Argentina – How Doctors And The Church Conspired To Stop An 11-Year-Old Girl From Having An Abortion After Rape

How Doctors And The Church Conspired To Stop An 11-Year-Old Girl From Having An Abortion After Rape
Lucía was raped at 11. Her family’s demands for a legal abortion became the center of a global firestorm — and she still doesn’t know the whole story.

Karla Zabludovsky, BuzzFeed News Reporter
San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina
Posted on April 13, 2019

SAN MIGUEL DE TUCUMÁN, Argentina — Lucía sat up in her hospital bed as the priest made the sign of the cross on her forehead, the 11-year-old’s bulging belly visible underneath her pajama shirt.

“Think long and hard about what you’re considering doing,” Lucía’s mother remembered the priest telling them. “Save both lives,” he said.

Lucía wasn’t sure what the priest was talking about. She only knew her grandmother’s partner had done something bad to her and now she had a terrible stomachache.

Continued: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/karlazabludovsky/argentina-lucia-catholic-church-abortion

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The arc of moral progress may be long, but Argentina’s women will prevail

The arc of moral progress may be long, but Argentina’s women will prevail

By Jon O'Brien, opinion contributor
08/16/18

Last week’s vote in Argentina’s Senate — which struck down the chance to legalize abortion — was a disappointment for millions of Argentinians and reproductive rights advocates around the world.

But it was also an outcome that is not easily explained away. As we saw in Chile, my native Ireland and Argentina, many Catholic majority countries are opening up about their faith, the ethics of choice and what it means to trust women like never before. Argentina’s unprecedented debate has emboldened a movement for women’s equality and dignity in the country, and the hemisphere, that is unstoppable.

Continued: http://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/402176-the-arc-of-moral-progress-may-be-long-but-argentinas-women-will-prevail

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How ‘conscientious objectors’ threaten women’s newly-won abortion rights in Latin America

How ‘conscientious objectors’ threaten women’s newly-won abortion rights in Latin America
From Uruguay to Chile, medical staff are refusing to provide abortion services even after their legalisation.

Diana Cariboni
18 July 2018

Women’s rights to legal abortion have increased in Latin America – but so have campaigns and policies for medical staff to be able to ‘conscientiously object’ and refuse to participate in these procedures.

“We didn’t see it coming,” said feminist activist Lilián Abracinskas in Uruguay, a secular country where abortion, same-sex marriage and the marijuana market were each legalised in the last decade.

Continued: https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/diana-cariboni/conscientious-objectors-threaten-abortion-rights-latin-america

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Argentina bans abortion in most cases. So why is its abortion rate far higher than that of the U.S.?

Argentina bans abortion in most cases. So why is its abortion rate far higher than that of the U.S.?
By Sarah Parvini
Oct 29, 2017

The woman stumbled into a public hospital late one night, her stomach turning as she approached the lobby. She was bleeding.

Dr. Damian Levy ushered her into a room. Like many of his patients at Hospital Alvarez in Buenos Aires, she was young and poor. At first, she refused to tell him why she was there.

Then she burst into a tearful confession. She had tried to perform her own abortion at home and used 40 tablets of the drug misoprostol — nearly three times the suggested dosage for inducing a miscarriage. She was worried that the hospital would report her to police.

Continued at source: http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-argentina-abortion-20171029-htmlstory.html

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Argentina: “Belén” acquitted: Tucumán Provincial Supreme Court overturns sentence for aggravated homicid

STOP PRESS: ARGENTINA “Belén” acquitted: Tucumán Provincial Supreme Court overturns sentence for aggravated homicide
by Safe Abortion
March 31, 2017

In 2014, “Belén”, a 27-year-old woman from the province of Tucumán went to her local hospital with a serious vaginal haemorrhage. The duty doctor diagnosed a spontaneous miscarriage, but “Belén” was accused of having disposed of the fetus in a hospital washroom. She was tried and sentenced to eight years in jail for aggravated homicide in a trial riddled with irregularities. She spent more than two years in prison until August 2016, when the Tucumán Supreme Court ordered her release after a long-running, nationwide campaign. Seven months later, the Court has now acquitted her due to the absence of evidence against her.

