Friday, August 22, 2008

Politicians On Both Sides Part Ways Over Abortion Bill

Politicians on both sides part ways over abortion bill

The Age (Australia)

MAJOR divisions have emerged in the Brumby Government and the Opposition over whether landmark legislation to make abortion legal in Victoria would increase the number of pregnancies terminated.

Sports Minister James Merlino has spoken out against the bill to decriminalise abortion, saying he would "oppose moves to allow a greater number of abortions".

His views are in conflict with Premier John Brumby, who has argued there is no evidence to suggest that passage of the bill would result in more abortions.

Coalition leader Ted Baillieu said he did not believe the legislation would increase the number of abortions.

But his Coalition partner and National's leader Peter Ryan said it was logical that if the perceived punitive aspects of abortion up to 24 weeks were removed, the number of terminations might increase.

Mr Ryan said he opposed the bill as a matter of principle. "There is no question abortion is a matter deeply bound up with women's health, but the first issue is a question of dignity of life," he said.

MPs will have a conscience vote on the bill, which, if passed, would remove abortion from the Crimes Act.

Under the legislation, introduced in Parliament this week, women would be able to choose to have an abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. Late-term abortions would be allowed if two doctors believe the termination to be appropriate on medical grounds and with regard to the woman's physical, psychological and social cir-cumstances.

A report by the Victorian Law Reform Commission, which forms the basis of the legislation, found there was no correspondence between the rate of abortion and legislation.

Women's Affairs Minister Maxine Morand also said yesterday that there was no link between the abortion rate and the restrictiveness of abortion laws.

"The rate of unwanted pregnancy is . . . relative to access to contraception," she told 3AW.

Ms Morand, who is sponsoring the bill, acknowledged there could be more hospitals offering abortions under the legislation.

The Premier, Ms Morand and Health Minister Daniel Andrews have all said the proposed law would reflect current clinical practice on abortion and take away the threat of prosecution for women and medical professionals.

But shadow attorney-general Robert Clark said there was a very substantial risk that the bill would increase the number of terminations.

"The legislation greatly increases the scope for abortions and sets standards that are much less restrictive than current practice," he said.

About 20,000 abortions are performed in Victoria each year under the protection of a 1969 Supreme Court ruling.

Former Bracks government minister and anti-abortionist Christine Campbell said the legislation would require less medical consultation for abortions than current requirements, increasing terminations.

Ms Campbell called a meeting of MPs from all parties last night to push for amendments to the bill, including: mandatory counselling for women deciding to have an abortion; no career disadvantage for medical professionals who object to performing or assisting with abortions; and a requirement that those performing abortions have obstetric or gynaecological training.

The Guardian: Legalised Abortion in Mexico City Faces Supreme Court Fight

Legalised abortion in Mexico City faces supreme court fight

• Abortion remains illegal in most of Mexico
• Activists argue measure violates constitution
• Number of women who die during procedure decrease

More than a year after abortion was decriminalised in Mexico City, abortion opponents hope the Mexican supreme court will reverse the legislation in a decision that could reverberate across Mexico and Latin America.

Mexico's highest court heard public testimony in the spring, and is expected to rule as early as this month on the constitutionality of the local abortion measure.

The Federal District is governed by the left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution. Through its control of the city assembly, the party in April 2007 legalised abortion in the city for women who are up to 12 weeks pregnant.

The measure is unusual because it legalises abortion in the capital. Except in cases of rape or risks to the mother's life, abortion remains illegal in most of rest of this devoutly Roman Catholic nation.

States in Mexico set their own policies on abortion rights, and only Yucatan in Mexico's far south has allowed abortion in cases of extreme poverty.

University studies estimate between 500,000 and 1 million abortions take place in Mexico annually, but most are of questionable legality.

The Catholic Church and anti-abortion activists want the high court to strike down the Mexico City measure. They argue that life begins at conception and carrying out an abortion amounts to a taking of life that violates Mexico's constitution.

"A person's life has such a great value that we cannot take it, we are not the owners," insists Ana Elena Cantu, a city legislator in the northern industrial city of Monterrey and an anti-abortion leader in Mexico.

But the 11 members of Mexico's high court may look beyond the constitutional question.

"It is not a philosophical debate. It is mostly about the criminality. Should you or should you not be penalising it," said Miguel Sarre, a university law professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico.

In prior rulings, Mexico's high court declared abortion to be a crime but said it should not be penalised.

That ruling mollified both sides, but such a broad decision is unlikely this time, Sarre said, partly because Mexico City is drawing women in from other parts of the nation for abortions.

