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Mesa Redonda en la OEA: Violencia contra las mujeres y derechos sexuales y reproductivos en las Américas

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 15:36
Mesa Redonda en la OEA: Violencia contra las mujeres y derechos sexuales y reproductivos en las Américas paula-CIM.jpg

19.12.14 -  El 2 de diciembre de 2014, en la Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA) en Washington D.C, Paula Avila-Guillen, Asesora de Incidencia para Latino América y el Caribe, en representación del Centro de Derechos Reproductivos, participó en la Mesa Redonda: Violencia contra las mujeres y derechos sexuales y reproductivos en las Américas: Avances y desafíos persistentes. La intervención del Centro resaltó la relación entre violencia y derechos reproductivos en las Américas y visibilizó el contraste entre las altas cifras de violencia sexual y el reducido acceso para las mujeres a servicios esenciales de salud como el aborto debido a barreras legales y administrativas.

En la mesa se resaltó la importancia y el impacto de la reciente “Declaración sobre la Violencia contra las Mujeres, Niñas y Adolescentes y sus Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos” aprobada por el Comité de Expertas del Mecanismo de Seguimiento de la Convención de Belém do Pará (MESECVI) (MESECVI/CEVI/DEC.4/14, septiembre de 2014). La mesa fue organizada por la Comisión Interamericana de Mujeres (CIM), la Misión Observadora Permanente de Francia ante la OEA y la Organización Panamericana de la Salud (OPS). Encuentre aquí el video.

República Dominicana a punto de permitir el aborto en casos específicos

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 23:00
República Dominicana a punto de permitir el aborto en casos específicos

17.12.14 - (COMUNICADO DE PRENSA) La Cámara de Diputados de República Dominicana ha aprobado la reforma al Código Penal, permitiendo el aborto en casos de violación o incesto y en los casos en que el embarazo suponga un riesgo a la salud de la mujer, siendo este un gran avance para garantizar el acceso al aborto legal y seguro en el país.

Siguiendo los estándares establecidos por el derecho internacional de los derechos humanos, el  28 de noviembre, el Presidente Danilo Medina envió una carta a la Cámara de Diputados solicitando al Congreso modificar la reforma al Código Penal para permitir el aborto legal y seguro en circunstancias específicas.

Si la reforma al Código es aprobada, República Dominicana se convertiría en el 36° país que en los últimos 20 años cambia su ley para permitir el acceso al aborto legal y seguro en el mundo, dejando a un lado la prohibición total que criminalizaba su práctica.

Nancy Northup, Presidenta y Directora Ejecutiva del Centro de Derechos Reproductivos afirmó:

“Remover las restricciones más perjudiciales con el objetivo de garantizar el aborto es un avance primordial para garantizar los derechos humanos de las mujeres”.

“La prohibición total del aborto en República Dominicana ha afectado innecesariamente la vida de miles de mujeres y sus familias”.

“Aún queda mucho más trabajo por hacer y que el país puede realizar para prevenir más daño e injusticias”.

“Esperamos que el gobierno trabaje rápidamente para sancionar la reforma al Código Penal para que más mujeres se les garantice el derecho al acceso a servicios de salud reproductiva en el país”.

República Dominicana es actualmente uno de seis países en América Latina que prohíbe de manera absoluta el aborto sin ningún tipo de excepción, lo que ha llevado a que más de 90.000 mujeres se expongan a abortos inseguros y clandestinos en el país cada año.

“Felicitamos al Presidente Medina y a la Cámara de Diputados por tomar este importante primer paso en aras de proteger y respetar los derechos humanos de las mujeres”, dijo Mónica Arango, Directora Regional para América Latina y el Caribe del Centro de Derechos Reproductivos.

Conforme a un reciente informe del Centro, 35 países han reformado su legislación para expandir el acceso a servicios de abortos seguros y legales en los últimos 20 años – una tendencia que ha marcado un gran progreso para los derechos de las mujeres, reduciendo de manera significativa las tasas de mortalidad materna debido a abortos inseguros. El informe fue publicado en conjunto con el Mapa sobre Leyes de Aborto en el Mundo—uno de los recursos interactivos más completos en materia de leyes sobre aborto en el mundo.

Dominican Republic Set to Allow Abortion in Limited Circumstances

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 23:00
Dominican Republic Set to Allow Abortion in Limited Circumstances

12.17.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) The Dominican Republic Chamber of Deputies has agreed to amend the country’s Penal Code to allow abortion in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the pregnant woman is at risk—a major step toward expanding access to safe and legal abortion.

On November 28, in accordance with international human rights standards, President Danilo Medina sent a letter to the Chamber of Deputies asking Congress to change the Penal Code to allow safe and legal abortion in limited circumstances.

Once this revised code is approved, the Dominican Republic will become the 36th country to decriminalize abortion in the last 20 years, ending the country’s absolute ban on abortion and the harsh penalties associated with it. 

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Loosening the most severe and harmful restrictions on safe, legal abortion care is an essential step toward ensuring the fundamental human rights of women.

“The abortion ban in the Dominican Republic has needlessly destroyed the lives of countless women and families, and there is still more that the country must do to prevent further harm and injustice.

“We hope the government works quickly to approve this revised penal code so that more women can get the essential reproductive health care that is their right.”

The Dominican Republic is currently one of only six countries in Latin America that completely bans abortion with no explicit exceptions, which has led to more than 90,000 unsafe abortions occurring in the country each year. 

“We commend the President and Chamber for taking this first critical step toward protecting and respecting women’s fundamental human rights to reproductive health care,” said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin American and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

According to a recent Center report, 35 countries have amended their laws to expand access to safe and legal abortion services in the last 20 years—a trend that has marked incredible progress toward improving women’s rights and lives, including significantly reducing rates of maternal mortality due to unsafe abortion. The report was released alongside the Center’s updated World’s Abortion Laws map—one of the most comprehensive resources on abortion laws across the globe.​

Abortion Worldwide: 20 Years of Reform

President Obama Signs Historic Funding Bill Granting Peace Corps Volunteers Long-Denied Abortion Coverage

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 23:00
President Obama Signs Historic Funding Bill Granting Peace Corps Volunteers Long-Denied Abortion Coverage For the first time, women serving in the Peace Corps will have health care coverage for abortions in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment

12.17.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) Last night President Barack Obama signed the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act for FY 2015 into law, which includes an historic budgetary fix that will finally allow women serving in the Peace Corps equal health care coverage for abortion services in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment.

Until this point, Peace Corps Volunteers have been barred from abortion coverage in any circumstance – even in the case of rape or a life-threatening pregnancy. With the signing of this new funding bill, Peace Corps Volunteers will have the same limited coverage available to federal employees, women receiving health care assistance through Medicaid, and most recently, military servicewomen. President Barack Obama included long-denied coverage in his annual budget proposal for FY2015, and this summer appropriations committees in both the Senate and House voted to include the critical fix in their respective funding bills.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“For the first time in more than 30 years, the dedicated women of the Peace Corps will have the same coverage for reproductive health care as all who serve the U.S.”

“Women who have decided to end a pregnancy because of rape, incest, or life-threatening complications will no longer have to wonder how they are going to pay for the health care they need.