In overturning the lower court’s decision, the provincial Supreme Court highlighted the importance of patient confidentiality, the rights of women who have undergone an abortion and the right of women to be treated with dignity and not subjected to violence.

Her lawyer, Soledad Deza, told El País, that the ruling will set a precedent that will help to prevent other women from being treated as she was: “This ruling provides justice twice over: for Belén and all other women who do not want to be mothers who have a spontaneous or induced abortion. I believe this ruling will encourage women to use the public health system because they now know they will not be arrested when they leave.” She said Belén is also considering whether to bring legal action against the state for the time she has lost, the violation of her rights, the loss of her freedom and for changing the course of her life.

SOURCE: El País, 28 March 2017 (in English) ; Absuelta una joven argentina que estuvo dos años presa por un aborto (en español) ; PHOTO

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Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion: http://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/stop-press-argentina-belen-acquitted-tucuman-provincial-supreme-court-overturns-sentence-for-aggravated-homicide/

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The law, trials and imprisonment for abortion in Argentina

8 November 2016
by Alice Finden, Researcher, International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion

This report summarises the law and policy on abortion in Argentina and cases of trials and imprisonment for abortion between 2011 and 2016.

Abortion in Argentina has been legal in certain circumstances since the adoption of the Penal Code in 1922. According to Article 86 of the Penal Code, abortion is illegal except to "save the life of the mother or where the pregnancy results from a rape or indecent assault committed on a female idiot or insane". In the past, courts have interpreted the rape/assault provision to require that the rape victim suffer from a mental disability for the abortion to be legal.[1] In cases where abortion is illegal, the law stipulates prison sentences ranging from 3 to 10 years and as high as 15 years for those who carry out abortions. Women who consent to or cause their own abortion can be imprisoned for up to 4 years.[2] However, this can be greatly increased if the courts decide to convict the woman of homicide, such as occurred in the case of “Belén” in 2016, which will be described later in this report.

Between 2011-13, according to the national Ministry of Health, there were approximately 700,000 live births in Argentina annually, and between 370,000 and 460,000 abortions. Approximately one-third of maternal deaths in the previous decade had been due to the consequences of unsafe abortion.[3] According to Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation data, in 2013 the total maternal mortality ratio was 54.7 per 100,000 live births (range 45.3-64.6).[4] For 2015, WHO found a similar MMR of 52 per 100,000 live births (range 44-63).[5] Compared to estimates from previous years, the MMR has not fallen much since 1990. The legal barriers that both women and health care providers face, especially in poorer and rural provinces, act to force women into unsafe, illegal “backstreet” abortions that risk their health and sometimes their lives, as well as possible imprisonment.

Data and cases reviewed by the Centro de Estudios de Estado y Sociedad (CEDES) and the Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (ADC), published by Ipas in 2014,[6] identified 417 cases recorded for the crime of abortion during the period from 1990 to 2008. The judicial records did not indicate whether these people were imprisoned, paid a fine or were granted conditional freedom, but they were all declared guilty of a crime.

The greatest percentage of sentences for the crime of abortion were against unskilled individuals who provided abortions. Based on national level data between 2002 and 2008, these sentences represented 80% of the total and were four times greater than sentences recorded against women who had an abortion. Between 1996 and 2008, a total of 234 sentences for this crime were confirmed nationwide. The jurisdictions with the most convictions were also the most populous provinces – Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Córdoba – and the city of Buenos Aires.[7]

The 1966 legal case Natividad Frias had established that a criminal complaint presented by a health care provider against a woman for an illegal abortion violated her confidentiality rights and her right against self-incrimination. In 2010, the National Supreme Court of Justice reaffirmed this principle, which may explain the low number of cases of women who have
been investigated or found guilty of illegal abortion in comparison with the number of cases against health care service providers who have been investigated, prosecuted and sentenced.[8]