Since May 2007, 12 participating public hospitals in Mexico City have performed more than 12,000 free abortions, and are averaging about 35 to 40 such procedures per day, according to the city's director of emergency medical services, Dr. Arturo Gaytan. Most of the women are poor, he said.

"There isn't a way to measure this. What was clandestine is now authorised. We don't know what the measure is outside these medical units," Gaytan said.

Women who could afford it traditionally went to private clinics for abortions that technically were illegal. Today, these clinics continue to perform the procedures, but women who visit them have more recourse.

"If something happens, your family or you have legal grounds to allege negligence," said Daphne, a 23-year-old law student who first spoke to McClatchy Newspapers in March 2007 as she readied to have an abortion just weeks before it became legal.

Speaking again on condition that her last name be withheld to protect her privacy, Daphne said she would still choose a private clinic today for an abortion because "people are still afraid of the (public) institutions".

To combat that image of poor quality, city health officials point to the number of recorded deaths of mothers during the procedure. In 2005, 15 women died during a reported abortion, eight in 2006, one in 2007 and none in 2008, Gaytan said.

"What this suggests is that procedures in clandestine areas have disappeared and given way to this," he said.

Of the now-decriminalised abortions at public hospitals, 39 percent involved women who already have children and cannot afford another. Students represented almost 27 percent of the women seeking abortions, while 20 percent were maids and domestic workers. In 58 percent of the cases, the women seeking an abortion had an intrauterine device implanted to prevent another unwanted pregnancy.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Women's enews: An Abortion Sets Major Milestone in Her Life

An Abortion Sets Major Milestone in Her Life
By Joy Pincus
WeNews correspondent

(WOMENSENEWS)--I have several milestones by which I measure my life; like moving to Israel, deciding to get married or quitting my job to become a full-time freelance writer.

Today, however, my life is divided into two distinct periods: before and after my abortion.

After a few years of trying to conceive, my spouse and I were overjoyed when our first attempt at in-vitro fertilization succeeded; doubly so, because six weeks later we discovered I was pregnant with twins. At age 39, I would be giving birth just short of my 40th birthday. I found a midwife and began to plan for my perfect home birth, which of course would be preceded by as few ultrasounds or other intervening procedures as possible. It all felt like a dream come true.

That feeling lasted about six weeks, until the first test results came in and we understood that fetal development would have to be carefully monitored. From that moment on, my spouse and I found ourselves strapped in a nightmare of a rollercoaster ride. When that ride finally ended, seven months had passed and we faced one of the most difficult decisions of our lives.

Knowing that something may or may not be very wrong with one's unborn children demands a precarious psychological balance. One has to walk a very thin line between expectation and resignation; simultaneously hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. I walked that line as best I could.

Losing Hope
After several inconclusive tests, we finally received confirmation beyond a doubt that one fetus was malformed to an extent that would preclude any normal existence. I gave up all hope of having twins, consoling myself with the thought that at least one child would somehow make it through.

The ride had not yet ended.

We soon discovered that the second fetus was suffering from IUGR, intrauterine growth retardation. By 27 weeks she was in terrible distress, some five weeks underdeveloped and with next to no amniotic fluid surrounding her.

The team of doctors following the case--including the specialist who had been monitoring the pregnancy from the first sign of trouble--were now recommending a full termination of both. Such a unanimous decision is extremely rare in a country where it often seems rare for even two people to agree on anything.

I went for one last consultation with my specialist, who explained that there was a strong likelihood that with termination of the first fetus, I would spontaneously go into labor and give birth to the second, with devastating consequences. Even worse, at any moment I might enter labor and give birth to two extremely damaged children. A monumental decision had to be made, quickly. I went home, feeling like Solomon, but without his wisdom.

Decision Becomes Clear
That night, my spouse and I escaped into the solace of sleep. In the morning, as we looked at each other, the decision was clear for both of us. Born in Israel and raised to be stoic, my husband may have found it easier to accept the circumstances; born in America and raised on happy endings, I felt like I had misplaced my life.

We phoned the hospital and told them we would proceed with a full termination.

In Israel, abortion at any stage of pregnancy is permissible in several cases, one of them being the presence of fetal anomaly. We met with the hospital's genetic counselor, who wrote a petition on our behalf and presented it to the official committee for their sanction. Our motion was approved, and on the following Monday morning, I was admitted for the procedure.

Termination of a 28-week pregnancy entails full labor and birth. After admission into the hospital I was shown to my room, thoughtfully located in the gynecological rather than the obstetric ward; it was explained to me in advance that this was to protect me from having to hear the sounds of mothers and their newborn babies. Mine was the only private room on the floor.

