Mexico high court rejects legalizing abortion

Women demonstrate in favour of abortion as the Supreme Court in Mexico City debates a proposal to declare as unconstitutional two laws that either ban or limit abortion (AFP Photo/Hector Guerrero)

AFP • June 29, 2016

Mexico City (AFP) - Mexico's Supreme Court rejected a proposal to legalize abortion but suggested more debate on the issue in the country boasting the world's second-largest Catholic population.

Justices of the court's first chamber -- which deals with criminal issues -- voted three to one to reject an initiative to declare as unconstitutional two laws that ban abortion and drastically limit the procedure for medical reasons.

Although the capital Mexico City has allowed abortion within three months of conception since 2007, it is prohibited throughout the rest of the country except in cases in which pregnancies endanger mothers' lives.

The legalization initiative, presented by Supreme Court member Arturo Zaldivar, aimed to extend sanctioned abortions to women with other medical problems and declare prison sentences for illegal abortions unconstitutional.

Penalties range up to five years.

The penal code represents "real discrimination against women's health," Zaldivar said during arguments over the measure.

His initiative also proposed introducing graduated penalties for illegal abortions determined by the stage of pregnancy.

More than 2,000 women died from abortions conducted in unsanitary conditions between 1999 and 2013 due to the current ban, Zaldivar argued.

Some 200 anti-abortion activists and hundreds more reform supporters noisily demonstrated outside the building during the debate.

The Supreme Court rejected the measure but acknowledged the issue is an important one facing the country and suggested drafting a new proposal for debate in the coming months.


How the ‘abstinence-only’ approach to contraception just leads to more sex in the Philippines

‘They showed us videos of live abortions before prom’

Kristy Drutman

June 23, 2016

Currently based in the Philippines, I am exploring the culture and lifestyle of young Filipina women. The first topic I wanted to explore was reproductive health and taboos around sex across the nation. The Philippines is a predominately Catholic country, meaning that church leaders hold strong political and social influence over citizens. Compared to more Westernized views around a liberated sex-life, Filipino views on  sexuality are notably conservative and not an open topic for discussion. According to the church, sex is considered to be strictly reserved for married men and women and anything beyond this, other than the exception of polygamous relationships in parts of the country, is viewed as immoral and inappropriate.

The Philippines is both praised and criticized for its collectivist, family-oriented culture that  can at times promote a ‘bandwagon’ mentality around how a Filipino/a should conduct themselves. As a part of this ‘collective’ community, Filipinos are expected to uphold the values of their communities above their personal beliefs on a particular issue. This extends from clothing and prayer to what you can and can not do in the bedroom.


But here’s where it gets confusing.

In a country that boasts such traditional ideals, the Philippines ironically has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies within  the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) according to the UN Population Fund.

According to the Philippines’ 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study,  1 in 3 Filipino youth aged 15-24 has engaged in pre-marital sex. Among these 1 in 3 youth, 73.4% of males and 83.8% if females did not use any form of protection from unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases during their first sexual action. Although the government is trying to push forward greater moves toward contraception through the latest Reproductive Health Bill, it will take a significantly greater push to overhaul the country’s embedded cultural values.

This paradox astounded me and  immediately asked my cousin Natasha, 21, a young Filipina woman from Cagayan De Oro in the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines to offer her personal insights regarding this epidemic.


Natasha explained that sexual education was not mandatory in her primary education. When it came to sex-ed Natasha said, “I mean, they taught us the reproductive organs and such when we were kids, and the sort of changes our bodies were about to go through, but nobody ever talked about sex, specifically. Even at home, sex was pretty much a taboo subject.

“I wasn’t allowed to watch television shows that depicted sexual scenes, and for a period of time, I believed babies were made in factories.”

While this innocent form of ‘abstinence-only’ teachings may be appropriate for children, Natasha believed her lack of access to  a robust sex-ed program was challenging for her as an adolescent.  As a high school student, Natasha and her classmates  were taught what it meant to be a ‘proper’ man  and woman in the eyes of God, and this involved avoiding sex altogether until it was a holy union.

“During our junior prom, they divided the boys and the girls, and led us girls to a different area to talk about manners and etiquette and the ways of being a lady. This happened around 6 years ago, so I don’t quite remember the specifics, but they showed us a videos of live abortions before prom.

“After the video finished playing, they gave a talk about how ineffective condoms were because there were tiny holes in the rubber that would still allow sperm to swim through,  and that the best kind of contraceptive was abstinence, especially since it was written in the bible that men and women were only supposed to lay with one person in their entire lives. ”


Natasha thought she could escape the traumatizing images and moral hierarchies when she left for university, but they instead continued to haunt her.  Even though methods of contraception and biological descriptions of intercourse were finally introduced in her classes, abstinence still held precedence. This works to instill fear and guilt in young men and women into believing that not following abstinence is, “disrespecting your body as God’s creation.”