In 2011, there was an exceptional case involving a woman physician who spent more than a year waiting to face a charge of criminal action for prescribing misoprostol for a 12-year-old girl in a marginalized neighbourhood for the termination of a pregnancy, in order to protect the girl's health, as the girl was adamant she would abort the pregnancy. The girl bought the medication and aborted on her own. It was the girl's parents who reported the doctor when they found out. The case was not heard for a year until the doctor could find a competent lawyer to represent her, when the case was finally closed. At the time, the doctor stated that providing this kind of counsel was standard at the clinic where she worked, and that she would do it again.[9]

It is important to note the correlation between the number of cases brought by the police or to the courts, the number of sentences that ended in imprisonment, the extent of limited access to health care and the maternal mortality ratio (MMR).

Legislative progress in support of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) has occurred a number of times in Argentina. In 2002, the National Programme for Sexual Health and Responsible Procreation aimed to lower maternal mortality. In 2004, the national government defined reproductive health as one of the key areas of national health policy for the next three years.[10] In 2006, Law 26.150 introduced comprehensive sexuality education. In 2012, the Supreme Court supported a lower court ruling that had allowed an abortion for a 15-year-old girl who had been raped by her stepfather. The Supreme Court determined that the entire article in the law on rape and assault supported the interpretation that all rape victims may legally seek abortions. The Court also said that future rape victims would not be required to seek judicial approval for an abortion.[11]

All these victories were achieved under pressure from feminist, human rights and other advocacy groups supporting sexual and reproductive health and rights, throughout a period of government when the then President Néstor Kirchner’s relationship with the Vatican had broken down.[12]

The violence of institutions
A case that was widely publicised and recently celebrated is that of “Belén”.[13] Belén was originally charged with aggravated murder on 3 May 2016. She had been held in jail for two years, since 2014. Belén was 25 years old when she went to a state hospital in San Miguel de Tucumán state, complaining of severe abdominal pains and heavy vaginal bleeding. The doctor she saw told her that she was 22 weeks pregnant and that she was experiencing a miscarriage. Other medical staff, who found a 32-week-old fetus in a hospital bathroom, claimed that it was hers. They then reported Belén to the police, claiming that she must have induced a very late abortion. She was charged with homicide, held in pre-trial detention for two years and then sentenced to 8 years and imprisoned in March 2014, all without legal representation. Yet, there was no DNA testing to connect Belén to the fetus, and the discrepancy between the diagnosis of miscarriage of a 22-week pregnancy and a 32-week-old fetus in a bathroom was never examined.[14]

After her case became known, thanks to the lawyer who agreed to represent her, there was growing criticism of the miscarriage of justice by dozens of feminist, human rights, political and social organizations and the UN Human Rights Committee. Amnesty International collected 120,000 signatures a petition calling for her release. Following demonstrations on 12 August 2016 in cities across the country, centred in the capital of Tucumán, the Supreme Court of Justice of Tucumán ordered that she should be released from prison pending an appeal of her sentence, which is still pending at this writing.[15]

In countries with restrictive abortion laws and legal requirements to report any breaking of the law they encounter, health care providers face a moral conflict as to whether to uphold a patient’s right to confidentiality, including when it is a woman in need of post-abortion care for complications of unsafe abortion. In Argentina, the abortion law states, “each member of a woman’s health team should ensure confidentiality and privacy when providing abortion care in circumstance allowed by law”. Post-abortion is allowed by law.[16] However, a combination of lack of legal awareness, pressure from conservative and religious groups, and the fear that they themselves may be arrested for providing an abortion often means that health professionals do report women in these circumstances to the police.[17]

This conflict has disastrous results for women and girls seeking legal abortion care. The denial of abortion to a 12-year-old indigenous girl in the Salta province, who was raped in November 2015, is an example of this. The girl, known as “Juana”, should have been permitted a legal abortion, as her pregnancy was the result of gang rape by five men and three adolescent boys, and her health and mental state were at risk. However, she did not receive proper medical care, nor was a pregnancy test even done. At seven months of pregnancy she was found to be carrying an anencephalic baby and was delivered by caesarean section.[18]