Next I was taken to the ultrasound department, where a doctor administered an injection of KCL, a chemical that stopped the hearts of the fetuses. This was followed by the insertion of seaweed into my cervix, inducing first a roaring fever throughout my body, and ultimately what became extremely severe contractions. Supported by my husband and mother-in-law, I got through the rest of the day and the night, my husband backing me up as I refused an epidural, in order to remain an active participant in what was to come.

By the following morning, it was over and I was able to sleep, and the next afternoon the hospital discharged me.

A Kind of Shiva
In Judaism, when a family member dies, one observes "shiva," a tradition of staying home to receive the condolences of visiting friends. In a similar way, for the week following my hospital stay, friends came by, bringing gifts and food and--more important--listening to the story of what had happened.

I discovered that it was a vital part of the process to tell my story, again and again, and in the telling I found understanding, new perspective and a way to remove any sense of lingering shame, stigma or self-pity.

Also helping me to avoid the feeling of stigma was the fact that the Israeli National Health Service bestowed upon me all the privileges given to every other woman who has given birth. In a case of twins, this means a monetary gift of around $2,000 and four months' paid maternity leave. Besides relieving the financial stress and giving me time in which to heal, the recognition and legitimization of what I had been through helped to maintain my sense of dignity.

Today, nine months later, my life has been transformed; not in spite of my experience, but because of it.

It has strengthened my marriage, allowing my partner and me to be there for each other in a time of great need and to discover tenderness toward one another that we had never known. It has taught me to stop measuring events as either "good" or "bad" by how they may affect me personally, and rather to see them for the opportunity they provide for me to develop and grow.

And it has shown me once and for all that while so many things we meet in life are beyond our control, how we respond to them is not. In fact, our ability to choose how we respond may be the greatest gift we have as humans, and of the most powerful things we have to offer others.

Joy Pincus is a freelance writer, lecturer and workshop facilitator living in central Israel.

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

Friday, August 01, 2008

Newstrack India: Bombay High Court Allows Abortion of 25-week old Foetus

Bombay HC allows abortion of 25-week old foetus
Mumbai, Thu, 31 Jul 2008 NI Wire

Laws are made for the welfare of a large section of the society. And, if the same law creates a certain kind of discomfort to a particular people or a section of people, some kind of leniency in a particular case becomes imperative. Mind it! Leniency is made in an extreme stage to an exceptional case, but the same law remains applicable to others in the existing form.

The Bombay High Court met with such leniency when a couple from Bhayander, Mumbai was allowed to go for abortions even after surpassing 20th week of pregnancy. The Court has directed the doctors to examine the 25-week pregnant woman and admit her for abortion. The bench sought the reference of Article 21 of the Constitution which ensures fundamental right of life.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act-applicable to whole of India except to the Jammu and Kashmir- was enacted in 1971 to prevent female foeticide. The Act prohibits abortions beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy, which is also the time to determine the sex of a child in foetus. Any couple found guilty in practising illegal abortions could be sent to jail for a period of two to seven years.

In this particular case, a pregnant petitioner when found during routine diagnosis in her 24th week that her unborn child was suffering from a congenital heart block, resorted to go for abortions. But, doctors denied as it was against the law. However, a paediatrician said, the baby would need the placement of a peacemaker immediately after being born.

Normally a peacemaker has four to five years of life. This way, the child would have to go for five peacemaker replacement surgeries throughout life. Doctors also said that even surgery is not the guarantee of a normal life. They also expressed fear of a possible intra-uterine death of the foetus and if survives, continuous ailment would also compromise the life of the child.

The pregnant mother and petitioner in her plea said that she “does not want to have a compromised quality of life for her own child and can not afford the expensive treatment, which may or may not give results.”

Dr Nikhil Datar, a gynaecologist and also a petitioner in the same case, informed the court that many women come across such a situation. Due to a stringent law, many such pregnant women go to ignorant medical practitioner for making illegal abortions.

The petitioner couple-identified in court papers as Mr X and Mrs Y-sought the help of Bombay High Court after being denied by doctors for the abortion in her 25th week pregnancy.

A division bench of Justices JN Patel and KA Tated gave this decision as the case was linked to the life of mother and baby.

The petition also sought amendment to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act to allow abortion beyond 20-weeks if the mother faced a fatal risk due to the abnormal condition of the foetus. The two-member bench constituted a committee headed by the dean of JJ Hospital to submit report in this matter by August 1, when next hearing is scheduled.