Despite these scare tactics, Natasha is convinced that this simply encourages more men and women to have clandestine hook-ups and to not ask the right questions before having sex. She said: “It’s pretty common knowledge that if you tell someone not to do something, curiosity eventually wins over and they end up doing it anyway.  I mean, if we’re going to end up doing it anyway, wouldn’t it be better to equip us with the knowledge to be responsible about it, instead of shoving everything under the rug of abstinence and scaring us?”

Instead of receiving education about sex through family members or school, young Filipinos rely on pornography, social media or just what their friends tell them on the streets.

She said: “I had a friend come to me once in a panic because he was afraid that he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant by rubbing his penis against her underwear-clad vagina. Another friend thought it would be a good idea to give his girlfriend Nordette every time he thought he got her pregnant… people think that the pull-out method works fine, because they’re too scared or ashamed to go to a drugstore and pick up some condoms. ”


She believes that the stigma around sex and continuation of the Catholic Church’s dominance over these matters continues to leave young people in dangerous, confusing, and stressful situations.  The increase in unwanted pregnancies and STDs that continue to rise in both urban and rural areas of the Philippines, in Natasha’s opinion, is primarily due to a lack of education and the perpetuation of a negative, unrealistic standard of ‘abstinence-only’ culture.

Natasha said: “Sex isn’t bad. You know what’s bad? Women performing back alley abortions on themselves because she doesn’t want her family to know she got pregnant outside of marriage. Women who are terrified of being disowned by their families just because they got pregnant. Women who are shamed into keeping their babies because it’s the right thing to do, and not receiving any help in raising the child.”


Some other quotes I received from young Filipinos living in both Manila, the capital of the Philippines and those from Natasha’s community in Cagayan De Oro regarding their views on why pre-marital sex is so high in the Philippines:

Renzo, 20

“Sexual education here is just horrible. I mean sure most private schools give some sexual education but it doesn’t have a big impact on most students… All they know is what they find on social media or tv, which more often than not is over-glorified.”

Ronalyn, 22

“The lack of sexual education and contraception in the Philippines continues to force women, particularly those living in rural areas who do not have access to health education, into an alarming cycle of poverty.”

Anonymous, 20

“When I was a kid I thought that the only difference between making out and having sex was that sex was done on a bed.”

Anonymous, 19

“I have never actually met anyone my age that was against [The Reproductive Health Bill] usually just the older generations because the church advertises against it.”

After hearing all of these stories from young people in the Phillipines, I spoke with Ray-an B. Talatala, MAN, MN, RN, an Internationally-recognized Nurse Leader, Educator and Operating Room Nurse in Cagayan De Oro for his insights on teenage pregnancy.

Due to the current overpopulation crisis in the Philippines, Ray-an said: “There should be more research done regarding the causes of the rise in pre-marital sex in the Philippines whether that be due to technology or social media, family, culture, access to education and so forth.”

He also believes that the church should become more open to sex-ed so, “both young men and young women will know about proper contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies.”

He sees a variety of clientele, mostly single mothers who were abandoned by their partners and do not have an adequate source of income to care for their children. Along with abandonment, he cautioned, “when it comes to unwanted teenage pregnancies, there are really huge risk factors involved. One of the complications is pregnancy induced hypertension. Many of my patients suffered from an onset of high blood pressure and some even died. So we really need to address this issue or else we will continue to see a rise in maternal mortality rates.”


As a nurse, Ray-An believes it is his responsibility as a health care practitioner to promote sexual education as a form of preventative care to all his clients. But he believes: “Every person in [Filipino] society has a role, from parents to schools to the church in this conversation regarding sexual health and young people.”

Ray-an derives a lot of hope from the Reproductive Health Law (RA 10354) to really create an impact and make a paradigm shift related to sex education in the Philippines. He argued: “It all boils down to education and negative attitudes regarding contraceptives. I think the Philippines should be ready. I hope the measures that are implemented by the government are effective and that they are continuously monitored [in preventing teenage pregnancy].”

When asked if teaching about the use of ‘artificial’ contraceptives aside from natural means of contraception will challenge or threaten Filipino tradition, Ray-an said: “I don’t think we have to change our tradition but we have to be at par with the latest trends in birth control, without compromising our values, norms and religious beliefs.

“We already embrace modernization so I do not see what stops us from embracing the up-to-date trends in reproductive health is concerned especially access to sex education. It’s one of my commitments and advocacy as a nurse to ensure the safety of our young people so that they will be more aware of the risks associated with teenage pregnancy and pre-marital sex.”

