Open Letter to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

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Open Letter to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
by International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion
Nov 10, 2017
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Open Letter To:
Ms Catalina Devandas Aguilar
Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
c/o sr.disability@ohchr.org / crpd@ohchr.org

RE: “Concluding observations on the initial report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” CRPD/C/GBR/CO/1, 29 August 2017 (As adopted during the 18th session of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (14 -31 August 2017)

9 November 2017

Dear Ms Devandas Aguilar and members of the CRPD,

I am the International Coordinator of the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion and an abortion rights advocate for more than 35 years, living in the UK. I am writing to you in a personal capacity regarding the “Concluding observations on the report of the UK to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”, as above.

Your recommendations to the UK overall are absolutely fair and just, but I am writing to take issue with those related to abortion, and to explain why. These are as follows:

Equality and non-discrimination (art. 5)

The Committee is concerned about perceptions in society that stigmatize persons with disabilities as living a life of less value than that of others and about the termination of pregnancy at any stage on the basis of fetal impairment.
The Committee recommends that the State party amend its abortion law accordingly. Women’s rights to reproductive and sexual autonomy should be respected without legalizing selective abortion on the ground of fetal deficiency.

My concerns regarding these recommendations are threefold: the first is to do with your definition of “a person”. The second is to do with the reasons why women have abortions vs. how different laws address and codify reasons for abortion as legal or illegal grounds. The third is that I believe including any ground for abortion in the law whatsoever – apart from permitting abortion at the woman’s request – is a mistake because it serves to restrict women’s autonomy and decisions over their own bodies.

Continued at source: http://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/open-letter-to-the-special-rapporteur-and-committee-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/

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Trump administration halts money to UN population fund over abortion rules

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Trump administration halts money to UN population fund over abortion rules

International family planning agency, which will lose all future US funding, rejects state department claims it supports ‘coercive abortion’ in China

Liz Ford and Nadia Khomami
Tuesday 4 April 2017

The US state department said on Monday it was ending funding for the UN population fund (UNFPA) – the first concrete move in what activists describe as President Donald Trump’s “crusade against the health and rights of women and girls globally”.

Following weeks of speculation, a letter to Bob Corker, the chairman of the US Senate foreign relations committee, announced the state department was dropping the funding because the UNFPA “supports, or participates in the management of, a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation”.

Continued at link: The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/apr/04/trump-administration-un-population-fund-abortion

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A new ruling in the Brazilian Supreme Court prior to the hearing on the Zika submission

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A new ruling in the Braziliuan Supreme Court prior to the hearing on the Zika submission: notes from Debora Diniz and Sonia Correa

by Safe Abortion, Dec 6, 2016

27 November - It has just been announced that the Brazilian Supreme Court is set to rule on the preliminary injunction of the Zika case on 7 December 2016. The preliminary injunction request refers to all demands of the case: access to information, to wider choice on contraceptive methods, to pregnancy termination for pregnant women infected with Zika and experiencing mental suffering, to free transportation to rehabilitation centres and to the disability cash transfer programme for all children with the congenital Zika syndrome.

At this point it it hard to anticipate how votes will go, although it is expected that the Court may deny the injunction regarding abortion by saying they need more in-depth debate on the issue.

The Anis Institute of Bioethics filed an amicus curiae request on the case (as have two anti-choice organizations), but none have been ruled upon yet. We are working to try and schedule meetings with the Justices before 7 December.

1 December On 29 November, when ruling on a case involved the release of five employees accused of illegal abortion in a clandestine abortion clinic in a city neighbouring Rio de Janeiro, three Supreme Court Justices (members of one of the Court’s two chambers, composed of five Justices) went further than the case involved and ruled that abortion should not be a crime if performed in the first three months of pregnancy.