Northern Ireland: UN Committee Urges Abortion Law Reform

August 1st 2008

Irish Times
UN committee urges abortion law reform - GERRY MORIARTY

A UNITED Nations committee has indicated support for extending the 1967 British abortion act to Northern Ireland, a suggestion that all the main Northern parties oppose.

The UN Committee for the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) said there should be a debate in Northern Ireland on removing "punitive provisions" on women who want to have an abortion in the North.

"The committee reiterates its call to the state party to initiate a process of public consultation in Northern Ireland on the abortion law," it said.

"The committee also urges the state party to give consideration to the amendment of the abortion law so as to remove punitive provisions imposed on women who undergo abortion," it said.

The North's department of health is currently holding a consultation process to clarify in what circumstances abortions can take place in Northern Ireland.

The Alliance for Choice group in the North yesterday called on trade unions, women's groups and community organisations to unite behind a campaign to extend the 1967 act.

BBC: Call For Northern Ireland Abortion Law Review

Thursday 31st July 2008
Call for NI abortion law review
By Martina Purdy
BBC NI political correspondent

The 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to NI at present
A UN committee has repeated its call for a review of Northern Ireland's abortion law through public consultation.

The Committee on the Elimination for Discrimination Against Women noted in its latest report the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland.

It also suggested this was having a detrimental impact on women's health.

The call coincides with moves by some Westminster MPs to have the act extended to Northern Ireland.

This is despite significant opposition from NI church and political leaders.

Labour's Diane Abbott is among the MPs who want to effectively end the ban on abortion in Northern Ireland, by tabling a legislative amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.


In its report, the Committee on the Elimination for Discrimination Against Women urges the UK to amend the existing law to remove what it calls the "punitive provision" imposed on women who undergo abortion.

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Office said it had not yet received a copy of the report.

But it has long been the NIO's position that abortion law is a matter for the people of Northern Ireland, with the best place for debate being a devolved assembly once Stormont accepts responsibility for justice.

Ireland: State Faces Defeat Over Abortion Law in Court of Human Rights

Irish Times Wednesday July 29th 2008

State faces defeat over abortion law in court of human rights

The women who claim Irish abortion law is deficient will win their case unless Ireland settles it with legislation, writes Adam McAuley.

THE EUROPEAN Court of Human Rights will judge the legality of Irish abortion law in the near future. Three Irish women are claiming that their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights were violated because of the deficiencies in Irish abortion law. This is not the first time that the court has addressed the sensitive issue of abortion.

Two types of abortion cases have come before this court.

The first involves a claim that the convention confers a right to life on the unborn child or a right to abortion for a woman. The court has adopted an equivocal approach in these types of cases because the convention contains no reference to the unborn child or abortion.

For example, the convention protects the right to life of "everyone".

Unlike the Constitution, the convention is silent as to whether this protection extends to the unborn child.

There are exceptions to the right to life, such as the use of reasonable force in self-defence. Abortion is not listed as an exception. Therefore, the court has refused to rule that an unborn child has a right to life or that a woman has a right to abortion.

Assuming that the unborn child has a right to life, the court has stated that any right of the unborn may be limited by the mother's rights and interests, such as her right to "life and health". This suggests that a right to abortion may exist to protect the mother's rights to life and health.

The three Irish women may claim that Irish law breaches the convention because Irish law will permit an abortion only where there is a real and substantial risk to a woman's life. A risk to the mother's health is insufficient.

The European court has tentatively suggested that a threat to the mother's health could justify an abortion. It is unlikely that the court will rule that Irish law breaches the convention by failing to allow for abortion on health grounds. The reason for this is the approaches of other states to abortion.

The court has reviewed these approaches in previous cases and found that states have adopted different approaches which range from conservative to liberal. Where there is a wide spectrum of state approaches to an issue, the court grants states a "wide margin of appreciation" to determine their law.

However, these Irish women's claim will succeed as it involves the second type of abortion cases brought before the court. This involves a claim that the operation of a state's abortion law in practice is incompatible with the convention.

In 2007, the court assessed the operation of Poland's abortion law, which permits abortion under certain exceptions, such as a risk to a woman's life or health. A doctor commits a criminal offence if an abortion is performed outside these exceptions. A doctor must certify that an abortion is necessary to safeguard the woman's life or health.

The certifying doctor could not be the doctor who will perform the abortion.

In the Polish case, a woman sought an abortion because the birth threatened her limited eyesight. A doctor certified that the pregnancy was a threat to the woman's health. Another doctor disagreed with this opinion and no abortion was performed.