“We commend President Obama and the bipartisan supporters of this measure in Congress for their commitment and leadership, which has finally made equal reproductive health care coverage for women in the Peace Corps a reality.”

A recent study documented more than a dozen women’s personal experiences with abortion while serving in the Peace Corps—from the time before the discriminatory federal ban was put in place in the late 1970s through 2013. The study’s authors concluded that “lifting the federal restrictions on abortion coverage in cases of rape, whether through the appropriations process or a stand-alone bill, would be consistent with this overarching effort to respond better to the needs of sexual assault survivors serving in the Peace Corps.”

Peace Corps Volunteers—63 percent of whom are women–are only paid a monthly stipend of $250-$300, typically less than the cost of a first-trimester abortion. Several women interviewed in the study reported serious challenges paying out-of-pocket for the procedure. One participant explained, “I got a comfortable monthly stipend to be living in those local conditions, but there’s no way that the stipend would have been enough for me to obtain a safe abortion.” Over 97 percent of the study’s participants supported efforts to extend health care coverage in cases of life endangerment, rape, and incest.

“It is comforting beyond words that my voice, along with the voices of my fellow returned Peace Corps volunteers affected by this ban, have been heard and acknowledged, and our fight has been fruitful,” said Christine Carcano, a former Peace Corps volunteer who has shared her own story of struggling to pay for an abortion after she was raped during her service in Peru. “This change is about support and compassion for a woman in time of need, and it is an absolute relief that no future Peace Corps volunteer will have to feel the effects of this traumatizing policy. If there is any silver lining to such a situation, this is it.”

Senate Committee Passes Appropriations Bill Promoting Equal Health Coverage for Peace Corps Volunteers House Appropriations Committee Approves Abortion Coverage for Peace Corps Volunteers New Study Documents the Human Toll of Unequal Abortion Coverage for Peace Corps Volunteers

South Carolina: A Sign of Harmful Laws to Come?

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 11:10
South Carolina: A Sign of Harmful Laws to Come?

12.15.14 - Lawmakers in South Carolina have pre-filed an assortment of new legislation aimed at making it harder for women to access legal abortion care and birth control. Worse still, it’s a possible bellwether of what’s to come this year from state legislatures across the country.

According to an article in The Huffington Post, the South Carolina State Legislature now faces seven new proposed measures that specifically target women’s reproductive health and rights. These include several different abortion bans: one that would ban the procedure after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, and another at 20 weeks.

Both of these bans would be violations of the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Roe v. Wade that states may not restrict abortion before viability (usually considered 24 weeks).

As HuffPost notes, Republican state senator Lee Bright—sponsor of five of the seven bills—acknowledges that the bills are overlapping, but says he is waiting to "see which [bill] gets the most traction."

Other pre-filed measures include a personhood bill—which Bright says he is “most passionate” about, despite the fact that personhood measures have been rejected nationwide without exception every time they have been introduced—and an admitting privileges bill. This restriction requires abortion providers to have unnecessary admitting privileges at a local hospital.

If this bill passes, South Carolina will join the growing list of states restricting abortion access by advancing medically unjustified measures that target providers and close clinics, while doing nothing to promote the health and safety of women.

Supreme Court Denies Review of Arizona Abortion Restrictions, Politically Motivated Law Remains Blocked by Court Order

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 09:26
Supreme Court Denies Review of Arizona Abortion Restrictions, Politically Motivated Law Remains Blocked by Court Order

12.15.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) The United States Supreme Court today declined to review an Arizona law that would severely limit women’s access to medication abortion, an extremely safe method of ending a pregnancy in its earliest stages. The measure will remain preliminarily blocked by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit while the case proceeds in federal district court.

“By allowing to stand the Ninth Circuit’s strong decision blocking this underhanded law, the U.S. Supreme Court has ensured Arizona women will continue to have the same critical and constitutionally protected health care tomorrow that they have today,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Women who have made the decision to end a pregnancy will continue to get safe, legal care based on the expertise of their doctors, not politicians who presume to know better.”

“The Court did the right thing today, but this dangerous and misguided law should never have passed in the first place. Politicians across the country should take note — these harmful and unconstitutional restrictions won’t be tolerated by the courts or the public,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Politicians are not medical experts — but politicians have written this law with the ultimate goal of making safe, legal abortion hard or even impossible to access. We are pleased that the courts are recognizing that these unconstitutional laws hurt women and block access to safe medical care.”

Background:

Women in the United States have been safely and legally using medication abortion for over a decade, with approximately one in four women who make the decision to end a pregnancy choosing this method if it’s an option—in Arizona, the number is closer to half. Data, including from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), shows that abortion has over a 99 percent safety record, with women experiencing complications less than 1 percent of the time. Further, medical studies have shown that medication abortion is just as safe as surgical abortion.

Arizona’s regulation — which was issued by the Department of Health Services in January 2014 under the authority of a law signed by Governor Jan Brewer in April 2012 — either bans medication abortion entirely or the practical impact would make the method unavailable because it mandates an outdated and inferior protocol that has been called “bad medicine,” by experts like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

The law would deprive many women of access to abortion altogether, particularly in northern Arizona where Planned Parenthood Arizona is the sole provider of safe and legal abortion and would not be able to continue to offer that service under the burdensome requirements of this law. Women in this part of the state would be left having to travel an average of 321 miles roundtrip — twice — to get an abortion in Arizona.

ACOG and the American Medical Association submitted a joint amicus curiae brief in April 2014 in support of the legal challenge, explaining that the Arizona law “jeopardizes women’s health by requiring that physicians deny women the benefit of the most current, well-researched, safe, evidence-based, and proven protocols for the provision of medical abortion and, instead, prescribe a regimen that is outdated and less safe.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights, along with Planned Parenthood Federation of America, filed the lawsuit in Arizona federal district court in March 2014 on behalf of Planned Parenthood Arizona and the Tucson Women’s Center challenging Arizona’s restrictions on medication abortion.  On March 31, a federal trial court failed to protect Arizona women’s constitutional rights to non-surgical abortion and women’s health care providers and advocates immediately asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reverse that decision, which the court granted on an emergency basis a few days later.  In June 2014, the Ninth Circuit preliminarily blocked the law, stating “the Arizona law imposes an undue—and therefore unconstitutional—burden on women’s access to abortion.”  In evaluating the state’s attempts to justify the restrictions, the decision also stated that “the ‘medical grounds thus far presented’ are not merely ‘feeble.’ They are non-existent.”

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471) — a bill that would prohibit states like Arizona from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Protects Arizona Women’s Access to Non-Surgical Abortion New Lawsuit Challenges Arizona’s Unconstitutional Restrictions on Non-Surgical Abortion Arizona Women to Lose Access to Non-Surgical Abortion on April 1st

Sin Justicia

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 16:01
Bajo la prohibición absoluta del aborto en El Salvador, 17 mujeres han sido injustamente criminalizadas y encarceladas.

