Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Canadian Controversy- A Wise and Just Decision, Worthy of Canadians

A Canadian controversy
A wise and just decision, worthy of Canadians

Laura Wershler
For The Calgary Herald

Monday, January 28, 2008

As Canadians celebrate, agitate or ruminate on the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to strike down Canada's abortion laws, it is time to consider the general impact of this judgment.

Twenty years without any abortion law is considered scandalous by some. Yet, when compared to other countries with laws governing abortion, Canada is an intriguing example of how unnecessary such laws actually may be.

Writing in a National Post commentary on Jan. 22, 2008, David Frum called the Canadian situation "the Western world's most radical abortion regime." In this case, radical is best defined as going to the root or foundation of something. Radical as in fundamental.

The fundamental truth of having no abortion laws (and universal health care) is that positive outcomes have ensued. When comparing the U.S. situation to ours, a reasonable thinking person would admit that having no law has been more effective at managing outcomes than has the morass of restrictions legislated south of the border.

Canadian women, proportionally, have almost one-third fewer abortions than American women. In Canada, more abortions are done by 12 weeks than in the U.S. Canada also has one of the lowest maternal mortality and complication rates for abortion in the world.

In addition, Canada's abortion rates are similar to or lower than those in European countries that do have laws restricting abortion and have generally been in decline since 1997.

What the Morgentaler decision has meant for Canada is that abortion has settled into the domain in which it rightly belongs -- the health-care system. It is a medical procedure that, as two decades have proved, can be appropriately regulated by provincial Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons.

Canada's abortion statistics bear this out, including those related to the most controversial aspect of our no-law status -- that there are no legal restrictions on late-term abortions.

Procedures occurring after 20 weeks gestation make up less than 0.4 percent of abortions. Late-term abortion is rare, difficult to access and provided only in cases of serious maternal or fetal health problems.

It is inflammatory to suggest as does a recent national billboard campaign by LifeCanada that women do or can access abortion on demand when they are nine months pregnant.

To further demonstrate how abortion laws have no real power to impact actual abortion rates, consider a study by the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization published in October 2007 by the journal Lancet.

It found that abortion rates in countries worldwide are similar regardless of whether the procedure is legal or not. "The legal status of abortion has never dissuaded women and couples, who, for whatever reason, seek to end pregnancy," said Beth Fredrick of the International Women's Health Coalition commenting on the study.

Herein lies another fundamental truth about abortion. That whether legal or not, safe or not, abortion is a choice often made by normal women all around the world. We cannot deny this. We could do worse as a society than to normalize abortion as a fact of human experience. Not normal as in blase, but normal as in standard, natural, common.

Canada, it could be argued, has been doing just this for the past 20 years. We have, to a lesser or greater degree, depending on where you live in this expansive country, normalized abortion as a medically necessary, reasonably accessible and compassionately delivered health-care procedure.

Canada also continues striving, through sexual health education and services, to reduce the need for abortion.

Perhaps this normalization is what most aggravates those who want to keep the abortion controversy simmering -- or boiling over onto the political stovetop.

Barbara Kay, also writing in the National Post last week, argued that Canadians who believe abortion should be restricted in some cases have been silenced. She noted astutely that "the 20-year anniversary of any transformative social decision is a good moment for a dispassionate review of the decision's consequences."

Could it be the consequences that have kept our politicians from responding to calls for discussion on legal restrictions to abortion?

After all, a dispassionate review reveals that abortion in Canada is being appropriately regulated by the medical profession with reasonable outcomes equal to or better than countries that do have laws restricting abortion.

All things considered, it appears the decision made 20 years ago today by the Supreme Court of Canada was wise, just and worthy of Canadians.

Laura Wershler is a sexual health advocate, writer and speaker. She is the executive director of Sexual Health Access Alberta

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Aftermath of Pro-Choice Demonstrations in Madrid, Barcelona and other Spanish Cities

Madrid, January 24, 2008.- The Spanish Federation of Family Planning (FPFE) and its member associations have supported the pro choice demonstrations which took place in Madrid and Barcelona yesterday at 7pm in Puerta del Sol and Plaça Sant Jaume respectively. The demonstrations demanded the depenalization of abortion and that abortions should be performed in and covered by the public health system, which is decentralized in Spain –which means that each autonomous community (the first-level political division of Spain) is responsible for its own self-management concerning Health.

Around 5,000 people participated in Madrid and 1,000 people in Barcelona. Additionally, other demonstrations took place in other eleven Spaniard cities such as Vigo, A Coruña, and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria,

In Madrid, more than 50 feminists and women’s organizations leaded the demonstration supported also by unions and political parties, to defend women’s right to choose with mottos such as “women give birth, women decide” and “against the persecution on women”.

In Barcelona, 30 organizations supported the demonstration as part of the campaign for the right to choose, under the motto “I have aborted, too”.

In cities of the Galicia Autonomous Community, such as Vigo and A Coruña, more than 300 people demanded that abortions should be performed in and covered by the public health system and expressed their solidarity with the health professionals in the abortion centres. Among other Galician organizations, the Marcha Mundial de las Mujeres (World March of Women) leads the campaign.

Every city is promoting a self-incrimination campaign that will be submitted to the Court next March, 8th.

In Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, feminist associations, sexual and reproductive health organizations and unions from the Autonomous Community of Canarias, led the demonstration to demand, among other things, that the Canarian Public Health System should perform and cover abortions.

The demonstrators in Madrid demanded the cease of the “violent campaign” against abortion which leaded by different conservative groups. In addition, the demonstrators have demanded further commitment from the Spanish Government to change the Law on Abortion (that was passed in 1985) -and definitely deleting from it the Penal Code- in order to protect women and medical professionals from the gaps of the current Law of Abortion.

In Madrid, more than 2,000 statements of self-incrimination both by women and men will be submitted to the Court that is judging the denounces presented in Madrid by the ultraconservative group “La vida importa” (Life matters).

Additionally, members of the Socialist Party (PSOE) participated in the demonstration in Madrid. They had to hear the claims from the demonstrators, who demanded the PSOE to fulfil the socialist’s promise to change the Law on Abortion included in the PSOE 2004 electoral program for the general elections, a failed promise now that the Zapatero Administration (2004-2008) is about to end.


Following 30 years of actions, reflections and mobilizations to support women’s right to abortion, Spain have finished 2007 and have begun 2008 with the fundamentalist conservatives attacking both women rights and abortive clinics in Madrid and Barcelona.

The FPFE understands that people working abortion clinics are being considered and treated as criminals. But the real scandal is that, even when the usual way to send judicial citations is via post mail, the Judges in Madrid and Barcelona have ordered the Civil Guard (a special police corps) to give personally and in their houses the citations to declare to the women that appear in the Clinics files.

This systematic campaign against abortion gathers the ultraconservative sectors of the Catholic Church and the extreme Right political movement. These groups have intimidated health professionals and women in the Clinics in Barcelona and Madrid and had presented denounces about the activities in the clinics that conduced to the arrests of professionals of the clinics.

The FPFE is for the protection of women rights, including the right to abortion.

“I have aborted, too” is one of the mottos chosen by the different organizations supporting yesterday’s demonstration in order to show solidarity with all women who have aborted and now feel fear and insecurity.

Yesterday, women and social organizations in Barcelona and Madrid and other Spanish cities had the opportunity to demonstrate their own support to change, among other things, the current legislation on abortion while reinforcing their right to decide on their own lives.

All in all, “I have aborted, too” is a motto in favour of justice. Additionally, contraception and the right to contraception is a right for women.

Once more, in the aftermath of both demonstrations, the FPFE demands:

The removal of abortion from the Spanish Penal Code.
The change of the current Law of Abortion to include the women’s right to decide upon their own bodies.
The normalization of abortion in the Spanish Public Health System (SPHS), guaranteeing the practice of abortion despite the fact of the conscientious objection which sometimes takes place among several doctors of the SPHS staff.
The support of the State of Rule guaranteeing women rights, including the right to abortion and the right of medical professionals to practice the medical profession linked to abortion, without intimidations or defamations and without affecting the right to abortion.
The guarantee of the Sexual and Reproductive Rights (SRR) for women which has already been acknowledged by Spain at the International Conference of Population and Development (ICPD, El Cairo, 1994) and the IV World Conference of Women (Beijing, 1995), i.e., giving women the right to get information on SRR, contraception and access to contraception.

Letter to the Editor- Irish Independent

Majority left out in abortion row James Burkill

The debate on the issue of abortion is dominated by extremists on both sides.

On one side of the coin, we have the absolutist 'pro-life' movement who believe that abortion is wrong, no matter what the circumstances.

On the other side of the coin, we have the 'pro-choice' absolutists who think that women should have a right to chose to abort.