Considering Belén’s case in Tucumán and Juana’s in Salta, Mariana Álvarez, a professor of human rights at the University of Tucumán told the Buenos Aires Herald: “There is a systematic pattern of human rights violations in the district [Tucumán] relating to women, reflecting an agreement between the health care system and the judiciary to criminalize women who face pregnancy complications.” [19]

Health care providers
Institutional connections between the courts and the health care system may be more likely due to a lack of adequate medical education on abortion for health care students in Argentina. Indeed, a case study in 2015-2016 of health care students’ knowledge of abortion law in Argentina found that of 740 students who answered the questions about abortion according to current Argentinean law, half the students (52.5%) answered correctly that abortion was legally restricted, 24.9% thought it was always illegal, and 21.5% admitted they did not know.[20] The authors of this study worried that lack of knowledge may lead these future health care providers to deny a legal abortion to someone with an unwanted pregnancy who is legally entitled to it, resulting in recourse to unsafe abortion.

Anti-abortion groups also using the law
Alongside the progress represented by some SRHR laws and policies in Argentina, an article in 2014 describes how anti-abortion NGOs have sought to use litigation to undermine sexual and reproductive health policies, and especially to oppose any extension of the right to abortion.[21] The authors describe these groups as the “civil arm of religion”, particularly since 1998, when the conservative NGO Portal de Belén successfully achieved the banning of emergency contraception through the courts. There have also been several attempts to force the withdrawal of the National Programme for Sexual Health and Responsible Procreation, one of which temporarily succeeded in December 2002, although it was revoked a few weeks after the ruling was published.[22] As early as 1994, anti-abortion groups were using legal arguments to oppose sexual and reproductive health and rights. Under a collective writ of amparo in 1994, they were able to enforce legal recognition of the so-called “right to life from conception”, and since then have tried to use the 1994 ruling as a legal precedent to try to criminalise legal abortions, for example by attempting to block young women from accessing legal abortion following rape.[23]

Monica Gogna et al. note that the “defence of life from conception” clause, promoted by former President Menem in 1994, was a “manifestation of Argentina’s then complete alignment with Vatican policy on abortion”.[24] They note that Menem’s enthusiasm for this initiative stemmed from his wish to gain support of the Church hierarchy in the 1995 presidential elections. More recently, with the election of the Argentinian Pope in 2013, the Argentinian national executive, Conservative NGOs and the Vatican have strengthened their relationship. This has already led to the Catholic hierarchy putting pressure on the government, and succeeding in influencing the reform of the Civil and Commercial Code. Consequently, the final version of Article 19 states that “life starts at conception”,[25] giving conservative NGOs the potential to counter progress made by abortion rights groups.

The coalition of the Catholic hierarchy and conservative NGOs with the Argentinian national executive has highly negative effects for the health and well-being of women and health care providers all over Argentina. The Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (ADC) indicates that the majority of Argentinian provinces are not following guidelines on abortion set out by the national Supreme Court.[26] Indeed Juana’s case in the Salta province evidences the ability of local authorities to disregard the law at will. The Salta province, among 15 others, either does not have any protocols in place to allow access to legal abortion, or has protocols in place that aim to hinder access to legal abortion.[27] The ADC found for example that Salta was the “worst province in terms of guaranteeing access to non-punishable abortion” through its collusion in blocking the right to abortion in cases of rape and risk to the woman’s health. Salta province allows doctors to refuse to carry out an abortion in cases other than moral objection, requires the intervention of the Public Ministry, and the presence of parents in cases involving minors for an abortion to take place. It also limits the time until which abortion is legal to 12 weeks.[28] As Shena Cavallo notes, practice more often than not differs from what is written in law and facilities supposedly provided. [29] Because of Juana’s case, the Lower House of Congress issued a report stating that “all courts and administrative authorities are to comply with comprehensive health care protocols to deal with cases of non-punishable abortions.”[30] It remains to be seen whether this will be acted upon.

