting these billboards and post them.

In the land of gauchos, pampas, the tango, grilled beef, Evita and now legal same-sex marriage, unsafe abortion is the leading cause of maternal mortality. In 2008, more than 20 percent of deaths resulting from obstetric emergencies were caused by unsafe abortions, according to a report issued by Human Rights Watch.

The administration of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Argentina’s first woman president, has adopted a “don’t cry for them” policy, and cavalierly denies her sister citizens their reproductive rights. In July, her health minister, Juan Luis Manzur, signed a resolution that would allow abortions for rape victims without requiring a police report–only to issue a statement on July 30 saying that he had notsigned it and that the government was “against abortion.” He said the president felt the same way.

There had been some hope about President Fernandez de Kirchner’s position on abortion because she’s a women. But she has firmly stated on numerous occasions that she has “always been against abortion.”

The Catholic Church has enormous influence in Argentina, where 91 percent of the population is Catholic, and it opposes not only abortion but birth control and sex education, keeping the laws on the books from being enforced. The president and Argentine congress faced down the Church when they voted to authorize same-sex marriages. Why can’t they summon the same resolve to act in the best interests of women and girls whose lives are at stake?

These anti-abortion policies are not benign–there are victims. Official figures estimate that 40 percent of pregnancies (500,000) per year end in illegal abortions. Each year about 68,000 women enter public hospitals due to complications from unsafe abortions, and about 100 of those women will die.

I’ve often heard anti-choice mourning about the prevented birth of another Einstein or Gandhi. But what about the loss of a talented woman who dies from an illegal abortion? Or what happens to a young woman who can’t continue her education due to an unplanned pregnancy and is doomed to a life of poverty or trapped in a violent relationship because she’s economically dependent on a man? How many of these women could have been president (albeit with better politics than Fernandez), doctors, ministers of health, teachers, composers or scientists? Of course they couldn’t have been priests, but that’s another issue.

The Catholic Church, President Fernandez and anti-choice activists everywhere don’t want to hear about a woman’s life and potential. It’s only the fetus they imbue with a future.

by Carol Kng