Both sides argue from emotion and both sides are responsible for consistently reducing this important debate to a pointless mud-slinging match.

The losers in this are the reasonable majority who don't fit the mould of either of these simplistic positions.

We don't even have a name for those of us who don't believe that abortion should be off limits entirely and also don't believe that women should have the right to choose.

Those of us who believe that abortion should be allowed only under a specific, well-defined set of circumstances, as far as I can tell, are not even represented, and yet a poll in September suggests that we are in the majority.

Our position is more complicated than that of the pro-choice and pro-life lobbies and thus, we need to be well- informed.

You see, when you don't take an absolutist position, you can't determine exactly how you believe abortion should be legislated for without first hearing from experts in fields such as medicine, law and ethics. Unfortunately, we rarely hear from such experts in relation to the topic, thanks to the ignoramuses who hog the podium during any such debate.

I'm not suggesting that the issue can be settled by or decided by these experts. When it comes to issues of ethics and morality, it's up to each individual to make a decision on where they stand, but to make a decision, we need information and reasoned debate. If we can't get that with the pro-life and pro-choice campaigners around, maybe it's time we handed them their hats.


Letters in the Irish Examiner - Monday January 28th

Irish Examiner Letters Page Monday January 28th

‘Abortion is murder’ – an absurd theory Seferin James

RORY O’DONOVAN (Letters, January 8) is mistaken to think Louise Caffrey (Letters, December 29) has failed to recognise the ideological grounds for opposition to the pro-choice position.

I assure Mr O’Donovan that everyone is well aware of the inescapably misogynist nature of the religious institutions that put the “firm belief” into his anti-choice position.

The ideological grounds in question are the grounds of the Catholic school he attended, the grounds of the church which he frequents, the grounds of Golgotha from which he derives the principle of noble suffering which he has effectively prescribed to women in crisis pregnancy. His insistence on using the term “murder” to describe abortion is a disingenuous but all too common equivocation between the two terms.

It is not only politically incorrect, a point to which Mr O’Donovan himself admits — it is also logically incorrect, a point to which “firm belief” is oblivious.

This equivocation reduces the former to absurdity and grossly mischaracterises the latter. Human life does not begin at conception — cell division begins at conception. That which is only potentially a person cannot itself be a person in actuality.

One cannot say that abortion is murder without reducing to absurdity what it means to be a human — the insubstantial notion that humanity just pops into existence when the soul supposedly enters into the foetus at the moment of conception. From where, we might well ask?

I argue that the meaning of moral values are ultimately derived from our ability to empathise with others.

In the case of abortion we are only capable of meaningfully empathising with the woman who finds herself pregnant without her reproductive consent.

To suggest otherwise is a theological fiction.

Seferin James
14 Cedar Square
Co Dublin

Dutch figures are not understated Anne- Marie rey

I WISH to respond to the letter from Eilís Grealy headlined ‘Dutch abortion figures understated’ (January 21).

This is one of those endlessly ruminated anti-abortion myths. In fact, Dutch abortion figures are not understated, but among the most accurate worldwide.

Every abortion is notified, including the so-called overtime treatments (very early abortions up to 44 days from last menstrual period).

One simple reason for the accuracy of the figures is that doctors only get paid by social insurance for those abortions they notify. You can be sure that Dutch doctors do not like very much to do unpaid work — no more than doctors in other countries.

The Dutch abortion rate per 1,000 women aged 15-44 (which is a more telling measure for the occurrence of abortions than the abortion ratio per 100 births) has remained stable since 2001, after a short period of rising slightly in the 1990s. It was 8.6/1,000 in 2006.

Switzerland has followed the Dutch model and after a very liberal abortion practice for many years, it legalised abortion on request in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in 2002.

In 2006 — the forth year under the new law — the abortion rate continued to fall and reached an all-time low, with 6/1,000 women, a rate even lower than the Dutch one.

These rates are among the lowest worldwide (note that there are no more illegal abortions in these two countries).

The reasons are good sex education and ready availability of contraception — the morning-after pill, for example, is available over the counter.

Anne-Marie Rey
Grabenstr. 21
3052 Zollikofen

IN his letter on abortion (January 8), Rory O’Donovan seeks to draw a distinction between pro-choice campaigners and care for the life of the unborn.

It is a gross injustice to women to suggest the decision to terminate a pregnancy signals a lack of care for the unborn.

Since Mr O’Donovan has never carried a child, one cannot expect him to understand the experience, but to suggest that a woman is not acutely aware of the potential life inside her, of the future prospects of that life and of the world of experience it will be born into — that is just preposterous.

Mr O’Donovan’s suggestion that people who seek a legal choice in the matter have “more in common with those who show concern over the carbon emissions resulting from a trip abroad than the implications for the life of an unborn child” is, I suspect, made in a somewhat sarcastic spirit — but it is in fact very relevant.

Concern over global warming is all to do with the future and those who come after us. While anti-choice campaigners have a deep concern for the life of the unborn child, the reality is that beyond attempting to secure the child’s future, they are powerless over the circumstances into which he or she will be born — and they show little concern about that.

The fact is that women already have the “veto over the lives of their unborn children”, which Mr O’Donovan is so against.

It is a responsibility conferred by virtue of their physical make-up and by modern medical science, and a number of Irish women each day choose to exercise that responsibility by ending their pregnancy, often with no guidance whatsoever.

If the anti-choice lobby was less concerned with salving its own conscience and more with the lives of the mother and and her unborn child, surely it would advocate legislation that includes mandatory counselling for women in crisis situations so they can be sure the decision they make takes into account all the ethics?

Nicki ffrench Davis Georges Quay Cork

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

As Abortion Rate Drops, Use of RU-486 Is On Rise

As Abortion Rate Drops, Use of RU-486 Is on Rise
by Rob Stein The Washington Post

Thirty-five years after the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision, a pill that has largely faded from the rancorous public debate over abortion has slowly and quietly begun to transform the experience of ending a pregnancy in the United States.

The French abortion pill RU-486, on the market since 2000, has become an increasingly common alternative, making abortion less clinical and more private. At a time when the overall number of abortions has been steadily declining, RU-486-induced abortions have been rising by 22 percent a year and now account for 14 percent of the total -- and more than one in five early abortions performed by the ninth week of pregnancy.

The pill, often called "miffy" after its chemical name mifepristone and brand name Mifeprex, also has helped slow the decline in abortion providers, as more physicians who previously did not perform the procedure discreetly start to prescribe the pill.

"The impact and the promise is huge," said Beth Jordan, medical director of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. "It's going a long way towards normalizing abortion."

When the Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone in 2000, some predicted it would revolutionize the abortion experience and debate by enabling women to get an abortion from any doctor, neutralizing one of opponents' most potent strategies -- picketing abortion clinics.

"The thinking initially was that this was going to change everything. There was a lot of hype. That didn't pan out," said Carole Joffe, a professor of sociology at the University of California at Davis. "But the impact has been happening gradually as it slowly and steadily is becoming integrated into the medical system."

Judi Gilbert, 41, a nurse in Philadelphia, opted for mifepristone in 2005 when she had her second abortion. She had a 3-year-old son and was about to start a new job.

"It was something I could do at home and be with my husband," Gilbert said of taking the pill. "It was a decision we made together alone, and we were able to take care of it this way alone. It was just a much more private affair."

She added: "I wouldn't say it was easy -- it's never easy to terminate a pregnancy. But in the grand scheme of things, it was much more pleasant than a surgical procedure."

Gilbert is one of more than 840,000 U.S. women who have used mifepristone since it was approved, according to Danco Laboratories, which sells it.

The drug ends a pregnancy by blocking the hormone progesterone. Women take the pill in the doctor's office and then go home, where they take another drug, misoprostol, to trigger contractions, essentially causing a miscarriage. Women then return to the doctor within about two weeks to make sure the process worked.

The price of the procedure varies. Standard abortions typically cost about $400, and the pill can cost the same to about $100 more.

About 150,000 of the 1.2 million abortions in the United States in 2006 were done with medication, the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit reproductive-health research organization, estimated recently.

More than half of abortion providers now offer the option, a 70 percent increase from the first half of 2001, Guttmacher said.

"Mifepristone is clearly starting to become an important part of the abortion provision in the United States," said Lawrence Finer, who studies the drug at Guttmacher. "I think we'll continue to see increases."

He noted that in some European countries, more than 60 percent of abortions are performed with the drug.

The increase is alarming to abortion opponents, who are expecting thousands to gather in the District today to protest Roe v. Wade on its 35th anniversary.

"This troubles me," said Randall K. O'Bannon of the National Right to Life Committee. "It obviously shows that the marketing efforts have been effective in getting doctors to introduce this into their practices."