The use of advocacy and information in support of women's need for safe abortion
Civil society organisations, women’s groups and safe abortion information hotlines, such as the Socorristas en Red[31] and La Linea Aborto,[32] are increasingly helping women to get accurate information on the medical abortion pills called misoprostol, and provide pre- and post-abortion counselling and support.[33]

Moreover, to end on a positive note, legislative and judicial progress in the past few decades has created legal space for women and health care providers to counter conservative NGOs. This has been mirrored in statements by the new UN Special Rapporteur on Torture from Argentina, Juan Méndez, who supported the release of "Belén" and called on all nations to decriminalise abortion and to ensure access to safe and legal abortion. He said: “States have an affirmative obligation to reform restrictive abortion legislation that perpetuates torture and ill-treatment by denying women safe access and care.”[34]

The conditional release of "Belén" has been described as a “collective triumph of the women’s movement”.[35] Over 300 feminist, women’s rights and abortion rights groups worked together in Argentina to secure her release and to press for confirmation of her innocence. Belén’s lawyer described the cancellation of her preventative detention and release as “the beginning of the end of injustice.”[36] Today activists are waiting on the appeal court to overturn Belén’s conviction, which will hopefully create a legal precedent, preventing the same thing happening to other women in future.

Acknowledgements
Thanks to Mariana Romero, Senior Researcher, Centro de Estudios del Estado y Sociedad (CEDES), Argentina, for reviewing this report and regularly sharing news of events in Argentina. Edited by Marge Berer.

[1] Penal Code of the Nation of Argentina, Law 11, 179 of 1984, Second Book, Title I, Chapter I, Articles 85-88. http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/15000-19999/16546/texact.htm

[2] Ibid. Penal Code

[3] Argentina Ministry of Health data, noted in: Belén Provenzano-Castro, Silvia Oizerovich, Babill Stray-Pedersen. Healthcare students’ knowledge and opinions about the Argentinean abortion law. Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare 2016;7:21-26. http://www.srhcjournal.org/article/S1877-5756(15)00063-4/pdf

[4] Kassebaum NJ, Bertozzi-Villa A, Coggeshall MS, Shackelford KA, Steiner C, Heuton KR, et al. Global, regional, and national levels and causes of maternal mortality during 1990–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. Lancet 2014;384(9947):980–1004. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)60696-6/abstract

[5] Trends in maternal mortality 1990 to 2015: Estimates by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank Group and the United Nations Population Division. Geneva: WHO, 2015. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/194254/1/9789241565141_eng.pdf?ua=1

[6] Gillian Kane, Beatriz Galli, Patty Skuster, 2014. Argentina. When Abortion is a Crime: The threat to vulnerable women in Latin America. Ipas. http://www.ipas.org/en/Resources/Ipas%20Publications/When-Abortion-is-a-Crime-The-threat-to-vulnerable-women-in-Latin-America.aspx

[7] Ibid Kane, Galli and Skuster

[8] Ibid Kane, Galli and Skuster

[9] Ibid Kane, Galli and Skuster

[10] Mónica Petracci, Silvina Ramos, Dalia Szulik, 2005. A strategic assessment of the Reproductive and Responsible Parenthood Programme of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Reproductive Health Matters 2005;13(25). http://www.rhm-elsevier.com/article/S0968-8080(05)25174-1/pdf

[11] Rebecca DiLeonardo. Argentina Supreme Court legalizes abortion for rape victims”. The Jurist. 14 March 2012. http://www.jurist.org/paperchase/2012/03/argentina-supreme-court-legalizes-abortion-for-rape-victims.php quoting https://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/85219759 and ref 1.

[12] Ibid, DiLeonardo, p.87.