This extended opinion was delivered on 29 November by Justice Luís Roberto Barroso, accompanied by two other Judges, Rosa Weber and Edson Fachin. This opinion went beyond sustaining the release of the clinic staff to weave an argument in defence of the decriminalization of abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

A news report on the judgement explains: ‘For Justice Luís Roberto Barroso, the anti-abortion articles in the Criminal Code disrespect women’s basic rights. “Women bear alone the burden of pregnancy. Therefore, there will only exist gender equality if women have the right to decide whether to continue a pregnancy or not,” he wrote in his decision. Moreover, anti-abortion laws penalize low-income women who don’t have access to private clinics that would perform abortions in secret. Barroso said that the state should avoid pregnancy interruptions – but with sexual education policies and the distribution of contraceptive methods.’ See: plus55, 30 November 2016.
Debora Diniz continues: It is important to clarify, as there’s been some confusion even in the national media, that this decision does not mean the decriminalization of abortion in Brazil: it is just one case, and according to our procedural law, it is not a binding precedent. It is, however, a clear and strategic message, led by Justice Cardoso (who was the lawyer of our anencephaly case), that some Justices are ready to ask the right question on abortion cases, which is: how can abortion be considered a crime under the Brazilian Constitution’s provisions on gender equality, dignity, and right to health?

It is also a relevant framing for our Zika case, although they may not get into this debate specifically next week when ruling on the preliminary injunctions – but it may be of great importance for the final decision, whenever it comes. And it is a debate that we can work to further develop on other cases as well. The christian fundamentalist caucus at the National Congress is already making noise to push back against the new ruling, but this is nothing new, it is more of the same of what they have been doing over the last 10 years.

4 November

Sonia Correa writes: This was the first time the Court has expressed a comprehensive position on abortion rights. Four years ago, when considering termination of pregnancy in the case of anencephaly and stem cell research, the Court solidly affirmed that the absolute right to life from conception was not enshrined in the Brazilian Constitution. Judge Barroso’s opinion expresses the understanding that the fundamental rights of women provided for in the 1988 Constitution make the complete criminalization of abortion unconstitutional, as defined in the 1940 Penal Code, which is still in force today. According to Judge Barroso, while the potential life of the fetus is obviously relevant, the criminalization of abortion before the end of the first trimester of pregnancy violates several fundamental rights of women granted by the 1988 Constitution: personal autonomy, physical and mental integrity, sexual and reproductive rights and gender equality. The opinion also refers to racial inequality and discrimination and considers that the law as it is does not sufficiently observe the principle of proportionality necessary for the fair application of criminal justice.

Unfortunately, as soon as the news of the Court’s opinions was made public, members of the House of Representatives created a committee whose aims was to contest the judgment as a breach of interference by the Court in “a matter that is fundamentally the responsibility of the legislature”. It is worth remembering that this is an overtly conservative legislature, which has been openly attacking abortion rights since it was elected in 2015, and that a number of regressive bills are pending for a final vote, including the nefarious provisions that grant rights to the “unborn” (Statute of the Unborn) and make abortion a heinous and punishable crime under any circumstances. It is impossible to predict the unfolding of this pitched battle over abortion that now appears to divide the powers of the Brazilian republic nor the effect on the hearing on 7 December.

We will continue publishing reports as events unfold. The Sexuality Policy Watch newsletter will carry an expanded version of Sonia Correa’s analysis above later this week.

SOURCES: Email from Debora Diniz; plus55, 30 November 2016; Email from Sonia Correa;

See also the Campaign newsletter from 23 November for a full report on the Zika hearing scheduled for 7 December.
Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion

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“This victory on abortion has empowered Polish women – we’ll never be the same.” (Krystyna Kacpura, 6 October 2016)

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by Safe Abortion, October 7, 2016

Our congratulations to the women of Poland for the brilliant decision to call a national strike on 3 October, in which between 30,000 and 100,000 people, according to different reports, took to the streets to protest the threatened ban on abortion: the government couldn’t ignore you any longer.

According to Maritime First News, state-run radio in Poland reported that on 4 October Prime Minister Beata Szydlo had distanced the government from the bill because of the strike. They quoted her as saying at a news conference : “I want to state very clearly that the PiS [Law and Justice] government is not working on any legislation changing the rules on abortion in Poland.”