O'Bannon questioned the drug's safety, citing a handful of reports of women who have died from severe complications from bacterial infections. "The idea that doctors are beginning to offer something that has a record of causing some serious problems is very troubling," he said. Supporters say that it remains unclear whether the complications were related to the drug and that overall the method has been shown to be extremely safe.

"The availability of mifepristone gives women another safe and effective way to terminate a pregnancy," said Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, which estimates that 83 percent of its 400 member clinics offer the drug.

The increase in mifepristone use has been fueled in part by more doctors and clinics that previously did not perform abortions now offering the drug. Guttmacher identified at least 119 and said those practices have slowed the decline in abortion services. The number of providers fell 2 percent from 1994 to 2005 -- a much slower decline than before the drug became available. Without mifepristone, the drop would have been 8 percent.

Ruth Lesnewski, a family physician in New York, did not perform abortions until mifepristone was approved.

"It allows abortion to happen in a more private, secure setting -- a doctor's office and a woman's home, rather than an easily targeted clinic," she said. "It's been a surprisingly smooth and rewarding experience for such a fraught area of life. My patients really tremendously appreciate being able to end an unwanted pregnancy privately and quickly."

Other doctors have begun to offer mifepristone in addition to surgical abortion.

"For some women, they like to have a more active role rather than just having something done to them," said Deborah Oyer, a family-practice doctor in Seattle. "For some, it feels in some ways more natural because it feels more like their body is doing it."

Some doctors walk a delicate line. One doctor in Albuquerque, for example, said she does not use in the pill at one of her offices but does offer it along with standard abortions at a clinic where she works At another clinic, she provides only the pill.

"My office is in a politically charged part of the community, so I try to be as diplomatic as possible," she said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "But at my other office, we can do an abortion where no one has to know -- not even the support staff."

The proportion of abortions being done with the drug varies widely, with some providers saying mifepristone accounts for about 10 percent and others reporting it accounts for two-thirds.

"We see 10 to 12 patients a week who want it," said Mary Frank, who runs the Memphis Center for Reproductive Health. "I've noticed that the women who want this have really done their homework. They know exactly what the process is and really have made a very conscious decision about their choice."

Women's experiences also vary widely.

"Some women say, 'It's the most horrible thing that ever happened and I'll never do it again,' and some women say, 'Heck, my period was worse than that,' " said Catherine McKegney, a family physician in St. Paul, Minn.

Mary, 25, an office administrator in Seattle, opted for mifepristone in December when she became pregnant and decided with her fiance that they were not ready to become parents.

"I liked the idea of being more in control," said Mary, who asked that her full name not be used. "I had some really, really bad cramps and had to take some Vicodin and ibuprofen to calm them down. But other than the cramps, it was pretty painless."

Victoria Reyes, 24, used mifepristone in 2006 when she became pregnant just before she was about to graduate from Ohio State University.

"It was one of the most difficult decisions I ever made in my life," she said. "My boyfriend and I got together and decided we were not in any position to financially afford a child. I chose it because it seemed like a more natural way."

But Reyes was surprised by how physically traumatic it turned out to be.

"It was one of the most painful experiences I've ever had," she said. "Not only were the cramps really bad, I was sweating and had a headache. I threw up at one point. It was pretty bad."

Reyes also had to take a second dose when an ultrasound showed she had not completed the abortion, requiring her to return to the clinic for a second time to confirm that the process was complete.

"I think I'm still glad I picked it," Reyes said. "I just wanted to be home and keep it private."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Bolivia's 'Bad Births' Sit on Political Sidelines

Bolivia's 'Bad Births' Sit on Political Sidelines

By Jean Friedman-Rudovsky - WeNews correspondent

LA PAZ, Bolivia (WOMENSENEWS)--Bolivia's 255-delegate Constituent Assembly under President Evo Morales--the country's first indigenous leader and widely considered one of the region's most leftist heads of state--last month narrowly avoided adding a ban on all abortion to its new constitution, regardless of the dangers to a woman's life.

Surprise? Not in Latin America.

While abortion rights may be a rough dividing line between left and right in the United States, progressive party rule here is no ticket to pro-choice advancement in this region.

In the past two years, Nicaragua's government of former revolutionary Sandinistas has banned all abortions. The president of Uruguay--leader of his country's historic left-wing party--has vowed to veto parliamentary attempts to legalize abortion. And Venezuelans' push to decriminalize the procedure has come to a virtual halt under socialist President Hugo Chavez.

Here in Bolivia the recent abortion controversy revolved around five words--"from the moment of conception"--which were to follow the text's guarantee to the right to life.

The phrase would have effectively outlawed all abortion in Bolivia, a major change for the country. The country is drafting a new constitution to give Bolivia's historically marginalized poor and indigenous majority a chance to help create a new foundational text.

Technically, abortion here was legalized in 1973 for victims of sexual assault or to prevent a life-threatening pregnancy. In practice, however, abortions are often performed without any legal inspection and the country has never seen an abortion provider prosecuted.

Bolivia has one of the highest abortion rates in the world: up to 80,000 procedures annually in a country of only 9 million people, according to the United Nations.

Prohibitive Expense

Many are relatively safe procedures performed in more than a dozen clinics around the country. But the average $150 fee is prohibitive for most in South America's poorest nation, so many look for alternative methods.

"First, I tried vaginal inserts," says one Bolivian woman, referring to a widely available ulcer drug that has become a popular do-it-yourself abortion option because of the medicine's side effects. "When that didn't work I found someone to do it for $30. I passed out during it and when I woke up, I was bloody and he was gone."

She was relatively lucky; at least one woman a day here ends up dead in this type of swallow-hard-and-take-the-risk medical care.

Despite the high number of deaths, talking about abortion remains taboo here in Bolivia.

Catholicism, the constitutionally established official religion, helps explain that. In Catholic schools, children are required to watch a video of a womb undergoing an abortion. It was church authorities who brought the conception clause to Constituent Assembly delegates when the body first began its proceedings.

Anti-abortion sentiment is widespread in secular life as well, says Claudia Lopez, a 31-year-old pro-choicer in Cochabamba. "Regardless of religion, we learn that conception isn't an option, it's our function," she says. "Women who abort live with a lifetime of guilt."

Entrenched Resistance

Major newspapers run pictures of a thumb-size fetus in a glass jar alongside articles about abortion. Staff in medical clinics often try to dissuade their patients from having abortions, telling them it is better to choose life than murder, say interviewees.

Meanwhile leftist indigenous women--who have been key players in Bolivia's recent political battles--have, for the most part, steered clear of the issue.

Paul Bustillos, political director for La Paz-based Catholics for the Right to Choose, says that's because pro-choice leaders have not engaged the country's indigenous majority.

"Here, the women's movement is known as a middle- or upper-class, white and often foreigner-led phenomenon," says Bustillos.

An indication of this disconnect: Many abortions are performed in rural areas where indigenous people predominate, yet the procedures are not referred to by their clinical name. Instead of "abortions" they are called "bad births" and are followed by cleansing rituals.

Balky Assembly

In the end, Morales' ruling Movement Towards Socialism party blocked the conception clause from the final text of the constitution, which still must be approved by national vote later this year. But it was like pulling teeth, say sources in the assembly, where about 1 in 4 delegates is female.

Bustillos says Catholics for the Right to Choose went into a "state of emergency" when the conception clause was introduced. Staff and volunteers distributed educational materials, led workshops and implored delegates not to doom their daughters and granddaughters to unwanted or risky pregnancies.

A key point, Bustillos says, was telling delegates that Bolivia's new constitution should enhance existing rights and not take them away.

Pro-choice advocates here know that in Latin America, a region that counts over 4 million abortions each year and up to 10,000 resulting deaths, Bolivia's resistance is not likely to dissolve any time soon.

"It's not that they don't understand, because inevitably they've all had a loved one go through this," says a Bolivian woman who recently had an abortion, referring to the region's new political leadership. "It's about the strong societal force pushing against acceptability. And overcoming that is going to take more than a few years of left-wing governments."

Jean Friedman-Rudovsky is the correspondent for Time magazine in Bolivia and is a founding editor of Ukhampacha Bolivia,, a bilingual online journal on Bolivian and Latin American politics.

Women's eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at .

For more information:

Catholics for a Right to Choose (in Spanish): -

International Planned Parenthood Federation, Western Hemisphere: -

Center for Reproductive Rights, Shadow Report on Bolivia (PDF format) - [Adobe PDF format]: -

Note: Women's eNews is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites and the contents of Web pages we link to may change without notice.

Friday, January 18, 2008

300 at UK Parliament Rally to Defend a Woman’s Right to Choose

300 pro-choice supporters packed into Parliament last night to launch
campaigning to defend a Woman’s Right to Choose. The launch, on Wednesday 16
January organised by Abortion Rights, saw a new generation of women unite
with those from previous campaigns that have defeated anti-abortion attacks
– all affirming their determination to defend a woman’s right to choose this
time round too. The crowds were so big an overflow room was also filled.