[13] International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion Newsletter. Demonstrations in Buenos Aires and Tucumán to release woman sentenced to prison for miscarriage. 5 May 2016. http://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/demonstrations-in-buenos-aires-and-tucuman-to-release-woman-sentenced-to-prison-for-apparent-miscarriage/

[14] International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion Newsletter. STOP PRESS: Belén released from prison. 19 August 2016. http://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/stop-press-belen-released-from-prison/

[15] Ibid. International Campaign

[16] Jina Dhillon. Protecting Women’s Access to Safe Abortion Care-A Guide to Understanding the Human Rights to Privacy and Confidentiality: Helping Advocates Navigate ‘Duty to Report’ Requirements. Ipas, 2014. http://www.ipas.org/en/Resources/Ipas%20Publications/Protecting-Womens-Access-to-Safe-Abortion-CareA-Guide-to-Understanding-the-Human-Rights-to.aspx

[17] Betraying women: provider duty to report. Ipas, 2016. http://www.ipas.org/en/Resources/Ipas%20Publications/Betraying-women-Provider-duty-to-report.aspx

[18] Ximena Schinca. Activists protest in Buenos Aires after 12-year-old is denied legal abortion. Buenos Aires Herald, 16 June 2016. Reported in: International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion. 17 June 2016. http://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/activists-protest-in-buenos-aires-after-12-year-old-is-denied-legal-abortion/.

[19] Ximena Schinca, 2016. Tucumán’s abortion trials placed in spotlight. Buenos Aires Herald, 23 August 2016. http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/220404/tucum%C3%A1n%E2%80%99s-abortion-trials-placed-in-spotlight

[20] Op cit. Provenzano-Castro, Oizerovich, Stray-Pedersen, p.21

[21] Maria Angelica Peñas Defago, José Manuel Morán Faúndes. Conservative litigation against sexual and reproductive health policies in Argentina. Reproductive Health Matters 2014;22(44):82-90. http://www.rhm-elsevier.com/article/S0968-8080(14)44805-5/pdf

[22] Ibid. Peñas Defago, Morán Faúndes.

[23] Ibid. Peñas Defago, Morán Faúndes.

[24] Mónica Gogna, Mariana Romero, Silvina Ramos, Mónica Petracci, Dalia Szulik. Abortion in a restrictive legal context: the views of obstetrician-gynaecologists in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Reproductive Health Matters 2002;10(19). http://www.rhm-elsevier.com/article/S0968-8080(02)00014-9/pdf

[25] Op cit. Peñas Defago and Morán Faúndes, p.87.

[26] Asociación por los Derechos Civiles, 2015. Acceso al abortion no punible en Argentina: Estado de situación. http://despenalizacion.org.ar/pdf/publicaciones/ADC-Acceso-al-aborto-no-punible-Marzo-2015.pdf

[27] Celina Andreassi. Majority of provinces not complying with abortion rights. The Argentina Independent. 13 March 2015. http://www.argentinaindependent.com/currentaffairs/majority-of-provinces-no-complying-with-abortion-rights/

[28] Ibid. Andreassi.

[29] Shena Cavallo. Abortion in Argentina: women twice betrayed. Open Democracy, 3 May 2016. https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/shena-cavallo/abortion-in-argentina-women-twice-betrayed

[30] Op cit. Schinca, ref 18.

[31] http://www.socorristasenred.blogspot.com.ar/

[32] http://www.abortoconpastillas.info/

[33] Silvina Ramos, Mariana Romero, Lila Aizenberg. Women’s experiences with the use of medical abortion in a legally restricted context: the case of Argentina. Reproductive Health Matters 2015;22(44/Supplement):4-15. http://www.rhm-elsevier.com/article/S0968-8080(14)43786-8/pdf

[34] International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion Newsletter, Statement: Special Rapporteur on Torture. 20 May 2016. http://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/statement-special-rapporteur-on-torture/

[35] Luciana Peker. Cuando Belén se escribió con V. Página12, 19 August 2016. http://www.pagina12.com.ar/diario/suplementos/las12/13-10798-2016-08-19.html

[36] Ibid, Peker.

Source: International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion

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Argentina: Tucumán’s abortion trials placed in spotlight

Demonstrators take part in a march demanding Belén’s release in front Tucumán’s courts. A sign reads “my body, my choice”.

By Ximena Schinca
Herald staff
Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Rights groups hail the release of ‘Belén’ — but activists say the problems in the province run deeper
An online campaign, in the wake of the temporary release of a prisoner from jail, is seeking to build momentum and pile pressure on the authorities in Tucumán province, while abortion rights are currently high on the national agenda.