Polish Vice Minister, Jarosław Gowin, a devout Catholic, was also quoted by the BBC as saying on 4 October that the nationwide protest on Monday had given the government “food for thought”. He was also reported as saying that he wanted to calm those afraid that abortion could be completely banned in Poland. However, this is how his statement was reported in English: “Abortion will certainly not be banned when the woman is the victim of rape or if her life or health is in danger” and that the protests around the country had “taught [the government] humility”.

He did not mention what would happen with abortion on grounds of fetal abnormality. Whether that was a significant omission is unclear.

On 5 October in the evening, the committee selected by the Polish lower house of parliament to review the bill voted to reject it. On 6 October, the full lower house of parliament was set to vote on whether to push the bill back to the committee, or drop it completely. This was set to take place just before the European Parliament was due to hold a debate on Polish women’s human rights

Barbara Nowacka, an opposition politician who has been active in the “Black Protest” movement to stop further restrictions on abortion in Poland, asked on Twitter: “Wonder what will happen during the vote in Parliament. Did #BlackProtest scare them or is it just a trick before the European Parliament debate?”

What happened was a decision to reject the bill completely. In the most recent news reports in English, which had stopped by the end of the day on 6 October, the BBC reported that the lower house of the parliament had indeed voted the Stop Abortion bill down by a large majority – 352 to 58. In their report after the vote, the Guardian quotes Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of PiS party, as saying to the parliament: “PiS continues to back the protection of life. And it will continue to take action in this respect, but it will be considered action.”

An excellent commentary in response to all these events by Krystyna Kacpura, Executive Director of the Polish Federation of Women & Family Planning, was also published in the Guardian on 6 October, where she said: “This victory on abortion has empowered Polish women – we’ll never be the same.”

Here is a brilliant set of photographs and quotes of women who went on strike on Monday, 3 October 2016.

Photos by Karol Grygoruk, 4 October 2016 in Vice Poland article including the photo above

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

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Continuing the Reports from 28 September

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4 October 2016

More reports on September 28 events from the International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion, including from Poland, Nicaragua, Netherlands, UK, Armenia, Macedonia, Croatia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana.

TOP STORIES: POLAND AND NICARAGUA

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

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U.S.: Today Marks the 16th Anniversary of the Abortion Pill and International Safe Abortion Day

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09/29/2016 05:20 pm ET
Melissa S. Grant, carafem, Vice President

The significance of September 28th for women’s reproductive rights is huge. It marks not only the 16th anniversary of the abortion pill in the U.S. but also International Safe Abortion Day. Coincidence?

The 28th day of September was declared an international day of action for the decriminalization of abortion in 1990 by the women’s health movement and has been recognized annually ever since. Launched in Latin America and the Caribbean, regional activists have been organizing in support of safe abortion on this date for the past 26 years.

[continued at link]
Source: Huffington Post

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International Safe Abortion Day: Events Around the World – MORE REPORTS

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28 September 2016
UN OHCHR HUMAN RIGHTS EXPERTS: REVISED/TRANSLATED STATEMENT

“Unsafe abortion is still killing tens of thousands women around the world” – UN rights experts warn

AFRICA

Statement by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa

On this day, September 28, the global day of action for access to safe and legal abortion, and in line with our continental Campaign for the Decriminalization of Abortion in Africa, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights through the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa, Justice Lucy Asuagbor calls for States to honor their commitments under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa; the Maputo Plan of Action; and the Campaign for the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa – by decriminalizing abortion in their respective countries.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), unsafe abortion continues to be a public health crisis and one of the largest contributors of maternal mortality and morbidity in Africa, accounting for up to 30% of maternal deaths in many sub-Saharan countries. The WHO estimates that over 6 million unsafe abortions occur in Africa, resulting in 29,000 deaths and countless serious injuries and disabilities every year for African women and girls under the age 25.

We agree with the WHO that making abortion illegal does not reduce abortion rates and neither does it deter women from having abortions. Instead, more women are pushed to the backstreet where they access unsafe abortions. It is time to bring a stop to these deaths.