11.12.14 - Con una de las restricciones más extremas del mundo, El Salvador prohíbe que las mujeres acceden un aborto en todos los casos, ni siquiera para salvar sus vidas o en casos de violaciones sexuales o incesto. Desde 1998, muchas mujeres han sido injustamente encarceladas por esta ley, incluso en casos en donde el embarazo terminó debido a causas naturales. Toma acción hoy para presionar al gobierno Salvadoreño para que liberen a Las 17 y así ellas puedan pasar estas fiestas de fin de año con sus familias.

Estas mujeres vienen de pequeños pueblos, áreas rurales y grandes ciudades. Son adolescentes, esposas y madres. Ellas son costureras, empleadas domésticas y trabajadores en fábricas.

Colectivamente, han pasado más de 130 años en prisión.

Son Las 17 -17 mujeres que se encuentran actualmente tras las rejas en El Salvador. Sus historias son diferentes, pero tienen un denominador común: cada una ha sido juzgada y encarcelada después de tener complicaciones traumáticas relacionadas con sus embarazos. Muchas han sido declaradas culpables de homicidio y condenadas a hasta 40 años de prisión.

A continuación encontrara algunas de sus historias.

*****

Teresa, a sus veinte y nueve años, trabajaba en una fábrica en San Salvador y vivía en un barrio de clase trabajadora con su hijo de ocho años.

En noviembre de 2011, sin ni siquiera saber que estaba embarazada, entro en un parto prematuro, y dio a luz en un inodoro. El feto no sobrevivió. A raíz de este trauma, Teresa experimentó una fuerte hemorragia y se desmayó. Su familia la llevo a urgencias. En el hospital, los médicos que la atendieron le informaron a la policía que sospechaban que ella había inducido un aborto.

A pesar de las inconsistencias y la falta de pruebas de que Teresa realizó un acto intencional que llevara al aborto espontáneo, fue declarada culpable de homicidio y condenada a 40 años de prisión.

Ella ha estado en prisión por más de dos años. La abuela de Teresa está cuidando a su hijo.

*****

Mirian tuvo dificultades de aprendizaje en la escuela y es analfabeta. A los 25 años, viviendo en el pueblo aislado de Morazán, Mirian quedó embarazada y luego tuvo una emergencia obstétrica.

Aunque la autopsia no pudo determinar la causa de la emergencia obstétrica, las autoridades la acusaron de haber inducido un aborto.

Mirian no tenía el dinero para pagar a un abogado y su defensor público no proporcionó una defensa legal adecuada. Acusada de homicidio, fue condenada a 30 años de prisión, donde ha permanecido por los últimos 13 años.

*****

Cuando tenía 21 años, Alba se enteró que estaba embarazada con su tercer hijo. Ella y su madre plantearon maneras de sostener la creciente familia de Alba. Poco después su madre murió y Alba se quedó sola para cuidar de sus dos hijos y su hermana, quien estaba enferma.

Un día, Alba entró en un parto prematuro precipitado en su casa durante el cual se desmayó.  Cuando despertó, buscó la ayuda de un vecino, quien le dijo que el bebé respiró por una media hora, pero luego dejó de respirar. Ellos realizaron una vigilia y oraron en una casa cercana. La mañana siguiente, antes de enterrar al niño, llamaron a las autoridades para reportar la muerte.

Si bien no existe ninguna prueba de que ella hizo algo para causar la muerte del bebé, Alba fue condenada a 30 años de prisión. Hasta el momento, ha pasado más de cuatro meses en prisión, sin que nadie cuide de sus dos hijos y su hermana.

*****

Después de 11 años de cárcel, a Verónica todavía le quedan 19 años para cumplir con su condena de 30 años.

A los 19, mientras trabajaba como empleada doméstica, Verónica quedó embarazada. Poco antes de llegar a término,  experimentó una emergencia obstétrica que dio lugar a la pérdida del embarazo.

Sus empleadores la llevaron al Hospital de Chalchuapa, donde fue denunciada a la policía por los médicos del hospital. Sin testigos, ni ninguna prueba, Verónica fue rápidamente condenada por homicidio. La sentencia condenatoria incluso reconoce la falta de pruebas y afirma que "los motivos del sujeto por [el asesinato] son desconocidos, aunque se puede deducir que su motivación era evitar el reproche social."

*****

Aunque una trabajadora social describió la casa de Mirna como un hogar "estable y responsable donde tenía apoyo y respeto," los jueces se negaron a creerle a Mirna o a su esposo cuando dijeron que estaban emocionados por tener otro hijo.

A las treinta y seis semanas de embarazo, Mirna  entró en un parto prematuro precipitado y sin saber lo que estaba pasando dio a luz en el inodoro de su casa. Su familia la llevó rápidamente al hospital. El bebé había sufrido una herida al caer en el inodoro, pero afortunadamente sobrevivió.

Aunque el ginecólogo responsable confirmó que la lesión del bebé no fue debido a un intento de abortar, Mirna fue condenada a 12 años y 6 meses de prisión por homicidio en grado de tentativa.

Después de pasar 11 años de prisión, la liberaron por haber cumplido la mayor parte de su condena.

*****

Cinthia recuerda que fue alrededor de las 11:30 de la noche cuando comenzó el dolor. Tenía ocho meses de embarazo y sólo 17 años de edad. Ella estaba sola en casa y al darse cuenta de que estaba experimentando un  parto prematuro, salió al patio para dar a luz. El bebé nació con el cordón umbilical envuelto alrededor de su cuello. Ella trató de cortar el cordón con tijeras y en su esfuerzo desesperado por salvarle la vida de su bebe que se ahogaba por el cordón umbilical en el cuello, ella lo lastimo.

El bebé de Cinthia murió y ella fue acusada de asesinato, a pesar de que no se presentaron pruebas que demostraran que ella era la causa directa de la muerte del bebé o de que la muerte del bebé fuera intencional.

Ella lleva 6 años en prisión por una condena de 30 años.

*****

Hay casi una docena más- Maritza, Salvadora, Ena, Guadalupe, Marina, Evelyn, Carmen, Mariana, Teodora, Johana, Maria-todas con historias igualmente alarmantes, vidas arruinadas de manera similar. Las 17 son las víctimas de un sistema que amenaza contra los derechos humanos de miles de mujeres que viven con temor de este sistema.

El Centro de Derechos Reproductivos y nuestros socios La Agrupación Ciudadana siguen trabajando para exponer las graves violaciones de los derechos de las mujeres como consecuencia de la prohibición del aborto en El Salvador, ante los órganos de derechos humanos de la ONU, la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, y ahora al Departamento de Estado de Estados Unidos.

Actúa hoy para presionar al gobierno salvadoreño para que liberen a Las 17, para que ellas puedan ir a casa y estar con  sus familias en estas fiestas de fin de año.