The threat to current law hinges around anti-abortion attempts to use the
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to attack the current time limit and
grounds for legal abortion.

Speakers from the Lords and Commons and from all three main parties, from
the TUC, women’s, disability rights and student movements urged supporters
to begin lobbying parliamentarians now and warned that the well funded
abortion opponents are already active.

The meeting heard from Baroness Joyce Gould, Chair of the All Party
Parliamentary Pro-Choice and Sexual Health Group, who outlined the Bill’s
current progress in the Lords where the first vote on abortion is expected
on Monday 21st January.

Baroness Jenny Tonge Vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Choice
and Sexual Health Group urged people confused about the issues to ‘put
themselves in the shoes of a woman who is pregnant and doesn’t want to be
-only then can you really begin to understand the importance of the right to
choose for women.’.

Diane Abbott MP argued that contrary to the anti-abortionists own rhetoric,
their position wasn’t pro-women or pro-family. Anti-abortionists were
fundamentally ‘anti-woman’ she said, to huge applause. Their goals were in
essence “about controlling women and their sexuality”, about “rolling back
every advance women have made over the last thirty years” and taking the
view of women that “if they’re going to have sex they should suffer for it”.

Emily Thornberry MP criticised anti-abortion proposals for a ‘cooling off’
period before women can have an abortion saying it was “condescending to
suggest women can’t be trusted to make such a fundamental decision about
their lives”.

Wendy Savage, Doctors for a Woman’s Choice on Abortion, and a renowned
advocate of women’s right to choose defended current rights to abortion up
to 24 weeks arguing that “the women most affected by a change in the time
limit are the youngest and most vulnerable and we’ve got to resist that”.

Alex Kemp NUS Disabled Students Officer said “restricting access to
abortion, for whatever reason, does not further the rights of disabled
women”. “Disabled students condemn the emotive and unnecessary association
between disability and abortion. Women have the right to choose to do with
their bodies what they like - disabled people do not wish to interfere with
that right.”

Numerous speakers also supported Abortion Rights’ position that far from
restricting rights, 40 years after the Abortion Act, current unfair barriers
to accessing abortion should be ended. Specifically that doctors’ effective
right of veto of over women’s abortion decision should be ended and that
abortion should be allowed in more settings and by trained nurses to end

Abortion Rights announced that a mass lobby of parliament, further rallies,
protests and demonstrations would be called in the coming weeks and months
to coincide with key stages of the Bill’s progress in the Commons.

A protest on 6th February in London against anti-abortion MP Anne
Widdecome’s road show promoting anti-abortion goals around the Bill was
announced (subject to police permission).


Abortion Rights is the national pro-choice campaign. It is supported by the
TUC, many of the national trade unions, the National Union of Students and
hundreds of individual members. It works closely with the All Party
Parliamentary Pro-Choice and Sexual Health Group and the Voice for Choice
coalition of pro-choice organisations.

Speakers at the event were Baroness Joyce Gould; Baroness Jenny Tonge; Emily
Thornberry MP; John Bercow MP; Katy Clark MP; Diane Abbott MP; Laura Moffatt
MP; Evan Harris MP; Narmada Thiranagama TUC women’s equality policy officer;
Wendy Savage, Doctors for A Woman's Choice on Abortion; Anni Marjoram,
adviser to the Mayor of London; Alex Kemp, NUS Disabled Students' Campaign;
Anne Quesney, Abortion Rights; Marge Berer, Voice for Choice; Katherine
Rake, Fawcett Society;

South African Abortion Bill Votes Counted

Abortion bill votes counted

The controversial Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill was passed by the National Assembly on Thursday by 266 votes to 52, with 12 abstentions.

The African Christian Democratic Party, Freedom Front, Federation of Democrats and Inkatha Freedom Party all voted against the measure, while the Democratic Alliance allowed its members a free vote on the matter.

The so-called abortion bill seeks, among other things, to amend existing legislation to allow certain public and private clinics to perform abortions without first obtaining government approval.

According to an attached memorandum, the bill empowers provincial health MECs to approve facilities at which abortions may be carried out.

'Do not let the blood of more innocent babied be on your hands'

"[Among the bill's objects is to] allow all public and private facilities that have a 24-hour maternity service to terminate pregnancies of up to and including 12 weeks without seeking approval from the Member of the Executive Council concerned."

Speaking during a declaration of vote, the ACDP's Cheryllyn Dudley said her party opposed the bill in the strongest possible terms.

"We call on members of this House to do the same. Do not let the blood of more innocent babied be on your hands," she implored.

Research showed nine out of 10 South Africans believed abortion was "morally wrong", Dudley said.

The DA's Mike Waters said his party has allowed members a free vote on the bill.

The bill 'gave women the right to choose'

The DA had two concerns with the measure, including that counselling for those seeking an abortion should be mandatory, and not non-mandatory as specified in the bill.

Further, doctors, midwives and nurses should have the right to conscientiously object to performing an abortion, and this right should be written into the law.

African National Congress MP James Ngculu told the House the bill gave women the right to choose.

The bill will now be sent to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.

Earlier on Thursday, pro-life groups had urged MPs to reject the measure, saying they should not pass the bill in its current form.

"A major point highlighted in all pro-life submissions included that women must receive adequate counselling in which all the risks (both physical and psychological) are explained in the counselling session prior to the abortion," Taryn Hodgson, spokeswoman of the Christian Action Network said in a statement. - Sapa

Published on the Web by IOL on 2008-01-17 16:46:51

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Long Roe to Hoe- From the Nation by Frances Kissling and Kate Michelman

From The Nation by Frances Kissling and Kate Michelman

Long Roe to Hoe
It’s been thirty-five years since the Supreme Court put the jewel in the crown of reproductive rights and civil liberties in America by affirming in Roe v. Wade a woman’s constitutional right to choose abortion. Immediately, the government authorized the use of Medicaid funds for poor women who choose abortion and the United States became a world leader in supporting reproductive health services.
Opposition to abortion, however, rapidly became the galvanizing issue in the emerging culture wars. Right-wing leaders from Senator Paul Laxalt to Paul Weyrich seized on abortion as a wedge issue to engage fundamentalist Christians in supporting the full agenda of the then–new right. Women are still paying the price for the success of this campaign. While Roe was not overturned, it was systematically eviscerated, and long-accepted reproductive health services such as birth control became controversial. These days the United States has one of the most punitive and regressive policies on reproductive health in the developed world. To reverse this turn to the far right, women’s health advocates must seek not only to protect abortion rights but to restore the whole range of reproductive health services, pushing for this broader agenda to be at the center of any progressive platform.
Looking at Europe, we can see how things would be different if reproductive health policy attended to women’s needs rather than the demands of a fundamentalist Christian right. Almost without exception, in Western European countries where abortions are legal, they are included in national healthcare plans. They do not require parental consent or notice for adolescents seeking abortion; contraceptives are reasonably priced, covered by health insurance and often available without prescription; teens and adults have access to emergency contraception in hospitals or over the counter at pharmacies; and abstinence-only sex education is rare.
When European women choose to have babies, they generally get free prenatal care and excellent midwifery services and birthing options. They receive paid medical and family leave. Those who are unemployed, disabled or ill are not penalized for having children but receive adequate resources to care for their family. Single mothers who work have access to professional daycare.
And the countries with these policies have lower unintended pregnancy rates and thus lower abortion rates.
The major European development agencies do not seek to control social values in the countries that receive their aid, nor do they deny funding to agencies or countries where abstinence is not put forward as the only option for preventing either pregnancy or disease. Family-planning funds are not withheld if local agencies provide access to or support safe and legal abortion.
While prochoice and antiabortion groups in the United States have argued about the minutiae of abortion practice, women’s economic security and reproductive health have been severely undermined by far-reaching changes in public policy. Given this broad assault on women, it is no longer ethically sound or politically wise to see abortion as the centerpiece of women’s struggle for freedom and equality. In the “change” election of 2008, it is critical that all candidates who claim to be prochoice define choice more broadly. They must make a commitment to fully restoring reproductive health and dignity to all American women regardless of their economic status. Likewise, a commitment should be made to a foreign policy that supports these services and rights for women in the developing world.
The sorry state of US reproductive health policy also requires serious shifts within the women’s and the abortion-rights movements, where we were privileged to serve as leaders for many years. So-called inside-the-Beltway strategies need to adopt a comprehensive progressive agenda that makes abortion rights and access part of the pursuit of justice for working and low-income women. Should the 2008 election result in a Democratic President and Congress, advocates need to insist on much more than we asked of the Clinton Administration. “Change” needs to go beyond the expansion of unpaid family and medical leave and the provision of emergency contraception to women who have been raped. Certain bottom-line commitments must be made not only by presidential candidates but by Congressional ones. These include commitments to paid family and medical leave; revocation of those aspects of welfare reform that penalize women with children and those who become pregnant while on public assistance; nationwide inclusion of abortion, family planning and emergency contraception for women in all national healthcare plans; and comprehensive, high-quality sex education and confidential reproductive healthcare for adolescents.
Having learned the hard way that Supreme Court decisions can fail us, we need to frame our case in the court of public opinion, and listen more attentively and respond more fully to the public’s concern about men’s as well as women’s responsibilities to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to parent wisely and lovingly. Roe v. Wade was a socially transforming decision that in many ways was ahead of its time. For women much of the task of social transformation is still before us. And it will be achieved only when we truly engage the public on the many issues that will ensure women’s equality and security.