Criminal laws on abortion are discriminatorily enforced and disproportionately impact the most vulnerable women and girls. Those who are poor, rural and lack education are at the highest risk of police investigations, arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment for unsafe abortions. Furthermore, women who fear prosecution for unsafe abortions often delay or fail to seek treatment at public hospitals or clinics, with adverse effects to their health and lives.

Criminalizing abortion violates many basic human rights, including the right to: life, liberty, security, health, and freedom from torture. Criminal abortion laws discriminate on the basis of sex—they penalize a health service only women need.

It is for these reasons that we join the global movement for a world where all women and girls can be empowered to make their own choices about their reproductive health and lives.

http://www.achpr.org/news/2016/09/d238/

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

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International Safe Abortion Day: Events Around the World – 28 September 2016

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UGANDA
National stakeholder meeting on unsafe abortion 2014
Coalition to Stop Maternal Mortality Due to Unsafe Abortion (CSMMUA)

The Coalition to Stop Maternal Mortality Due to Unsafe Abortion (CSMMUA) is a multi-disciplinary Ugandan civil society coalition founded in July 2012. The Secretariat is maintained by the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD). This year we shall mainly have a social media campaign that includes a few strategic Op Eds in the newspaper and some advocacy messages released on some of our social media platforms. We shall also be supporting our partners from Uganda Network of Young people living with HIV/AIDS(UNYPA) that will be having a community dialogue in the Kampala slum of Kawaala that will include, among other things, testimonies and sharing of stories of abortion experiences by teenagers, health workers and others.

CAMEROON
Women for a Change (Wfac)

Wfac, founded in 2009, is an independent, young women-led organisation working for women's sexual and reproductive health rights, leadership and development. They will be having a strategy meeting with some 20 key college authorities & discipline teachers to map out best approaches in addressing issues around adolescent SRHR and also ensuring comprehensive sexuality education be part of the school policy. They will be tweeting from @WfacCmr & @ZoFem, and sharing updates on their Facebook page. They produced a video called My Story, My Choice for 28 May this year which was accepted at the ArtCity Short Film Festival and will be aired on 4-8 October. And they have also just launched a new Zine at #WfacZine.

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

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Statement by three UN experts for 28 September – “Unsafe abortion is still killing tens of thousands of women around the world”

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28 September 2016

“Unsafe abortion is still killing tens of thousands women around the world” – UN rights experts warn

Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion – Wednesday 28 September 2016

GENEVA (27 September 2016) – Speaking ahead of the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, a group of United Nations human rights experts* called on States across the world to repeal restrictive abortion laws and policies, and all punitive measures and discriminatory barriers to access safe reproductive health services.

The experts also expressed their support for the call of several non-governmental organisations to make 28 September an official UN day for safe abortion worldwide, to urge Governments to decriminalise abortion and provide reproductive health services in a legal, safe and affordable manner.

“In the twenty-first century unsafe abortion is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality and morbidity. According to the World Health Organization, about 22 million unsafe abortions take place each year worldwide and an estimated 47,000 women die annually from complications resulting from the resort to unsafe practices for termination of pregnancy.

Criminalisation of abortion and failure to provide adequate access to services for termination of an unwanted pregnancy are forms of discrimination based on sex. Restrictive legislation which denies access to safe abortion is one of most damaging ways of instrumentalising women’s bodies and a grave violation of women’s human rights. The consequences for women are severe, with women sometimes paying with their lives.

Restrictive laws apply to 40% of world’s population. In countries which prohibit abortion, women who seek health services in relation to the termination of a pregnancy, whether in order to carry out the termination or to seek medical care after a miscarriage, may be subjected to prosecution and imprisonment. Prohibition does not reduce the need and the number of abortions; it merely increases the risks to the health and life of women and girls who resort to unsafe and illegal services.

Evidence-based comprehensive sex education and the availability of effective contraception are essential to lower the incidence of unintended pregnancy, and hence to lower the number of abortions. Indeed, it has been demonstrated that countries where access to information and to modern methods of contraception is easily available and where abortion is legal, have the lowest rates of abortion. The possibility of accessing safe abortion remains essential. Unwanted pregnancies cannot be totally prevented since no contraceptive method is 100% effective, and women may be exposed to sexual violence.