Cinco Estados recomiendan al Estado de Costa Rica garantizar el acceso a los servicios de salud reproductiva sin discriminación y despenalizar el aborto en los casos de violación ante las Naciones Unidas

Tue, 12/09/2014 - 15:41
Cinco Estados recomiendan al Estado de Costa Rica garantizar el acceso a los servicios de salud reproductiva

09.12.14 - Cinco Estados recomiendan al Estado de Costa Rica garantizar el acceso a los servicios de salud reproductiva sin discriminación y despenalizar el aborto en los casos de violación ante las Naciones Unidas

12.2014 -  El Centro de Derechos Reproductivos junto con la organización aliada local, “Grupo a Favor del In Vitro”, presentaron un reporte ante el Consejo de Derechos Humanos (CDH) de las Naciones Unidas en abril de 2014 para la revisión del Examen Periódico Universal (EPU) de Costa Rica. Las organizaciones solicitaron al CDH recomendar al Estado Costarricense: i) tomar las medidas legales necesarias para permitir el acceso a servicios de salud reproductiva de fertilización in vitro (FIV) para parejas infértiles sin ningún tipo de discriminación; ii) el cumplimiento de lo ordenado por la sentencia de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (Corte IDH) en el caso Artavia Murillo y otros v. Costa Rica; y iii) el cumplimiento de Costa Rica frente a sus obligaciones internacionales de respeto y garantía de los derechos humanos, relativas a la garantía de acceso al aborto legal cuando la vida y/o la salud de la mujer se encuentran en riesgo y la despenalización en los casos de violación. 

 

En la revisión del EPU de Costa Rica en septiembre de 2014, el Estado recibió seis recomendaciones relacionadas con el acceso a los servicios de salud y aborto. De estas recomendaciones, cinco países, incluyendo Bélgica, Suiza, Francia, Islandia y Noruega, solicitaron a Costa Rica garantizar el acceso a los servicios de salud sexual y reproductiva sin ningún tipo de discriminación y despenalizar el aborto, particularmente en los casos de embarazo producto de violación o incesto. En respuesta a la solicitud de los cinco Estados, Costa Rica “tomó nota” de las recomendaciones y argumentó que las observaciones planteadas en materia de aborto, “van más allá de lo que la legislación vigente contempla en materia de aborto, por lo que su análisis involucra a poderes del Estado, como el Poder Legislativo”.

 

En Costa Rica las mujeres enfrentan barreras para acceder a los servicios de salud reproductiva. En particular, en los casos de Aurora y A.N., quienes fueron  obligadas a continuar con el embarazo con malformaciones incompatibles con la vida extrauterina, a pesar que la ley permite el aborto en los casos donde el embarazo genere un riesgo a la salud de la mujer. Estos casos fueron presentados por el Centro de Derechos Reproductivos y la “Colectiva por el Derecho a Decidir” ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH), y actualmente se encuentran pendiente de resolución. Costa Rica aún no ha creado un protocolo de atención para interrumpir el embarazo tanto en casos de riesgo para la vida, como para la salud física y mental de la mujer. Del mismo modo, a pesar que la Corte IDH estableció que a la luz de la Convención Americana de Derechos Humanos, Costa Rica viola los derechos humanos de las personas infértiles al prohibir la FIV, las parejas infértiles aún no pueden acceder a servicios de salud reproductiva sin discriminación.

 

###

 

 

Justice Undone

Mon, 12/08/2014 - 15:35
Justice Undone Under El Salvador’s extreme abortion ban, 17 women have been wrongfully criminalized and imprisoned. Take action to free them.

12.08.14 - With one of the world’s most extreme abortion bans, El Salvador prohibits women from receiving an abortion under any circumstance—not in cases of rape or incest, not even to save their lives. Since 1998, dozens of women have been wrongfully criminalized and imprisoned under this law—even when the pregnancy ended due to natural causes. Take action today to pressure the Salvadoran government to release Las 17 in time to go home to their families for the holidays.

They come from small coastal villages, rural farms, and crowded cities. They are teenagers, wives, and mothers. They are seamstresses, maids, and factory workers.

Collectively, they have unjustly served over 130 years in prison.

They are Las 17—17 women who are currently held in prison cells across El Salvador. Their stories are varied, but with one overwhelming common thread: they have each been tried and imprisoned after experiencing traumatic pregnancy-related complications. Many have been convicted of murder and sentenced to up to 40 years in prison.

The following are just a few of their stories.

*****

Twenty-nine-year-old Teresa worked in a sweatshop in San Salvador and lived in a working-class neighborhood with her 8-year-old child.

In November 2011, without ever realizing she was pregnant, she went into early labor, giving birth in a toilet. The baby did not survive. Following this trauma, Teresa experienced heavy bleeding and eventually fainted. Her family summoned emergency services. At the hospital, she was reported to the police on suspicion of having induced an abortion.

Despite inconsistencies and lack of proof that Teresa performed an intentional act leading to the miscarriage, she was convicted of murder and condemned to 40 years in prison.

She’s been in prison for over two years. Teresa’s elderly grandmother is currently caring for her young child. 

*****

Mirian had learning difficulties in school and is illiterate. At age 25, living in the isolated town of Morazan, Mirian became pregnant and then experienced a miscarriage.

Although the autopsy was unable to determine the cause of the miscarriage, authorities accused Mirian of inducing an abortion.

She could not afford to pay a lawyer, and her public defender provided an inadequate legal defense. Charged with murder, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison, where she has remained for the last 13 years.

*****

When 21-year-old Alba found out she was pregnant with her third child, she and her mother together strategized ways to sustain Alba’s growing family. When her mom passed away a short while later, Alba was left alone to take care of her two children and her sister, who was ill.

One day, Alba went into early and intense labor at home and fainted while giving birth. When she came to, she sought help from a neighbor, who said that the baby breathed for a half hour but later stopped breathing. They held a vigil and prayed in a nearby house. The following morning, before burying the baby, they called the authorities to report the death.

While no proof exists that she did anything to cause the death of the baby, Alba was sentenced to 30 years in prison. So far, she has served more than four months, leaving no one to care for her two children and her sister.

*****

After 11 years in jail, Verónica is not yet halfway through her 30-year sentence. 

At age 19, while employed as a domestic worker, Verónica became pregnant. Shortly before reaching full term in her pregnancy, she experienced an obstetric emergency that resulted in a miscarriage.

Her employers took her to the Chalchuapa Hospital, where she was reported to the police. Without witnesses or any direct proof, Verónica was swiftly convicted of murder. Even the judgment acknowledges the lack of evidence and states, “the motives the subject had for committing [murder] are unknown although it can be deduced that her motivation was to avoid social reproach.”

*****

Even when a social worker described Mirna’s home as “stable, with support, respect, and responsibility,” the judges at her trial refused to believe either Mirna or her husband—when they said they were looking forward to having another child.

Thirty-six weeks into her pregnancy, Mirna went into sudden labor and gave birth in the toilet at her home. Her family quickly rushed her to the hospital. The baby had been hurt falling into the toilet, but fortunately survived.

Although the attending gynecologist confirmed that the baby’s injury was not due to attempted abortion, Mirna was sentenced to 12 years and 6 months in prison for attempted homicide.

She has served 11 years in prison, and was released after having fulfilled most of her sentence.

*****

Cinthia remembers that it was about 11:30 at night when the pain began. Eight months pregnant and only 17 years old, she was home alone. Realizing she was experiencing a rapid, early labor, she went out to the patio to give birth. The baby was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck. She tried to cut it away with scissors, hurting the baby in her desperate effort to save its life.