“The #YoSoyBelén (“I am Belén”) campaign is aimed at the medical and judicial staff who displayed intent to violate ‘Beléns’ privacy, and at showing that all women, any of us could be ‘Belén,” said Alejandra del Castillo, a member of a campaign group who battled for the 27-year-old’s release from jail, in conversation with the Herald.

Del Castillo was addressing the recent social media campaign that was launched in order to build awareness about health rights and the victim’s recent experiences in the northern province.

[continued at link]
Source: Buenos Aires Herald

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Belén’s release from prison ordered following demonstrations across Argentina

Photos by Gerardo Dell'Oro (http://www.clarin.com/sociedad/Marchan-libertad-condenada-aborto-espontaneo_0_1630637093.html)

International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion
**************************************
18 August 2016

On 16 August, the Supreme Court of Justice of Tucumán in Argentina finally ordered that "Belén", the young woman unjustly convicted of homicide after having had a miscarriage, should be released from prison, in the face of growing criticism by dozens of feminist, human rights, political and social organizations and the UN Human Rights Committee. However, 24 hours later, she had not yet been released, according to Amnesty International, who had collected 120,000 signatures on a petition calling for her release.

The decision was announced after demonstrations on 12 August in cities across the country, convened via the hashtag #LibertadParaBelén, with the epicentre in the capital of Tucumán. Belén has been in prison since March 2014, after she attended the Hospital Avellaneda with strong stomach pains, unaware that she was pregnant, and miscarried in the hospital. Although she was initially diagnosed with the miscarriage of a 20-week pregnancy, she was then accused of homicide of a 32-week pregnancy. She was held in pre-trial detention for 2 years and then sentenced to 8 years.

[continued at link]
Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion

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Argentina: UN report slams punishment for abortion

Protesters ask for the freedom of Belén, condemned to eight years of prison after a miscarriage.

July 16, 2016

Human Rights Committee also voices concern about media concentration in Argentina The United Nations Human Rights Committee has released a report slamming the state of abortion rights in Argentina and criticizing President Mauricio Macri’s decision to strike down key articles of the Broadcast Media Law and its subsequent effects on freedom of expression yesterday.

The UN body, which is comprised of a collective of human rights experts from UN member states, published its findings on Argentina and voiced “serious concerns” over the possibility of a “concentration” of power following the abolition of the Broadcast Media Law and existing repressive abortion law in the country.

The report said that restrictions placed on reproductive rights in Argentina undermined human rights and strongly recommended that the de-facto criminalization of abortion in Argentina be reversed.

“The state must revise existing legislation on abortion, including criminal legislation, in particular by introducing additional exceptions to the prohibition of abortion, including when the pregnancy is the result of rape, regardless of the intellectual ability or psychology of the women,” the report said.

The committee expressed concern about the “reduction of staff and institutional changes in areas destined for human rights protection, in particular with respect to the institutions working on the process memory, truth and justice.”

President Mauricio Macri, like his predecessor former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, won the presidency on a “pro-life” ticket that guaranteed to preserve existing laws surrounding abortion in Argentina, which is only permitted in limited circumstances and with a court order. Court-approved abortions have also proven hard to come by.

The report said the state’s failure to provide abortion throughout the country threatened human rights of Argentines and called on Macri’s administration to make sure that everyone in need had access to reproductive health services.

“The state must ensure that all women and girls can access reproductive health services in all regions of the country and that the legal barriers and the lack of medical protocols do not force women to resort to clandestine abortions that put their health and lives at risk.”

There are an estimated 500,000 abortions carried out per year in Argentina, the vast majority of which are clandestine.

The report also referenced the ongoing “Belén case” surrounding the incarceration of a 27-year-old Tucumán resident who suffered a miscarriage in March 2014, was arrested and convicted of murder earlier this year.

Belén was in custody for the two years previous to her conviction. Human rights group Amnesty International has launched a worldwide campaign for her release, and the Committee’s report reiterated the organization’s demands calling for her release from jail.