We recommend the good practice found in many countries which provide women’s access to safe abortion services, on request during the first trimester of pregnancy. We insist on international legal requirements that women can access abortion at the very least in cases of risk to their life or health, including mental health, rape, incest and fatal impairment of the foetus during the first trimester and later. In this context, states should also allow pregnant girls and adolescents to terminate unwanted pregnancies, which if carried to term expose them to a greatly increased risk to life and health, including a very high probability of suffering from obstetric fistula, prevent completion of their education and obstruct development of their economic and social capabilities.

We urge States to repeal restrictive laws and policies in relation to abortion, which do not meet the international human rights law requirements and that have discriminatory and public health impacts, and to eliminate all punitive measures and discriminatory barriers to access safe reproductive health services. These laws and policies violate women’s human right to health and negate their autonomy in decision-making about their own bodies.

We cannot tolerate the severe violation of women’s human rights on the basis of their sex and biological differences. We cannot tolerate the high incidence of women’s and girls’ preventable deaths resulting from maternity-related issues, including from unsafe abortion.

The Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion

In the past 30 years, women’s rights groups have mobilized on 28 September, named ‘the Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion’, to urge their Governments to decriminalise the termination of pregnancy, end the stigma and discrimination around the practice and provide such services in a legal, safe and affordable manner.
Originally from Latin America and the Caribbean, 28 September, which commemorates the abolition of slavery for children born to slave mothers in Brazil, was renamed as the day of the ‘free womb’ and the movement spread to all the other regions in the world.

While slavery has now been abolished, there is still a long way to go before the bodies and wombs of women around the world will stop being instrumentalised in the name of patriarchal morals or traditions and for political, economic or cultural purposes.

We join our voices to the strong and brave ones of many non-governmental organizations which have called for safe abortion worldwide by requesting that 28 September be made an UN official international day on safe abortion.”

* The UN EXPERTS: Alda Facio, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice; Dainius Pûras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; and Juan E. Méndez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

NOTE TO EDITORS:
Many international and regional human rights instruments have affirmed that ensuring women’s human rights requires access to safe and quality abortion and post-abortion services and care, including the CEDAW Convention, the Convención de Belém do Pará and the Maputo Protocol of 2005. The 2016 CESCR General Comment No. 22 also calls for guaranteeing women and girls access to safe abortion services and quality post-abortion care to prevent maternal mortality and morbidity.

For further information, please refer to the following documents:

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CEDAW.aspx
Report health and safety by the UN Working Group on discrimination against women:  http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/32/44#sthash.LwS545RE.dpuf
Report on the right to health of adolescents by the UN Special Rapporteur on health: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/32/32
Report on gender perspectives by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/31/57

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Claire Mathellié ((+41 22 917 9151 / wgdiscriminationwomen@ohchr.org) ou Bernadette Arditi (+41 22 917 9159 / barditi@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

For your news websites and social media: Multimedia content & key messages relating to our news releases are available on UN Human Rights social media channels, listed below. Please tag us using the proper handles:
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Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion

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Supported by ANIS, ANADEP files petition to the Brazilian Supreme Court for protection of rights violated during the Zika virus public health emergency

International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion

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by Safe Abortion | posted in: Brazil, Latin America/ Caribbean, Newsletter
Aug 30, 2016

A judicial constitutional review was filed before the Brazilian Supreme Court on 24 August, to demand the protection of rights violated in the context of the Zika virus epidemic in Brazil.

Coordinated by Anis – Institute of Bioethics, and filed by the National Association of Public Defenders (ANADEP), the lawsuit was the result of a collective effort of a broad group of researchers, activists, and lawyers to articulate the demands of women and children affected by Zika.

Six months after the World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency due to the neurological disorders caused by the virus, families affected by the Zika virus congenital syndrome still have not received support due to omissions on the part of the Brazilian government.

The demands of the petition are organized into five topics. The petition says:

[continued at link]

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

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