Cinthia’s baby died, and she was charged with murder, despite the fact that no evidence was presented proving that she was the direct cause of the baby’s death or that the baby’s death was intentional.

She is six years into her 30-year sentence.

*****

There are almost a dozen more—Maritza, Salvadora, Ena, Guadalupe, Marina, Evelyn, Carmen, Mariana, Teodora, Johana, Maria—all with similarly haunting stories, similarly broken lives. Las 17 are the victims of a system so harsh it threatens the human rights of thousands of other women who live in fear of its reach.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and our partners La Agrupacion Ciudadana continue a relentless campaign to expose the severe violations of women rights as a consequence of El Salvador’s abortion ban—on the ground in El Salvador, in front of UN human rights bodies, before the Inter-American Court, and now to the U.S. State Department.

Take action today.

12 Countries Call on El Salvador to Decriminalize Abortion UN Committee: El Salvador’s Absolute Ban on Abortion Violates Women’s Human Rights

U.N. Committee Denounces Romania for Denying Women Reproductive Health Care

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 23:00
U.N. Committee Denounces Romania for Denying Women Reproductive Health Care

12.08.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (U.N. CESCR) has called on the Romanian government to revise its laws and policies to ensure access to reproductive health care for women and adolescents in the country. In its recommendations, issued on 28 November, the Committee stressed that in order to comply with its international human rights obligations, the Romanian government should adopt a national strategy on sexual and reproductive health and implement a comprehensive mandatory programme on sexual and reproductive health in schools to reduce teenage pregnancies.

Romania, a Member State of the European Union (EU), lags far behind the rest of the EU in advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of adolescents and women. According to official statistical data, the maternal mortality rate in Romania is twice the EU average. The country has the highest number of live births among girls under 15 years of age. 

Commenting on the Committee’s observations Iustina Ionescu, human rights lawyer with the Euroregional Center for Public Initiatives said:

“These very worrying figures caught the government by surprise – the Romanian delegation was unable to answer questions on sexual and reproductive health posed by the Committee. It is time for the government to stop this attitude of simply ignoring the rights of women and girls in Romania.”

The U.N. CESCR also expressed concerns at the increasingly common practice of health professionals refusing to perform legal abortions based on personal and moral objections. Under the Medical Doctors Association’s Deontological Code, a doctor can refuse to provide health care assistance if it violates his or her moral values. This code is not legally binding and has obstructed women from accessing safe abortion services.   

Adriana Lamačková, Senior Legal Adviser for Europe at the Center for Reproductive Rights said:

“Women in Romania should be able to access affordable and legal abortion services, yet doctors’ personal views have been undermining that fundamental right for far too long.

“We commend the U.N. committee for holding the Romanian government accountable for its failures to ensure access to safe and legal reproductive health care.

“The Romanian government must now work quickly to adopt the necessary regulations and effective oversight to end these reproductive rights violations.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the Euroregional Center for Public Initiatives, the Irish Family Planning Association, the Society for Sexual Education and Contraception, and the Global Justice Institute contributed to the Committee’s review process. The U.N. CESCR monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a treaty obliging states parties to ensure all individuals equal enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. The Committee’s findings pointed to deficiencies in Romania’s health care system that have a disproportionate effect on women and girls. The Committee also expressed concern regarding cases of discrimination against women living with HIV/AIDS in access to sexual and reproductive health, as well as the inadequacy of mother-to-child transmission prevention. The full Concluding Observations from the U.N. CESCR can be found here.

United Nations Secretary-General Reaffirms Reproductive Rights Are Central to Development

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 23:00
United Nations Secretary-General Reaffirms Reproductive Rights Are Central to Development U.N. Releases Post-2015 Development Agenda Report Calling on Governments to Fulfill Human Rights Obligations

12.05.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) In a report that will serve as a guidepost for the new United Nations (U.N.) development agenda, the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on states to ensure women’s reproductive health and rights are realized, including the elimination of child marriage.

The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet is meant to set a framework for negotiations among member states of the U.N. to decide and finalize the sustainable development goals, which culminates at the U.N. General Assembly in 2015.

In his report, the Secretary-General lays out six essential elements for delivering on the sustainable development goals--including access to fair justice systems that will protect reproductive health and rights and government accountability to ensure these rights—and emphasizes the importance of respecting, protecting, and fulfilling human rights as a part of development.

Said Lilian Sepúlveda, vice president of the Global Legal Program of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Every woman must hold ultimate authority over the full range of decisions she faces about her health and her family, from controlling her fertility to choosing with whom she wishes to build a family. Gender equality cannot be achieved without ensuring women’s right to make these vital decisions and determine the course of their lives.

“We commend Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for recognizing that human rights, and accountability for fulfilling them, are essential parts of development. But U.N. member states must place greater emphasis on ensuring that women’s reproductive rights and gender equality are top priorities in the final sustainable development goals.”

The Secretary-General’s report calls for “zero tolerance of violence against or exploitation of women and girls” and the realization of women’s reproductive health and rights, and affirms that “the practice of child, early and forced marriage must be ended everywhere.”

However, the report does not sufficiently address the need to ensure other aspects of substantive gender equality that have been prioritized by several U.N. member states and U.N. agencies in the Post-2015 Agenda. The report also does not address the root causes of gender discrimination, or call on states to eliminate discriminatory laws and policies that limit opportunities for development, including in the area of reproductive rights.

International human rights norms have recognized that reproductive rights are human rights, clarifying that violations of reproductive rights are primarily manifestations of discrimination, poverty, and violence. The Center for Reproductive Rights recently published Substantive Equality and Reproductive Rights: A Briefing Paper on Aligning Development Goals with Human Rights Obligations that provides concrete recommendations to states about how to ensure reproductive rights in the Post-2015 Agenda, including:

  • Ensuring that a comprehensive range of quality sexual and reproductive health information, services, and education are accessible, affordable, and acceptable for all individuals;
  • Providing protections for women’s sexual and reproductive autonomy, including their right to decide on the number and spacing of their children; and
  • Ensuring effective local and national access to justice for individuals whose rights have been violated and international accountability for states to live up to their human rights obligations and development commitments.
Substantive Equality and Reproductive Rights: A Briefing Paper on Aligning Development Goals with Human Rights Obligations

LA Times Op-Ed: Anti-Choice TRAP Laws Exposed

Wed, 12/03/2014 - 13:04
LA Times Op-Ed: Anti-Choice TRAP Laws Exposed

12.03.14 - Anti-choice state legislation has been alarmingly successful at limiting abortion access across the country over the last few years, writes CUNY Law Professor Caitlin Borgmann in an incisive opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times this week.

TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws are crafted to masquerade as women’s health regulations while in fact they are specifically intended to shut down abortion clinics. As Borgmann writes,

TRAP laws are designed to fly under the radar, by mimicking ordinary health regulations. In reality, they target abortion facilities and providers with special, onerous regulations that are exceedingly costly or impossible to meet. 

