New report on women’s health criticises Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws

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New report on women’s health criticises Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws
European Commissioner for Human Rights focuses on laws in Republic and North

Dec 5, 2017
Seán Dunne

A new report published by the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights has questioned Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws.

The report, ‘Women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in Europe’, examines women’s health within the EU and looks at abortion services.

Continued at source: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/new-report-on-women-s-health-criticises-ireland-s-restrictive-abortion-laws-1.3316324

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Argentina: UN report slams punishment for abortion

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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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Ireland: More than 270,000 global activists support campaign for human rights complaint on abortion law

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July 14, 2016 — Today, Amnesty International presented a global petition calling on the Irish government to end the serious human rights violations experienced by women and girls as a result of Ireland’s abortion law to Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD.

Since the launch of the global My Body, My Rights campaign in June 2015, Amnesty activists around the world have stood in solidarity with women and girls impacted by Ireland’s cruel abortion law. Irish law prohibits women from accessing abortion even in cases of rape or incest, severe or fatal foetal abnormality or where there is a risk to the woman’s health. Under international human rights law, women and girls have a right to access abortion in these circumstances.  Currently, abortion is prohibited and criminalised in all circumstances, except when there is a “real and substantial risk” to the woman’s life.

“Today, we are presenting Minister Harris with the collective voices of 276,861 people who are calling for urgent reform of our abortion laws. Women and girls in Ireland who need abortions are treated like criminals, stigmatised and forced to travel abroad, which takes a serious toll on their mental and physical health. The international human rights framework is clear. The Eighth Amendment must be repealed and replaced with a legal and healthcare framework that respects the rights of women and girls. We are encouraged to see an increased sense of urgency from the government in addressing this issue. Amnesty International has tentatively welcomed the forthcoming citizens’ assembly, though women’s human rights, health and medical best practice must be among its guiding principles. The assembly should have a clear timeframe and most importantly, it must include an unequivocal commitment to follow through, including a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland. 

"Women and girls in Ireland who need abortions are treated like criminals, stigmatised and forced to travel abroad, which takes a serious toll on their mental and physical health." - Colm O'Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland

In May 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that Ireland’s abortion law violated the human rights of Amanda Mellet, who travelled to the UK for a termination following a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis. The Committee found that Ireland’s abortion law caused her “intense physical and mental suffering” and called on the Irish government to redress the harm suffered and reform its laws to ensure that other women do not continue to face similar human rights violations. In the past two years, Ireland’s abortion regime, which is among the most restrictive in the world, has been condemned by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, and by a number of countries as part of Ireland’s Universal Periodic Review.

A Red C poll, commissioned by Amnesty International and carried out in February 2016, found that the majority of people consider Ireland’s abortion ban cruel, inhuman, hypocritical and discriminatory. For this reason, 80% of people would vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

“I would like to thank activists both here in Ireland and around the world for their commitment to this campaign. Together, we have elevated the voices of women who have experienced the appalling impact of Ireland’s abortion law first hand,” said Colm O’Gorman.

Today’s petition handover marks the conclusion to Amnesty International’s global My Body, My Rights campaign which focused on women’s sexual and reproductive rights. Due to the seriousness of the human rights violations involved, Ireland was selected as a focus country for this campaign alongside Burkina Faso, El Salvador and the Maghreb region. Though the global campaign has ended, Amnesty International Ireland will continue its domestic campaign for repeal of the Eighth Amendment and the introduction of a human rights compliant framework for abortion in Ireland.                                                                  

Notes to the Editor:

The Amnesty International/Red C Research & Markets poll was conducted in February 2016 to establish a deeper understanding of public attitudes to Ireland’s laws on abortion. The poll’s complete findings are available here: http://bit.ly/1Qx0GVr

In June 2015, Amnesty International published the She is not a criminal: The Impact of Ireland’s abortion law documenting the shocking human rights violations which women and girls in Ireland experience.

Source: Amnesty International

 

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