“The state must revise the ‘Belén case’ in light of international standards in the field, with a view to her immediate release, and in light of the case, consider the decriminalization of abortion,” the report said.

The Committee’s highlighting of existing abortion laws in Argentina undermining human rights followed a statement by Macri last month where he doubled down on campaign rhetoric surrounding the issue, saying that he “defends life from the moment of conception until death.”

A cross-party group of national lawmakers recently submitted a bill calling for the legalization of abortion in Argentina, a move lawmakers in favour of reform have attempted repeatedly, though without the necessary support it is unlikely to make it past the congressional committee stage.

Media law reforms may violate ICCPR

While abortion rights in Argentina have long been a concern for human rights groups and agencies including the committee, the report also highlighted more recent developments and cited concerns over Macri’s use of a presidential decree to undo key elements of the 2009 Broadcast Media Law.

The law was introduced under Macri’s predecessor Fernández de Kirchner and won international praise, including from the UN, for its attempts to prevent monopoly ownership of media in Argentina by capping the number of media outlets private companies could own and limiting to 33-percent each the market share that private companies, NGOs and state agencies had across national media.

Under a subtitle “freedom of expression”, the report recommended Macri’s government to “reconsider” the effective abolition of the Broadcast Media Law via presidential decree, which Macri implemented with majority congressional approval in April.

“The Committee notes with concern the recent reforms in audiovisual services which may have the effect of concentrating the ownership of media communication and negatively affect freedom of expression,” the report said.

It added that Argentina may be in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), an international agreement on the preservation of human rights entered into by most UN member states and the basis of the Committee’s review. Article 19 concerns freedom of expression. The Committee was reviewing the implementation of the ICCPR.

“The state must adopt all necessary measures to ensure that its legislation is entirely compatible with Article 19 of the Covenant, with a view to guaranteeing the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” the report added.

International agreements and laws have a higher rank over domestic laws according to Argentina’s constitution.

Bad news, good news

The Committee, which welcomed an Argentine official delegation and non-governmental organizations for comment on the compliance with the ICCPR in June, also called for the appointment of an Ombudsperson as soon as possible. The last Ombudsman, Eduardo Mondino, resigned in 2009 and the position has not been filled. Instead the Ombudsperson’s office has been held on an interim basis.

Investigations into the “economic complicity” of numerous corporations and businessmen in the crimes of the last military dictatorship have failed to materialize, according to the report, which slammed the “obstacles in the progress of the investigations of these crimes ... including offences committed by businesses and businessmen involved in human rights abuses.”

Meanwhile, numerous ongoing human rights issues were also highlighted by the report, including a call for the government to “intensify all efforts in the demarcation and legal recognition of lands over which indigenous communities have rights.”

Macri promised to incorporate indigenous concerns into his agenda and welcomed influential Qom leader Felix Díaz to the Pink House for talks in the hope of resolving land disputes in Formosa province.

However, Díaz joined other indigenous leaders in voicing disdain for the lack of progress on indigenous rights issues since Macri’s inauguration. “They think of us as disposable materials. To use us and then throw us out after elections,” he told C5N news channel on Thursday. As the Herald reported last month, a recent UN report on xenophobia in Argentina also slammed the “horrible” living conditions many indigenous communities currently experience in the country.

The Committee report also examined the ongoing presence of what it labelled as “institutional violence” within Argentina’s law enforcement and prison services and said that Article Seven of the Covenant, which concerns freedom from torture and other inhumane treatment, must be adhered to, highlighting “recurrent cases” of law enforcement failing to do so “in Buenos Aires province in particular.”

The report did praise a number of legislative measures taken by the Argentine state in recent years aimed at solidifying human rights in Argentina.

It praised the Fernández de Kirchner government’s introduction of the National Plan for the Prevention and Eradication of Gender Violence Against Women, which was introduced in 2014 and won widespread backing in Congress following the rise of the #NiUnaMenos social movement against gender violence last year. It also considered the adoption of the Justicia 2020 programme a positive development.

Source: Buenos Aires Herald

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