Many of these sham restrictions sound innocuous enough at first. They often require that abortion providers have admitting privileges at local hospitals or mandate prohibitive and superfluous hospital-level facility upgrades for clinics with already-impeccable safety records,

However, the unwarranted regulations, denounced by national organizations such as the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists because they are medically unneccessary, have forced the closure of dozens of clinics providing essential reproductive care, particularly in Southern states such as Texas and Mississippi.

MSNBC: The Trap of TRAP Laws

Helms Hurts

Wed, 12/03/2014 - 12:55
Helms Hurts A 40-year-old U.S. policy prevents millions of women worldwide from accessing safe, legal reproductive care.

12.03.14 - For Roselyn, a reproductive health care worker in Uganda—where abortion is legal in some circumstances but very difficult to access—death is an everyday part of her job due to the high incidence of unsafe abortions. She knows more keenly than most that restricting access to abortion care does not diminish its need; it only makes women more desperate.

“They do everything!” says Roselyn. “I heard of one recently, where they told her to use a stick and pass it through her birth canal, and hit until the [fetus] comes out. I remember another case where the girl, she was told to keep hitting her stomach [with] a stone.” Herbal concoctions, detergents, foreign objects—Roselyn and her coworkers have seen it all.

Unsafe abortion, a leading cause of maternal mortality, leads to the death of more than 47,000 women across the globe each year. Another five million sustain debilitating injuries. These are eminently preventable tragedies, and perhaps the most alarming part is the complicit role that the United States plays in perpetuating them.

The culprit: a 40-year-old policy, sponsored by the late archconservative Senator Jesse Helms, that has been used to block the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds to pay for abortion care.

Although 1973’s watershed Roe v. Wade decision brought safe, legal abortion access to women across the United States, opponents of the ruling quickly set to work limiting the reach of its impact.

Enacted in the same year as Roe, the Helms Amendment prohibits the use of U.S. foreign assistance in the “performance of abortions as a method of family planning.” Yet the restriction has been wrongly implemented by all eight presidential administrations since its inception, as a total ban on abortion care—even in instances of rape, incest, or the endangerment of the mother’s life.

Despite significant progress around the globe expanding reproductive rights over the last 20 years, Helms prevents millions of women from accessing safe, essential reproductive care that is legal in their countries.

“There is no defensible reason why the Helms Amendment should continue to be implemented as an all-out ban,” says Aram Schvey, senior policy counsel and manager of projects and operations at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Clearly, abortions in emergency situations are not undertaken ‘as a method of family planning.’ Even U.S. domestic policy makes exceptions—for military personnel and immigrant detainees, among many others—to fund abortion care in these circumstances.”

Because the majority of U.S.-supported health care programs and clinics are found in the world’s least developed countries, Helms inflicts the greatest harm in regions where women are most financially bereft and where rape and domestic violence are all too common. Hardest hit is sub-Saharan Africa.

“The lives and health of women worldwide are too important to let this draconian policy continue any longer,” says Schvey. “Someday, we will repeal Helms altogether, but in the meantime, this is something the Obama administration—an administration with a strong record on women’s issues—can take immediate action to remedy. It’s an easy and essential fix.”

Leading Health and Human Rights Organizations Call for End to Unnecessary Restrictions that Harm Women’s Health Worldwide

U.N. Committee Calls On Nepal to Eradicate Child Marriage and Ensure Women’s Access to Safe Abortion Services

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 23:00
U.N. Committee Calls On Nepal to Eradicate Child Marriage and Ensure Women’s Access to Safe Abortion Services

12.03.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (U.N. CESCR) this week denounced the Nepal government for its failure to end child marriage and to ensure all women in the country have access to reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion.

While U.N. CESCR recognized the Nepal government for its political commitments to end child marriage, the committee criticized officials for slow progress in eliminating the illegal practice, citing low prosecution rates in child marriage cases.  Further, the committee noted that despite Nepal’s legalization of abortion in 2002, too many women are still unable to obtain safe abortion services. In its recommendations, U.N. CESCR noted, “The low awareness of legality of abortion and the existence of safe abortion services as well as the lack of access to trained health assistants and adequate services…” has forced many women, especially those from rural and disadvantaged communities, to obtain unsafe abortions.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Nepal has some of the strongest constitutional and legal protections for women’s rights in the world, but they cannot be allowed to exist on paper alone.

“Countless girls are still married off against their will and women are consistently denied essential reproductive health care. These are serious violations of fundamental human rights.

“The United Nations committee is right to hold the Nepal government accountable, and the government must now act decisively to ensure that the progressive laws and rights it has established become a reality for women and girls throughout the country.”

The U.N. CESCR recommendations call on the Nepal government to create a public awareness campaign on safe abortion, to adequately train health assistants, and to take measures to prevent uterine prolapse, a serious pregnancy complication affecting thousands of Nepalese women.

In 2006, the Nepal government adopted an interim constitution that established reproductive rights as fundamental rights, and in 2009 Nepal’s Supreme Court deemed that the government has an obligation to guarantee women’s access to safe and affordable abortion services, and ordered the state to develop a comprehensive abortion law which has yet to be enacted.

Prior to the U.N. CESCR review, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Justice for All and Forum for Women, Law and Development submitted a joint letter to the committee expressing serious concerns related to access to reproductive health care services, quality maternal health care and child marriage. While the government of Nepal has demonstrated political will to address child marriage—even signing onto a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution last year—the country has one of the highest rates of child marriage in South Asia and has been slow to effectively implement laws and policies to eradicate the practice.

Child marriage is just the tipping point of human rights violations against girls and women in Nepal and throughout South Asia. According to the 2011 national census, more than 100,000 women were given away in marriage before the age of 10. These young girls are pressured to bear children soon after marriage, even though it puts their health at grave risk. If these brides want to leave the marriage, the current law does not offer any legal protection or entitlements to women. Adding insult to injury, the laws in place are not enforced so women cannot seek justice.

“All women and girls have the fundamental right to make critical decisions about their reproductive lives and with whom they wish to build a family,”said Melissa Upreti, regional director for Asia at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “In order for the Nepal government to fully respect and protect the human rights of women and girls, law and policymakers must work swiftly to adopt a robust national strategy to end child marriage and enact a comprehensive abortion law.”

In its recommendations, U.N. CESCR called on Nepal to finish drafting the new constitution quickly and to “ensure that under no circumstances will the enjoyment of rights already acquired by women and disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups be restricted.” The committee also urged the government of Nepal to enforce its Domestic Violence Act of 2009 so survivors of violence and sexual assault can seek justice. It also called on the state to expedite the adoption of the “National Strategy to End Child Marriages.”

In 2013, the Center issued the report Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity examining the consequences of child marriage, which subject girls to heinous abuses, including domestic violence and marital rape, placing their reproductive health and lives at serious risk. The report criticizes the failure of governments in South Asia to prevent and prosecute cases of child marriage, which has led to these countries being responsible for violating young girls’ human rights.​

Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity (Press Release)

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Discrimination Against Pregnant Employee

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 23:00
U.S. Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Discrimination Against Pregnant Employee Court’s decision in Young v. UPS will have a significant impact on millions of working women and their families

12.03.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) Today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case involving a former UPS delivery driver who was forced to take unpaid leave and lose her health benefits when her employer refused to accommodate her doctor’s orders to avoid heavy lifting while pregnant.