After the birth of the child, it was discovered that the woman's eyesight had deteriorated and there was a risk of blindness. The woman claimed that Poland had violated her right to physical integrity under the convention by failing to provide her with access to a therapeutic abortion.

The court decided that every state has a positive duty to secure respect for a person's physical and psychological integrity. It found that Poland had breached the woman's right by failing to implement procedural safeguards regarding access to a therapeutic abortion. The court decided that the law must, first and foremost, ensure clarity of the pregnant woman's legal position.

The court suggested that Polish law should establish a procedure before an independent body which could review reasons for the abortion and relevant evidence. This procedure should allow a pregnant woman to be heard in person in order to have her views considered. The independent body should also issue written grounds for its decision.

The court recognised that time is of the essence. It noted that the laws of Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden had recognised the need to protect women's right to legal abortion in situations where a doctor denies such a request, including in cases where a woman's health was at risk.

The court found that the operation of the Polish law created for the woman a situation of prolonged uncertainty. As a result, she suffered severe distress and anguish.

The three Irish women will succeed because Irish abortion law is in a worse state than the invalid Polish law.

In the X case, the Supreme Court established a principle that abortion is lawful in very limited circumstances.

The people voted in favour of constitutional amendments guaranteeing the rights to travel and information in 1992, and against two amendments on abortion in 1992 and 2002. Therefore, the law on abortion remains the principle in X.

Legislation is necessary to regulate the operation of this principle in practice. In the absence of legislation, there is no process by which a woman can seek an abortion.

It is uncertain as to what exact circumstances must exist before a doctor can perform a therapeutic abortion. Finally, there is no established procedure for a woman who has been refused an abortion by a doctor.

The failure of successive governments to legislate is understandable - abortion legislation may cost votes. The European Court of Human Rights will ignore this political consideration when assessing Ireland's abortion law.

Ireland can settle the case by undertaking to propose legislation reflecting the approach set out by the European court in the Polish case. Such legislation would clarify the operation of the law for women and the medical profession. Surely, this is a better approach than fighting a case that Ireland looks certain to lose.

Dr Adam McAuley is a law lecturer in the school of law and government at Dublin City University

Irish Times: Judge Withdraws from Irish Abortion Hearing

July 30th 2008
Judge withdraws from Irish abortion hearing
CARL O'BRIEN, Social Affairs Correspondent

THE IRISH judge appointed to the European Court of Human Rights is to withdraw from hearing a forthcoming case involving three women living in Ireland who are challenging the State’s ban on abortion.

Dr Ann Power SC, who was appointed to the court earlier this year, will be replaced by the Supreme Court judge Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns. The court did not say why Dr Power had withdrawn except that she had done so in accordance with rule 28 of the court. This states, among other things, that judges may not take part in the consideration of any case where they have a personal interest or where they have previously acted as an adviser, advocate of a party which has an interest in the case.

Dr Power has previously represented the Irish Bishops’ Conference at an Oireachtas hearing on abortion. The group strongly supports a constitutional ban on abortion which would guarantee the right to life of the unborn child.

No date has been set for the case to be heard involving the three women, although it is likely to be within the next year.

As many as 17 judges may sit on an individual case if it is heard in public before the court’s grand chamber.

The case involving the three women is being contested on the basis that their human rights were infringed by being forced to terminate their pregnancies outside the State. The identity of the three women – known as A, B and C – will remain confidential as it proceeds through the court.

They include a woman who ran the risk of an ectopic pregnancy, where the foetus develops outside the womb; a woman who received chemotherapy for cancer; and a woman with addiction problems whose children were placed in care. Their complaint centres around four articles in the European Convention on Human Rights, including protection from “inhuman or degrading treatment” and freedom from discrimination.

The Irish Family Planning Association, which is supporting the case as part of its campaign to introduce legal abortion services in Ireland, said the grounds on which the case is being taken are “very strong”. The association said it was pleased the case was now progressing and it understood that the Government has been invited to respond to the complaints lodged by each of the three women before the end of September.

Once the Government has submitted its response, the association – together with the three women and their legal team – will be invited to consider and comment on what has been presented.

A spokesperson for the association said: “We are hopeful that the court will issue a positive recommendation in favour of the three women. This will bring pressure to bear on the Government to reform Irish abortion laws.”

The campaign to liberalise abortion law is opposed by anti-abortion groups which argue that a new constitutional amendment is needed to prohibit abortion. They say there is a need to restore legal protection for unborn children after the 1992 Supreme Court decision in the X case, which legalised abortion in certain circumstances