Source: The Tab

Malta: Morning-after pill debate heats up as Godfrey Farrugia weighs in


Friday, June 17, 2016, 07:30 by Claire Caruana

A women's rights group has filed a judicial protest calling for the morning-after pill to be legalised.




Denying access to emergency contraceptives, including the morning-after pill, is in breach of women’s fundamental rights, the Women’s Rights Foundation claims, calling on the government to change its stance.

Gift of Life Malta has slammed the move saying it was an attempt to legalise abortion in Malta through the legalisation of the morning-after pill.

The Women’s Rights Foundation yesterday filed a judicial protest against the State – backed up by 102 women aged between 16 and 62 – demanding licensing, importation and distribution of ‘emergency contraception’ to be made legal.

“Women’s Rights Foundation calls on the government to change its position with regards to emergency contraceptives and licences without further delay. Every day that goes by will continue to discriminate and breach the rights of women,” the NGO said.
They are attempting to legalise abortion in Malta

The foundation said it was filing the protest on behalf of women who were not ready to start a family, rape victims, those already with children but who do not want more, women who were financially unstable and those who have made use of contraceptives which did not work.

“The right of women and couples to decide on number, spacing and timing of their children has been long enshrined in a number of international documents, many of which have been signed and ratified by Maltese governments,” the organisation said.

The morning-after pill is a form of contraceptive that can be used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse. The pill, which is not licensed locally, is effective if taken soon after intercourse. Malta is the only EU country to not offer access to emergency contraception.

According to the foundation, since emergency contraceptives are not legal in Malta, women who did not want to get pregnant but would have had unprotected sex were often resorting to taking an overdose of the contraceptive pill, which is available on prescription.

“A woman has to have the autonomy to make a decision about her fertility and sexuality free from coercion and violence, to be treated as an individual in her own right, as being capable to make decisions regarding her own body and fertility.

Limitations or prohibition of this autonomy is a breach of women’s right. A woman has the right to choose her method of contraception. Limiting her choice is discriminatory.”

The foundation also pointed to the fact that emergency contraception is available across all other EU countries.

Critics of the foundation’s move have said that such a contraceptive would pave the way for abortion.

Pro-life non-governmental organisation Gift of Life Malta has urged those against abortion to stand up and defend life from conception. “They are attempting to legalise abortion in Malta by making the sale of the morning-after pill legal,” the NGO said. The Life Network Foundation and Malta Unborn Child Movement have also said they oppose the pill, saying it was "abortifacient".

Debate on whether the morning-after pill is abortive varies, hinging on the argument whether pregnancy begins at the fertilisation stage or at a later stage in the reproductive cycle.

While the Catholic Church considers any method that blocks or hinders the implantation of a fertilised ovum as an abortion, the World Health Organisation argues that all women and girls at risk of an unintended pregnancy should have a right to access emergency contraception.

Contacted about the judicial protest, a Justice Ministry spokeswoman said this would be “discussed in the parliamentary group”.

The Nationalist Party’s said its position “was, is and will remain” against abortion. With regards to the judicial protest, the Nationalist Party said it would discuss this within its internal structures, from a legal, political and ethical point of view.

Godfrey Farrugia says pill "may be abortive"

Labour Party whip and onetime Health Minister Godfrey Farrugia came out against the morning-after pill, calling it a "plan B for unprotected and casual sex".

In a Facebook post, Dr Farrugia said the pill was a form of abortion.

"Let's call a spade a spade it does have an abortive effective," he wrote.

He subsequently clarified that he had meant that the pill "may" have an abortive effect.

Dr Farrugia, a medical doctor by profession, wrote: "Once taken after intercourse it interferes with fertilization or is abortive of the zygote and embryo before it implants. It is the chemical use of levonorgestrel to wash away the intra-uterine contents after a sexual affair."

He dismissed arguments that the morning-after pill is a reproductive right.

"Freedom of thought, opinion, liberty and to assemble are human rights," he wrote, "but...liberty is the power that we bestow on ourselves and interfering with the very origins of life do not fulfill those rights."

His partner, Independent MP Marlene Farrugia, also opposes the pill. In a Facebook post similar to her partner's, she wrote "in cases of rape, one crime does not cancel out another."

Pill increases promiscuity and rape, says Women for Life

In a reaction issued this morning, Women for Life claimed that the availability of emergency contraception increased sexual promiscuity and led to people treating babies as "accidents".

The group also claimed that the pill "appears to have encouraged abusive behaviour and rape by men." Rapists, the group said, could "cover their crimes by forcing the morning-after pill" on their victims.

The group said it opposed moves to legalise the pill, saying there were "more justifiable, more reasonable and easier ways" of family planning.

Source: Times of Malta