Frances Kissling and Kate Michelman

Frances Kissling and Kate Michelman were longtime presidents of, respectively, Catholics for a Free Choice and NARAL Pro-choice America. Michelman is the author of Protecting the Right to Choose.

Abortions Down 25% From Peak- Los Angeles Times

Abortions down 25% from peak
But a study says more women are choosing medication, rather than surgery, to end pregnancies.

By Stephanie Simon
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

January 17, 2008

A comprehensive study of abortion in America underscores a striking change in the landscape, with ever-fewer pregnant women choosing abortion and those who do increasingly opting to avoid surgical clinics.

The number of abortions has plunged to 1.2 million a year, down 25% since peaking in 1990, according to a report released today -- days before the 35th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

In the early 1980s, nearly 1 in 3 pregnant women chose abortion. The most recent data show that proportion is closer to 1 in 5.

"That's a significant drop, and it's encouraging," said Randall K. O'Bannon, director of education and research for the antiabortion group National Right to Life.

Women looking to end early pregnancies are gravitating to medication abortions, in which they take two pills under a doctor's supervision to induce miscarriage. This approach lets them avoid surgery -- and the protesters who often picket clinics -- and expel the embryo in the privacy of their homes. The Food and Drug Administration approved the pills in 2000 for use through the seventh week of pregnancy.

By 2005, the most recent year covered by the report, the pills accounted for 13% of all abortions.

The research was conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based nonprofit that focuses on reproductive issues. The institute supports abortion rights and has received funding in the past from Planned Parenthood. Abortion opponents, however, generally view its statistics as reliable.

The Guttmacher report came to no conclusions about why the abortion landscape had changed. But that didn't stop activists on both sides from speculating -- and using the data to press their political agendas.

Abortion rights advocates suggested women may be avoiding unwanted pregnancies, thanks in part to the morning-after pill, emergency contraception that is sold without a prescription to women 18 and older.

Led by Planned Parenthood, activists have pledged to spend much of 2008 lobbying for laws to make all forms of birth control cheaper and more widely accessible. They also plan to push states to require sex-education classes that teach teens about contraception.

A political tactics manual recently developed for Planned Parenthood asserts that voters respond well to such issues -- especially when they're framed with buzzwords like "prevention," "protection" and "personal responsibility."

Dwell too much on abortion, and the broader liberal agenda will bog down, said Kathy Bonk, a consultant who developed the strategy. "It matters where you start the conversation," she said. "If you start on abortion, you don't get off abortion."

Conservatives, by contrast, are eager to keep the focus on abortion.

They contend that the more women learn about the procedure, the less likely they are to choose it. The rapid growth of crisis pregnancy centers -- which offer free diapers, parenting classes and other support -- has helped cut the number of abortions, they say. But just as important, in their view, are laws in more than 30 states mandating counseling before an abortion.

Some of the material given to women at such sessions is false or misleading -- for example, warnings that abortion raises the risk of breast cancer or causes post-traumatic stress disorder. Abortion rights supporters also object that many of the counseling brochures use photos of fetal development through nine months, though 90% of abortions take place in the first trimester.

Abortion opponents view such material as a vital tool to turn women against abortion; they plan to lobby to expand this type of counseling.

"We are making progress, state by state and law by law," said Denise M. Burke, vice president of Americans United for Life.

Some of the biggest drops in the abortion rate, however, have come in states that do not impose tight restrictions.

Oregon, for instance, was rated this week by Americans United for Life as the nation's "least pro-life state," yet its abortion rate dropped 25% from 2000 to 2005 -- more than any state except Wyoming.

California also was ranked hostile territory by Americans United for Life, but its abortion rate fell 13%, significantly more than the national average. "Abortion rate" refers to the number of abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age.

The data suggest that the decline in abortions may be due not to legal restrictions, but to a shift in "socio-cultural mores" -- in other words, women's attitudes, said John Seery, a professor at Pomona College who studies the politics of abortion.

"Right-to-lifers should take heart that abortion rates have been dropping, despite the movement's failure to reverse Roe vs. Wade," he said. To build upon that, Seery added, the antiabortion movement should focus on continuing to "change hearts and minds."

In addition to the data on abortion rates, the Guttmacher report offered the first comprehensive census of abortion providers since 2000.

The number of abortion clinics nationwide was down 15%, a net loss of four dozen surgical clinics. But other women's health centers -- and doctors in private practice -- filled the gap by offering medical abortions.

That trend may have political implications.

Abortion clinics have been besieged by "an escalation of pickets and protests," said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. It's much harder for protesters to identify a physician in private practice.

It also may be tougher for states to regulate medical abortions.

Missouri recently passed a law requiring doctors who dispense the abortion pill to turn their offices into full surgical suites. But a judge put the law on hold, pending a legal challenge.

"Increasing reliance on nonsurgical abortions is a problem for the antiabortion movement," said Alan I. Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta. "There is little popular support for restricting such abortions."

On the other hand, the trend isn't a clear victory for abortion rights advocates either. "It's harder for protesters to target these physicians, but it's also harder for women to find them," said Rachel K. Jones, a senior research associate at Guttmacher.

She said most doctors who prescribed the abortion pill worked in urban areas, so access to abortion had not improved for rural women.

More than 1 in 4 abortion patients reports traveling at least 50 miles to reach a provider. Nationwide, 87% of counties have no abortion services, a figure that has remained constant since 2000.

In compiling such statistics, Jones said she was struck by how difficult it was to persuade abortion doctors to share information about their practice because they feared reprisals from protesters.

"We used to be able to do this type of survey every year or every other year," she said. "Now, people are really reluctant to give you the information."

US Abortion Rate Continues Long-Term Decline


Increased Use of Medication Abortion Stems Decline in Providers

In 2005, the U.S. abortion rate declined to 19.4 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44, continuing the downward trend that started after the abortion rate peaked at 29.3 in 1981, according to a new Guttmacher Institute census of U.S. abortion providers. The abortion rate is now at its lowest level since 1974. The number of abortions declined as well, to a total of 1.2 million in 2005, 25% below the all-time high of 1.6 million abortions in 1990.

Despite these declines, slightly more than one in five pregnancies ended in abortion in 2005, an indicator of how much still needs to be done to help women and their partners avoid unintended pregnancy. “Our policymakers at the state and federal levels need to understand that behind virtually every abortion is an unintended pregnancy, so we must redouble our efforts towards prevention, through better access to contraception,” says Sharon L. Camp, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute.

Even as the long-term decline in the U.S. abortion rate continued, the new study also found that early medication abortion services expanded substantially between 2000 and 2005, as growing numbers of providers offered the service, including some that previously did not offer surgical abortion services. Fifty-seven percent of all known abortion providers now offer medication abortion services, compared with 33% in early 2001. Medication abortion accounted for 13% (161,000) of all abortions performed in 2005, and 22% of all eligible abortions (those performed prior to nine weeks’ gestation). According to recent government reports, abortions are occurring earlier, when the procedure is safer; increased access to medication abortion can help accelerate that trend.

“For a long time, nearly 90% of abortions in the U.S. have taken place in the first trimester, but in recent years, women having an abortion have been able to do so earlier and earlier in the first trimester. Currently, more than six in 10 abortions occur within the first eight weeks of pregnancy, and almost three in 10 take place at six weeks or earlier,” says Rachel Jones, lead researcher on the new survey. “Medication abortion, which provides women with an additional option early in pregnancy, clearly reinforces this very positive trend.”

The decline in the number of U.S. abortion providers, which had been substantial over the past decade, slowed dramatically between 2000 and 2005: The number of providers declined just 2% over this period, partly because of a surge in the number of providers that offer only medication abortion services. Without them, the number of providers would have declined by 8%. Overall, the number of providers declined in 26 states and the District of Columbia, increased in 15 states and remained stable in nine.