In the case, Peggy Young v. United Parcel Service, Young argues that in denying her the same light duty accommodations the company offered to other individuals—such as those with disabilities, on-the-job injuries, and even those who lost their driving privileges from DUI charges—UPS violated the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978, which says discriminating against pregnant workers amounts to sex discrimination.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review Ms. Young’s case after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a district court ruling that UPS did not violate the PDA.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“An employer should never force a woman to make the impossible choice between the health of her pregnancy and her livelihood.  

“For 30 years, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act has guaranteed that pregnant women receive equal treatment on the job. The Supreme Court needs to make clear that workers who need temporary job accommodations, whether due to pregnancy or injuries, will be treated the same.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights also calls on members of Congress to immediately pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), a federal bill that would prevent employers from forcing pregnant women out of the workplace and help ensure that employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women who want to continue working and provide for their families.

“The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is an important step toward protecting the health and economic security of working women and their families in the U.S., and we strongly urge every member of Congress to support this common sense policy,” said Northup.

The Center for Reproductive Rights opposes any discrimination against pregnant women and fights for the human rights of, and safe maternal health care for, women in the U.S. and around the globe. In recent years the Center has advocated for fair treatment of pregnant immigrant women in U.S. detention centers, exposed severe disparities Black women face when seeking quality maternal health care in the South, and fought for justice on behalf of women in Latin America and Africa who have received unfair and discriminatory treatment when accessing pregnancy care. 

United Nations Committee Examines U.S. Record On Torture Women’s Health Advocates Call on United States to Address Widespread Discrimination in Health Care Brazil Takes Step to Implement Historic United Nations Ruling in Maternal Death Case Case Of Pregnant Woman Beaten And Denied Care At Local Hospital Brought To Kenyan High Court

Spotlight on India Sterilization “Camps”

Tue, 11/25/2014 - 16:35
Spotlight on India Sterilization “Camps”

11.25.14 - A recent Wall Street Journal article takes a look at some of the big-picture issues around the recent tragedy in Bilaspur, India, where 13 women died and dozens of others seriously fell ill while undergoing coerced sterilization at one of the country’s government-sponsored sterilization “camps.”

Although investigators have now zeroed in on tainted antibiotics as a possible cause for the mass sickening, the horrendous event brings to light questions about why female sterilization remains a cornerstone of Indian family planning in the first place.

“We only know the world of sterilization,” said the mother of 26-year-old Janaki Suryavanshi, one of the women who died following the procedure. According to a recent government survey, 34% of households nationwide said female sterilization was their current method of family planning.

Suryavanshi, who was a mother of three, had been told that surgical sterilization was her only option when she asked health workers in her community about birth control. According to the Wall Street Journal, many of the women sterilized in Bilaspur said they had never used a condom, birth-control pills, or an IUD.

In an effort to address overpopulation, India’s government offers money to women and health workers who take part in the surgeries. The women who were sterilized at the camp in Bilaspur earlier this month were each paid the equivalent of approximately $22 to have the procedure.

However, a number of women in the region said that the primary reason they agreed to be sterilized was the lack of birth control alternatives.

Around 4.5 million women were sterilized in India last year.

In the aftermath of Bilaspur, activists hoped that the Indian government would be prompted to more closely examine the safety and quality of health care, the nation’s health priorities, and the country’s overall accountability towards people's lives and human rights.

An investigation of the camp after the incident found that the facility was shockingly out of date, with broken windows, cobweb-laden equipment, and floors covered in animal feces.

Unfortunately, on November 18, the Indian daily newspaper Dainik Bhaskar reported another mass sterilization at a camp in a neighboring state.

One hundred thirty-two women were hastily operated on over a period of just five hours in the middle of the night, despite express government guidelines that instruct surgical teams to perform no more than 50 procedures a day. It was also reported that the camp did not have basic essentials such as the stretchers to carry women out of the operation room.

While no deaths or mishaps have been reported following the most recent incident, the continued precarious conditions to which woman are routinely exposed to as a result of the lack of birth control choices points to significant deficits in the Indian government’s accountability towards women's lives and reproductive health rights.

Center for Reproductive Rights Brings Forced Sterilization Case of HIV Positive Woman to Human Rights Commission Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity India Pushed to Prioritize Women’s Health

Imprisoned in Malaysia After Legal Abortion

Tue, 11/25/2014 - 15:09
Imprisoned in Malaysia After Legal Abortion

11.25.14 - Following the raid of a health clinic in Penang, Malaysia, a young woman has been wrongfully arrested and sentenced to 12 months in prison for obtaining a legal abortion.

Twenty-four-year-old Nirmala and her husband came to Malaysia from their home country of Nepal as legal migrant workers. Nirmala is an operator at the Sony factory. Her husband works as a security guard.

Last month, shortly after discovering she was pregnant and fearing that she would lose her job as a result, Nirmala sought an abortion at a local clinic. While she was resting in recovery following the procedure, officials from the Malaysian ministry of health entered the clinic, arresting both Nirmala and the doctor.

Since 1989, abortion in Malaysia has been legal in circumstances when a qualified doctor considers the pregnancy to pose a risk to the mental or physical health of the woman.

The doctor reports that he considered the risks of Nirmala losing her job, having to pay compensation to her employer, and being sent back home if found pregnant—and decided she was legally justified to have a termination. Nirmala was only six weeks into the pregnancy at the time of the procedure.

Following her arrest on October 9, Nirmala was swiftly charged and convicted in the absence of legal representation, and has since been imprisoned. After repeated attempts to determine her whereabouts, human rights advocates located Nirmala in prison, reporting that she is in deep distress over her situation.

According to an abortion rights activist from the Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia who is working with the Center for Reproductive Rights to find answers, Nirmala was convicted under a law that states: “It is a criminal offense to prevent a child being born alive.”

A Malaysian expert on comparative abortion laws says that this law only applies later in pregnancy. Nirmala’s case clearly does not fit this category. Her arrest and conviction indicate a sudden reinterpretation of Malaysia’s penal code. Authorities have not enforced the law this way in 25 years.

When attempting to determine the reason for Nirmala’s conviction and why there was no counsel at her court hearing, the abortion rights activist was stonewalled by a health ministry official claiming to know nothing about the raid or Nirmala’s case.

As a migrant worker, Nirmala does not have access to many legal protections or rights. Migrant workers are frequently at risk of abuse in Malaysia.

“The arrest and conviction of Nirmala reeks of discrimination and impunity. We are deeply concerned about Nirmala’s safety and health,” says Melissa Upreti, the Center’s regional director for Asia. “When abortion is criminalized, it is women who suffer the most.”

The government of Malaysia has a binding obligation under international law to ensure that no woman is discriminated against, denied due process, and subjected to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment for having an abortion.

Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting their Reproductive Lives East and Southeast Asia

Ending Child Marriage

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 23:00
Ending Child Marriage A first-ever international appeal aims to end child marriage in South Asia

11.22.14 - “I was turned into someone’s wife before I knew what it meant to me,” remembers Rahar Maya Biswokarma, a Nepalese woman who was married off by her family at age 10. “All my joy was gone at once.”

Forced to leave her parents and her childhood home, to bear children while still a child herself, and to suffer through a lifetime of profound isolation as well the enduring physical trauma of a uterine prolapse that likely occurred as the result of giving birth at a young age, Maya looks back at her 40-year marriage with sorrow: “Perhaps I’ll regret getting married early throughout my life, until my death.”

Deprived of her dignity, her health, and a sense of personal fulfillment, Rahar Maya’s story is a disturbing but familiar tale. The centuries-old practice of child marriage in South Asia continues to plague generations of young girls and women in the modern world. Although there have been laws against child marriage in place throughout the region since 1929, estimates suggest that as many as 130 million South Asian girls will be forced into child marriage between 2010 and 2030—unless governments stop this practice immediately. Lax enforcement, entrenched regional customs, and a sense that marriage falls into the personal realm have allowed this harmful practice to perpetuate.

For the first time in history, key stakeholders in South Asia have come together to urge their governments to clarify, strengthen, and enforce their laws to end child marriage. Earlier this month, officials from member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the region’s collaborative political body, and members of civil society endorsed an innovative call for action that implores governments to utilize legal mechanisms to address this human rights crisis.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC)—which has led the development of a regional action plan to end child marriage to be implemented in January 2015—were the lead organizers in this effort. The Center has deployed its extensive legal expertise to promote the use of international and national norms and mechanisms for catalyzing change.

“We have been frustrated that despite clear international legal obligations to eliminate child marriage, South Asian governments have continued to show a lack of accountability in establishing proper legal frameworks and implementing and enforcing their laws to end this egregious practice,” says Melissa Upreti, the Center’s regional director for Asia. “This call for action demands that governments in the region urgently take concrete steps to protect the rights and well-being of millions of their most disenfranchised citizens.”

The document outlines a set of specific recommendations, such as codifying minimum age requirements for marriage, establishing legal remedies for girls whose rights are violated through child marriage which involves sexual violence and marital rape, providing counseling as well as sexual and reproductive health information and services, and improving national accountability measures for human rights violations.

“With the support of a number of high-ranking government officials, the call for action is an exciting culmination of years of advocacy, research, and intervention,” notes Upreti. Last year, as part of the launch of our current strategy in the region, the Center published an in-depth human rights analysis (Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity) detailing the disturbing range of human rights violations associated with the practice.

The repercussions of child marriage are often disastrous—setting into motion a continuum of harm both for the young girls and for their communities. Early marriage leaves girls vulnerable to sexually contracted diseases as well as domestic violence and marital rape as a result of the power imbalance in the relationship. It also exposes them to life-threatening complications like the uterine prolapse that Rahar Maya experienced. Girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth compared to women over 20, and the risk is far greater for those under 15.

Ahead of SAARC’s 18th summit in Kathmandu next week, representatives from civil society will gather for an event where the historic call for action will be formally read aloud, ensuring that ending child marriage is central to the conversation of South Asia’s future.

 

Kathmandu Call for Action to End Child Marriage in South Asia

A Global Partnership

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 16:10
A Global Partnership Our new Geneva office is making reproductive rights a reality at the UN and worldwide.

11.21.14 - The Center for Reproductive Rights works with the UN and civil society organizations at the forefront of key global advances in women’s reproductive autonomy. On November 13, 2014, we opened our newest office, in Geneva. 

To celebrate, we held an event featuring Her Royal Highness Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan; Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, World YWCA General Secretary and African Union Goodwill Ambassador for Ending Child Marriage; and Center President and CEO Nancy Northup. The following is an excerpt from Northup’s remarks.

The world contains a welcome diversity of language, landscape, culture and religion. But for women, wherever they live in this rich diversity, some biological facts remain constant.

One such fact is that every single woman faces life-threatening complications with every pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization, 800 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications every day.

The probability that a woman will eventually die from a maternal cause varies dramatically across the globe.  From as low as 1 woman in 15,000 in some countries, to as high as 1 in 15 in others.

The centrality of a woman's reproductive capacity to her very life and life's path is why we at the Center for Reproductive Rights work on issues ranging from access to contraception, essential obstetric care, and safe abortion, as well as preventing abuses such as child marriage and forced sterilization.

Around the globe, we work alongside local NGOs to document abuses, promote legislative and policy reform, publish legal resources, and litigate cases in national courts, as well as regional and international human rights bodies.

We have seen significant progress since 1990. Progress that all of us—NGOs, supportive governments, and UN agencies—have achieved together.

There has been a 45 percent decline in maternal deaths worldwide since 1990. In that time, 35 countries have amended their laws to expand access to safe and legal abortion, and in so doing saved women's lives.

The UN has ensured that violations of reproductive rights--such as criminalization of abortion, discrimination and coercion in the health care settings, and lack of access to reproductive information and services--have been recognized as violations of fundamental human rights.

We are pleased to have played a part in those advancements.

But there is so much more to do.

And that is why we are here: to expand our reach at the United Nations—from UN missions to civil society organizations—and amplify the voices of women seeking reproductive health care worldwide, and to secure their rights in law.

We are excited to be here, and look forward to continuing and deepening our work here in Geneva at the UN.

Center For Reproductive Rights Opens Geneva Office

No Health Care for New Class of Immigrants

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 13:38
No Health Care for New Class of Immigrants

11.21.14 - A recent piece in the New York Times takes a look at the scope of President Obama’s bold Executive Order on immigration, which promises to shield up to five million people from the threat of deportation.

Notably absent from the president’s plan is mention of health care coverage for the immigrants who qualify for this new program. The new class of immigrants will not be eligible for Medicaid or access to insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. According to the Times:

“The White House decision to deny health benefits also underscores how far the president’s expected actions will fall short of providing the kind of full membership in American society that activists have spent decades fighting for. The immigrants covered by Mr. Obama’s actions are also unlikely to receive public benefits like food stamps, Medicaid coverage or other need-based federal programs offered to citizens and some legal residents.”

The Executive Order, announced last night, offers temporary protection to certain undocumented immigrants who have been in this country for more than five years and who have children who are American citizens or legal U.S. residents. Those who wish to be granted this new status must register, pass a criminal background test, and pay taxes.

“You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law,” Obama said during his speech announcing the new order.

The Times article points out the troubling paradox of a plan that seeks to legally integrate undocumented immigrants into society while at the same time denying essential benefits that ensure their well-being and their ability to function as productive members of society.

The piece quotes Angel Padilla, a health policy analyst at the National Immigration Law Center, “We would all benefit if more people had access to health care services.”

Health benefits for immigrants have been a central question in the debate over immigration reform. A new report from the Guttmacher Institute highlights the pressing need for health coverage for immigrants, particularly for women of reproductive age.

Among women aged 15-44, 40% of the 6.6 million noncitizen immigrants are uninsured. This number is significantly higher for the large percentage of noncitizen immigrant women living below the poverty line.

Lack of health insurance is linked to adverse sexual and reproductive health outcomes, including unintended pregnancy, STIs, and cervical and other cancers that could be easily reduced through proper screening. 

Administrative Action on Immigration Provides Relief to Millions

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