This analysis is based on the Guttmacher Institute’s 14th census of all known abortion providers in the United States. The study, “Abortion in the United States: Incidence and Access to Services, 2005,” will appear in the March 2008 issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

Additional materials can be found online:
• Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States – national overview fact sheet
• State Facts About Abortion – state-specific fact sheets
• An Overview of Abortion in the United States – slide show on the current state of abortion
• Trends in Abortion in the United States, 1973–2005 – slide show presenting trends since Roe
• Trends in Abortion by State – slide shows presenting trend data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia

from Guttmacher Institute newsletter.

The Guttmacher Institute——advances sexual and reproductive health worldwide through an interrelated program of social science research, policy analysis and public education.

Again, to view the full article please visit:

Reproductive Rights Alliance in South Africa welcomes adoption of the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Act

17 January 2008


Reproductive Rights Alliance welcomes adoption of the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Act

Today parliament passed the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Act. This comes after a process of public hearings undertaken by both houses of parliament. The extended consultation processes came as a result of a Constitutional Court ruling. However, the substance of the law was not in question. In brief, the law is aimed at expediting the designation of facilities; extending the pool of service providers; and clamping down on unscrupulous practitioners.

It builds on the principal Act, the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act no 92 of 1996, which has resulted in a positive impact on women's health. In particular it:

. Raised awareness of choices available to pregnant women, enabling

them to discuss options available to them and to access services.

. Significantly reduced the number of women dying by 91% as a result

of backstreet abortions. Also reduced health complications by 50%.

. Reduced public health care costs of treating complications resulting

from backstreet abortion; and

. Provided greater access to services, especially to poor, young and

rural women.

Parliamentary hearings in 2002 identified barriers that prevented optimal access. This resulted in the 2004 Amendment Act that increases and expands access to safe and legal pregnancy terminations, especially for poor and rural women. It does so in the following ways:

. Decentralisation to provinces helps the government improve the

quality of reproductive health services to women, especially at local level.

. It increases the pool of health care providers and the quality of


. It improves provincial administration of reproductive health

services, by enabling better internal accountability (eg. planning, record-keeping, monitoring services etc).

. It prevents the proliferation of illegal abortion clinics and

providers and strengthens the arm of the state in prosecuting these.

Little or no opposition to these provisions was expressed in the public consultation process. The opposition that was voiced was directed at provisions of the principal act (such as conscientious objection) and was aimed at limiting access to services and eroding women's constitutional right to reproductive choices and health-care. Such opposition is well-resourced and is part of a wider, global campaign to attack and erode these rights. It is characterised by strategies that include:

. Repeated and unsuccessful legal challenges to the principal Act;

. Appealing to emotion and the use of graphic materials to stigmatise

termination providers and services, as well as the women who use them;

. The spread of misinformation, including the use of pseudo-science

that draws spurious links between terminations and women's ill health

. Creating a climate of confusion and guilt that intimidates health

workers and clients

For example, the right of health workers to conscientious objection is often raised as a problem. There is no evidence that this requires a legislative response. Despite claims to the contrary, no one has laid a complaint with either Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) or South African Medical Association (SAMA) about being forced to perform TOPs.

The Constitution makes provision for conscientious objection, but also mandates access to reproductive health care and requires non-discrimination.

This provides a framework for genuine issues of conscientious objection to be addressed at management level. However, competency in pregnancy termination care is necessary for all health workers. The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) requires doctors to be generalists, able to provide termination of pregnancy for women in various states of life.

Calls for conscientious objection do the following:

. Promote discrimination against patients based on the kind of service

they require

. Disrupt the patient - health worker relationship by prioritising the

rights of the provider over those of the patient

. Marginalise termination services, placing them outside of the core

reproductive health services

. Promote a climate of fear, victimisation and stigmatisation

The amendment Act is necessary to improve women's rights to reproductive health care and choices. Distribution of services remains uneven across provinces, with women, particularly in rural areas, having little or no access. The amendment Act will ensure that access is improved in order for women to exercise their right to choose whether to have an abortion or not.

Issued by the Reproductive Rights Alliance:

Ipas South Africa

Centre for Applied Legal Studies, University of the Witwatersrand Health Systems Trust Women's Health Research Unit, University of Cape Town Women's Legal Centre Mosaic Training, Service & Healing Centre for Women OUT LGBT Well-being Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre to End Violence Against Women Reproductive Health Research Unit, University of Witwatersrand Women's Net

Marion Stevens

Project Manager

Treatment Monitor

Health Systems Trust

Roe Anniversary Is Decisive Moment To Choose- Gloria Feldt

OPINION: Roe Anniversary Is Decisive Moment to Choose - Gloria Feldt
Source: Women's eNews

Instead of offering a chance to celebrate, Gloria Feldt says the 35th anniversary of a wounded Roe v. Wade creates a moment of intense decision and requires a bold new perspective on reproductive self-determination.

Editor's Note: The following is a commentary. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of Women's eNews.

(WOMENSENEWS)--As a wounded Roe v. Wade approaches its 35th anniversary on Jan. 22, our popular narrative urgently begs for a full-scale, ground-up offensive to enshrine reproductive rights as human rights and create a more durable approach than the right to privacy--however valuable--has ever given women.

Instead we get William Kristol--who cynically advised Republicans two decades ago to remove the anti-abortion plank to win elections but to focus on restrictions that humiliate and endanger women--starting last week as a regular New York Times columnist. By paragraph four he had worked in a reference to "life" as interchangeable with restricting women's control over their own bodies.

And on Tuesday, NARAL Pro-Choice America's "Choice at Risk" report gave the nation a grade of D-Minus on access to contraception and abortion.

Last year, meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court drove a stake through Roe's heart by stripping away the principle that women's health is primary in its Gonzales v. Carhart decision.

But while most of the Republican presidential candidates compete to out-anti-Roe each other all is not lost. Not yet. Voters also have a lineup of Democratic hopefuls vying for the most pro-choice mantle and women are turning out in record numbers in the Democratic primaries.

So there's hope in strong political engagement and in asking these questions of the candidates seeking your vote:

"Where do you stand on the federal Freedom of Choice Act that would guarantee women's right to childbearing choices without coercion or discrimination?"

"Will you take leadership to ensure that women are first-class citizens deemed morally capable and legally guaranteed the civil right to make their own childbearing choices?"

We Thought Roe Was Permanent

Some of us thought Roe v. Wade fixed reproductive self-determination within the firmament of other fundamental constitutional guarantees of liberty and justice for all.

Now, evidence of just how far into retreat this landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision has been pushed is all around.

Pro-Roe swing vote Justice Sandra Day O'Connor retired in 2006 and was replaced by Justice Samuel Alito, who as a U.S. Justice Department attorney authored the incremental strategy to overturn Roe. Even before Alito's sinister arrival, the high court, in its 1992 ruling on Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, allowed legislators to restrict access to abortion so long as they don't create an "undue burden."

Thus far, almost no burden has been judged undue as the majority of states rushed to pass laws that reduce women's access to safe, legal abortion.

Last year's Gonzales v. Carhart decision drove a nail into women's coffins by upholding the federal abortion ban, signaling that the new Bush Court will also allow Congress into the act of limiting women's reproductive rights.

Women's Stories Burst Out

When Roe legalized abortion based on the right-to-privacy precedent of Griswold v. Connecticut, which made birth control legal in 1965, the reality of abortion burst out of the closet. Women's stories--long hidden in deepest, darkest silence--poured forth until everyone knew this wasn't some aberration in the procreative chain of events but something that affected your mother, your daughter, your sister, yourself.

But today, while it's acceptable to discuss many sexual matters in explicit terms--from oral sex to teen pregnancy--not so for abortion. Just look at how women and their childbearing decisions get treated in the popular culture.

The movie "Juno" brings us a pregnant teen who gives her child up for adoption, while the tabloids offer up Jamie Lynn Spears, Britney's 16-year-old real life and really pregnant sister who opts for single motherhood.

There's also "Knocked Up," about a woman with an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy. After its strong box office run the movie is near the top of DVD rentals, with nary a mention of abortion except as a verboten subject, a less than savory choice that the pregnant protagonists wouldn't deign to consider.

While the popular media blasts us with "Juno," Jamie Lynn and "Knocked Up," stories other women tell me in increasingly hushed tones--in e-mails, letters, chance meetings at the grocery store, after my speeches--are missing from the discourse.

One example: "The option of legal abortion enabled my future husband and me to grow up, establish a stable relationship, and become financially and emotionally able to nurture the two beautiful children we would, in time, have."

It's often overlooked that abortion is as much part of family formation as childbearing. Women don't have abortions because they fail to value children, but because they value children so highly, they want to give birth when they can care for them well.

"I used to be against abortion, but now I realize this is about my health and I have changed my mind. I wrote to Jerry Falwell about this." Another example.

The Issue is Justice

You never know what you will do until you're confronted with the situation. Rev. Tom Davis, whose 2005 book "Sacred Choices" documented clergy leadership to legalize abortion, believes the issue is justice. "One could not disconnect the rights of women from their reproductive rights. The right to control one's own body made all the other rights possible."

"The trauma was the unintended pregnancy, not the abortion. But I had to travel several hours to find the nearest doctor. He was forced by law to 'counsel' me to continue the pregnancy even though I had already consulted my minister, and to make me wait an extra day. I had to take three days off work; what about women who can't afford that?" A third example.

Here's my own story: I stood in Jamie Lynn Spears' shoes 50 years ago. But I married my high school sweetheart, had three children, took the birth control pill for 12 years, then opted for sterilization.

I chose to give attention to my three children, get an education, restore my health and work to supplement our modest family income.

That should have been that from a procreation point of view, but it wasn't quite. My former husband and I, too young when we married to sustain a mature relationship, eventually divorced. A few years later--29 years ago now--I met the love of my life. We considered having a child, but we each had children who still needed our support, and although there was a chance my sterilization could be reversed and I could become pregnant, the odds were slim.

That's how I learned humility, not judgment, is in order when we look at the various decisions that women make about childbearing. Before then, I was simply oblivious to the stories behind other women's choices. Now I understand that when it comes to pregnancy and childbearing, every choice involves both sacrifice and freedom. That's the moral case for reproductive justice.

And that's why this anniversary of Roe calls for nothing less than a ringing affirmation of women's rights as human rights--rather than merely privacy rights--and a pledge to advance laws and appoint judges who assert respect for women's lives and human rights.

Only a politician who offers that is worthy of my vote.

Gloria Feldt is co-author with Kathleen Turner of the forthcoming "Send Yourself Roses," and former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Women's eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Doctors Support A Woman's Right To Choose

Doctors support a woman’s right to choose Irish Medical News

Dr Peadar O’Grady, Consultant Child Psychiatrist, Doctors for Choice,
Dublin 2

I refer to Dr Sean O’Domhnaill’s letter to your newspaper (IMN, 26/11/07) regarding the excellent conference on abortion services for Ireland, whose keynote speech was given by Mr Jon O’Brien on behalf of “Catholics For A Free Choice”.

The letter refers to the organisation Doctors For Choice in Ireland. Doctors For Choice in Ireland is a voluntary confidential organisation of like-minded doctors who advocate for legal reproductive rights and healthcare for Irish women.

We are affiliated to the Global Doctors For Choice initiative, which is an international organisation of many thousands of members worldwide. We have very strong active relationships with the medical academies, as well as the statutory and non-governmental reproductive health and family planning agencies throughout Ireland and abroad.

It is vital that a community exists within the medical profession to advocate for patients and doctors in situations where abortion and other reproductive health measures are not legally available.

We are aware that some doctors do not personally agree with abortion but that many would share in the, now majority, view in Ireland that abortion services should be provided. The 1992 X case and subsequent cases have provided Irish people with several opportunities to question in real life situations whether or not they would agree to force a woman through an unwanted pregnancy. They have also been led to question why late abortions are increased by the unnecessary delay caused by women’s need to travel to have an abortion in the health service of another EU country.

It is likely that doctors, like other people in Ireland, are beginning to support a woman’s right to choose.

Like Catholics For A Free Choice we believe that people are the best judges of what is right and wrong for their bodies, rather than bishops, judges or doctors. The principle of in­formed consent should apply to all medical services in the same way. Rejection of patients’ personal values and private morals has unfortunately led to an atmosphere of secrecy and shame surrounding abortion. The evidence is that lack of support from the medical profession for a patient’s choice of abortion increases morbidity due to insufficient medical attention, as well as increasing emotional and psychological sequelae.

The most consistent distressing psychological sequelae of abortion are guilt and shame regarding pregnancy and abortion. Guilt is heightened in those who did not have an opportunity to consider where in the range of possible opinions their own feelings lay and who felt obliged to accept an immoral or “sinful” interpretation as the only one available. It is important to consider that the unacceptably high incidence of psychological sequelae postpartum also reflects issues of decision-making and social support relating to pregnancy and abortion.

It is important that doctors encourage access to non-directive counselling so that women with unwanted pregnancies can make an informed and unpressured decision about what is best for them in their pregnancy. We should advocate for good medical and childcare support so that the choice for women is a real one rather than just empty rhetoric.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Madrid Pledges Protection To Abortion Clinics Striking Over Attacks

Madrid - The Spanish capital Madrid has pledged police protection to abortion clinics striking over what they describe as judicial insecurity, attacks and harassment, press reports said Thursday. Abortion clinics all over Spain are staging an unprecedented strike this week, forcing an estimated 2,000 women to postpone their abortions.

Soledad Mestre, a government delegate to Madrid, said local abortion clinics could solicit police protection against death threats or acts involving graffiti made by ultra-conservative or neo- Nazi groups.

The strike has reportedly caused serious problems to some women, who needed to abort urgently on grounds of malformation of the foetus.

Spain's abortion law allows women to abort in the first 22 weeks of pregnancy in the case of foetal malformation, in the first 12 weeks in case of rape, and theoretically at any point if their mental or physical health is at risk.

The overwhelming majority of abortions are carried out on the basis of risk to the mother's health at private clinics.

Abortion-rights advocates want Spain to take abortion out of the legislative "grey area" by aligning laws pertaining to the procedure with the more liberal legislation in force in many other European countries, which allow abortion up to a certain stage of pregnancy without having to demonstrate a reason for it.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist government has, however, backtracked on its pledge to liberalize abortion, fearing that such a policy would deepen its rift with the Catholic Church two months before the general elections.

Abortion came under discussion after police raids at a string of Barcelona clinics suspected of carrying out abortions illegally even in the final months of pregnancy.

Many of the patients are believed to have been "abortion tourists" from other European countries. Several doctors were detained, and about 40 patients also came under a judicial investigation.

Two Madrid clinics were meanwhile closed over administrative irregularities.

The events prompted a wave of minor attacks, such as phone threats or smashed windows, against abortion clinics, which are also complaining over unnecessary administrative inspections.

Many women now felt that abortion was something illegal, said Eva Rodriguez Armario of the abortion clinics' association Acai.

Spain allowed abortion in 1985, and the number of voluntary terminations of pregnancy has doubled to about 100,000 annually over the past decade.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Global Round-Up of Abortion Related News

Zapatero rules out Spanish abortion law reform


Row over abortion right for rape victims in Egypt


Abortion takes center stage in new film

JANUARY 2ND Czech Republic

European Christians hold anti-abortion rally in Prague

By ČTK / Published 2 January 2008

January 2nd- ITALY


Italian lawmaker proposes moratorium on abortion

January 4th-AUSTRALIA

Abbott's abortion hotline a failure,25197,23004543-2702,00.html

January 4th-IRELAND

Labour calls for reform of abortion legislation Shaun Connolly Irish Examiner

LABOUR last night demanded reform of “hypocritical” abortion laws in light of a girl in the HSE’s care travelling abroad for a termination.

The health service has been involved in at least one foreign abortion each year for the past number of years, while the 2007 “Miss D case” was the subject of a highly publicised court battle in the summer.

The legal wrangle again caused Ireland’s post-X Case status quo to be called into question.

If females in care have been victims of rape or incest, the HSE can make court applications to take them abroad, usually to Britain, for abortions.

The 2007 termination involved a foetus which would not have lived for long outside of the womb. The HSE challenged the 17-year-old girl’s right to go to Britain, but the High Court ruled there was nothing to stop her travelling.

The Labour Party has renewed demands for the Government to “take tough decisions” and fulfil the promise it made in March 2002 to legislate for the Supreme Court X Case, after the abortion referendum it called failed to clarify the position. The party’s health spokesperson, Jan O’Sullivan, said it was not acceptable for the Republic to continue to export the situation to England.

“There is a degree of hypocrisy in this attitude. We can’t just continue sweeping this issue across to Britain forever. There has to be a decision taken here.

“The Government seems happy to let things slide. But that is not leadership. We need the political will to be shown so that we can sort this situation out once and for all,” she said.

The 1992 X Case provoked national soul-searching when a 14-year-old rape victim was initially prevented by the High Court from travelling to Britain for an abortion. Following the case, the Supreme Court ruled an expectant mother had a right to an abortion here, if there was a substantive risk to her life, including the threat of suicide.

The Government tried to have the threat of suicide eliminated as grounds for an abortion in the contentious 2002 referendum, but this was defeated.

The HSE also paid for one teenage girl to travel to Britain for a termination in 2005 and another in 2006. Before the HSE, health boards provided funds to allow two teenagers to travel to Britain for abortions between the 2002 referendum and March 2003.

A HSE spokesperson said the executive had an obligation to act in the best interest of minors in its care.

The Government indicated before the last referendum that the State would fund abortions for teenagers in care who were victims of rape or incest. At the time, then health minister Micheál Martin said people voted for the right to travel in 1992 and the State could not stop parents bringing their children abroad for abortions.

Pro-choice groups say more than 100,000 women have travelled to Britain for abortions since 1983.

A TNS MRBI poll in the wake of the Miss D case found four in five people agree with abortion if the woman’s life is endangered, while nearly three-quarters agree with abortion in Ireland when the foetus can’t survive outside the womb.

The survey showed that 43% support abortion if it’s in a woman’s “best interests”, but the majority (51%) remain against terminations in this country. The survey revealed those who support a more liberal abortion policy are 52% male, 48% female, most likely to be aged 25-34, and lower-middle class to working class. They are also most likely to live in Dublin or Munster.

January 5th-POLAND

New initiative to further restrict abortion in Poland

The Polish Ombudsman Janusz Kochanowski is considering filing the complaint to the Polish Constitutional Tribunal against the article of the anti-abortion law allowing for abortion on therapeutic grounds. He believes this article is not constitutional due to the lack of precision . His intention is to limit access to abortion if health problems are not serious enough.

This initiative is being considered on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the introduction of present restrictive anti-abortion law which was passed by the Polish Parliament on January 7th 1993. His attempt to limit access to legal abortion is grounded in the recent decision of the European Court for Human Rights in the case of Alicja Tysiac according to which denial of access to legal abortion on medical grounds was a breech of her right to privacy under the European Convention of Human Rights.

The recent report of the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning confirms that the anti-abortion law which de jure allows for abortions on medical, criminal and genetic grounds, in practice is much more restrictive. Abortions are hardly accessible due to highly restrictive interpretation of the law.

The Federation is calling for the liberalisation of the one of the most restrictive legislations in Europe.

January 6th- ISRAEL

Israelis Clearly Divided on Abortion

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Adults in Israel hold dissimilar views on pregnancy termination, according to a poll by the Mutagim Institute. 39 per cent of respondents think abortion, when necessary, is a legitimate medical procedure, 31 per cent regard it as an especially painful last resort, and 30 per cent say it is equivalent to murder.

While 32 per cent of respondents believe abortion is never justified, 55 per cent would consent to the procedure if the fetus carried a grave illness. Support is markedly lower for the termination of an unwanted pregnancy, or for abortions performed due to financial difficulties or when the fetus was not of the sex desired by the parents.

Last month, Israeli lawmaker Nissim Zeev of the International Organization of Torah-observant Sephardic Jews (Shas) proposed outlawing abortion in Israel after the first 22 weeks of gestation. In the country, abortions are authorized by a special committee, which usually allows the procedure in cases of rape, incest or adultery, if the woman is under 17 years of age or over 40, if the woman’s physical or mental well-being could be jeopardized by the pregnancy, or if the fetus has a suspected physical or mental defect.

Zeev explained his rationale for the changes, saying, "At 22 weeks, the fetus is alive. Terminating the pregnancy at that point constitutes murder and not an ‘abortion’. It is an unfounded claim that limiting abortions interferes with a woman’s freedom and right over her own body—we are talking about granting life."

Polling Data

Which of these statements comes closest to your own view on abortion?

Abortion, when necessary, is a legitimate medical procedure

Abortion is an especially painful last resort

Abortion is equivalent to murder

In which of these circumstances would an abortion be justified?
(Several answers allowed)

If the fetus carried a grave illness

If the pregnancy was unplanned

Due to financial difficulties

If the fetus was not of the sex desired by the parents

Abortion is never justified

Source: Mutagim Institute
Methodology: Interviews with 512 Israeli adults, conducted in December 2007. Margin of error is 4.5 per cent.

January 6th-NICARAGUA- Request for Support

Subject: [global2local] your
solidarity needed!!!!

Dear colleagues from feminist and women organizations from different regions of the world:

We regret to inform you that in Nicaragua, a new action of the increased
presence of fundamentalists attacking feminist for defending the human rights
of women is taking place.

The so called National Association for Human Rights
(ANPDH), which has legal registration (even though their activities and
headquarters are unknown), an organization sponsored by the Catholic right wing
and the Secretary of the Episcopal Conference of the country, have filed a case
on the crime of coverage and omission on the case of rape and others (as
parallel action to the trial against the father of Rosita – the 9 years
old little girl that was raped and got pregnant as a result of it), who has
been sentenced to 30 years of imprisonment), against the following colleagues:

1.- Ana Maria Pizarro, member of the Regional Coordination of the Campaign
September 28 for the Decriminalization of Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean
2.- Juanita Jiménez, person responsible for Advocacy of the Network of Women
against Violence (until recently)
3.- Lorna Norori, Psychologist
4.- Luisa Molina Arguello, spokesperson of the Federation of NGOs working
with Children and Adolescents
5.- Martha Maria Blandón, from the Sexuality, Maternity and Rights Forum and
IPAS Central America
6.- Martha Munguia, director of the Center Mujeres Acción Ya
7.- Mayra Sirias, current spokesperson of the Network of Women against Violence
and member of its Coordinating Body
8.- Violeta Delgado, former Executive Coordinator of the Network of Women
against Violence
9.- Yamileth Mejia, person responsible of Political Training of the Network of
Women against Violence (until recently)

Given the seriousness of the case, the Women’s Autonomous Movement of Nicaragua has disseminated the following letter:

Dear friends,

The General Attorney’s Office of the Republic, the National Association
for Human Rights filed a case against 9 well-known leaders of the women’s
movement of Nicaragua, accused as responsible of committing some criminal acts.

These compañeras are members of different civil society spaces and
organizations, they have a long history of struggle in favor of women’s rights, freedom and justice, democracy and socioeconomic development of the
country, and most of them are members of the National Network of Women against
Violence. These social activists had an important participation in support
of the denounce presented by ZoilamÃrica Narva¡ez of sexual abused by her
step-father, the current President of the Republic

Through information we received today, the afternoon of November 22nd, we know
that the General’s Attorneys Office has instructions to proceed
immediately in prosecuting the case, preparing the accusation and doing a fast
trial guaranteeing a sentence against the nine accused, to take them to jail.

With this decision, backed by the presidential couple, (Ortega and his wife
Rosario Murillo) an action of political vengeance and repression is being
implemented for those who supported ZoilamÃrica’s quest for justice.
Also, they are trying to negatively affect the credibility of women’s
spaces and organizations that with courage have always denounced crimes of
violence and sexual abuse of all the victims that have approach them for

We call all women’s and other civil society organizations to mobilize
against this repressive action of political terrorism and to defend the rights
and freedom of our compañras, and to reject through different means the
actions of the presidential couple and the Attorney’s office.

Meanwhile, the Network of Women against Violence has call on all its members to
coordinate a joint response, that several other organizations from all over the
country are supporting, as well as organizations with which the women’s
movements has alliances and joint work, as well as diverse groups promoting
sexual diversity.

It does not go without saying that we expect all sorts of expressions of
solidarity by the international women’s and feminist movements, which has
historically and permanently denounced the arbitrary actions that are faced by
women who are struggling to advance rights for all.

Your solidarity messages can be sent to the email address of the Campaign 28 of

Thanking you all in advance for your support,

Patricia Orozco A.

Regional Coordinator of the Campaign 28 of September

January 6th-SPAIN

Dear colleagues,

Let me share with you some update information regarding the situation of abortion in Spain. After more than one month of decisions, judicial investigations, and political statements, the balance is not very positive:

- Prison without bail for 3 people and with bail for two more working in the clinic CB Medical in Barcelona.

- The Health Regional Body of Madrid has presented a judicial demand against the subsidiary clinic of the CB Medical Group in Madrid and has imposed a preventive closure.

- Mayritt, another private clinic in Madrid, was also suspended by the Regional Government of Madrid due to administrative issues (they found some psychiatric reports forms already signed even when they were blank).

- More than 40 women have been called to declare (none have been imprisoned).

- Several demonstrations of anti-choice groups in front of private clinics in Madrid.

- Physical attacks to various private clinic professionals in Madrid.

Even though the demands of part of the civil society and women, president Rodriguez Zapatero keeps considering that there are no reasons for a change in the legal situation of abortion in Spain, as he said at the last conference press of year 2007.

In the meantime, next week, almost 100% of the private clinics, which perform 98% of abortions in Spain, will stop completely their activity to demand a new Law and protection for their professionals. Please, find enclosed the statement that will be published in newspapers on Friday 13th. We are trying to gather as much support as possible so if you would like to endorse it, please let us know before Wednesday 11th.

We are preparing other actions about which we will keep you informed.



Marta O'Kelly

Spanish Interest Group on
Population, Development &
Reproductive Health
Office: C/ Juan Montalvo, 6
28040 Madrid Spain
Ph: 34-913232862
Fax: 34-915362500