Africa: ‘Sexual and Reproductive Rights should always be fought for’

‘Sexual and Reproductive Rights should always be fought for’

MARION STEVENS 31 Jan 2017 (South Africa)

It is men who are critical of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, say eminent African women at the African Leaders’ Summit on Safe Legal Abortion in Addis Ababa, where a South African delegation is championing the issue of sexual and reproductive rights.

This past week I was in Addis Abba at the African Leaders’ Summit on Safe Legal Abortion. In the room were an impressive group who were senators, judges, ambassadors, ministers of health, Members of Parliament, technical advisors, special rapporteurs, commissioners, special envoys, academics, activists and health providers who came from all corners of our continent. Our own Minister Bathabile Dlamini had been invited to the meeting, but could not attend because of commitments in South Africa.
Africa is rising and Africa is leading – just read this statement from leaders on the African continent:
"The Africa Leaders’ Declaration on Safe, Legal Abortion as a Human Right"

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Source, Daily Maverick:

Northern Irish woman was reported to police by GP over abortion pills

Northern Irish woman was reported to police by GP over abortion pills

British Pregnancy Advisory Service says such actions are creating climate of fear that is risking lives in region

Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent
Tuesday 31 January 2017

A Northern Irish woman who was prosecuted for obtaining abortion pills for her underage pregnant daughter was reported to police by a GP, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service has revealed.

Launching an information campaign in Northern Ireland aimed at helping women access safe abortion medication and follow-up services, the BPAS said that a climate of fear over such prosecutions was risking lives in the region.

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Source,The Guardian:

South Africa: Women and girls risk unsafe abortions after being denied legal services

South Africa: Women and girls risk unsafe abortions after being denied legal services
31 January 2017, 19:28 UTC

Women and girls risk unsafe abortions that can lead to serious health complications, and even death, due to persistent barriers to legal abortion services, according to research by Amnesty International and the Women’s Health Research Unit of the School of Public Health and Family Medicine at the University of Cape Town.

The briefing published today highlights how despite South Africa having one of the world’s most progressive legal frameworks for abortion, many women and girls - especially those in the poorest and most marginalized communities - struggle to access safe abortion services. A key barrier is the failure of the government to regulate the practice of ‘conscientious objection’ through which health professionals can refuse to provide abortion services.

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Source, Amnesty International:

Malawi Needs to Reform its Outdated Abortion Law

Malawi Needs to Reform its Outdated Abortion Law
Jan 31, 2017
By Chisale Mhango

Having signed several international treaties, Malawi needs to reform its abortion law.

Malawi is one of the many countries in Africa discussing Abortion Law reform as proposed by the Africa Union Commission which calls for the harmonisation of the law on abortion with its international treaty agreements under the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. The protocol states " Protect the health of a women by providing safe abortion services in case of sexual assault, rape, incest and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or the life of the mother or the foetus "

Why this proposed reform has become such a controversial issue is of great concern to many especially in the legal and medical professions. The abortion law reform is not about the rights and wrongs of termination of pregnancy. It is not about whether or not abortion is morally right or wrong. Questions such as when life begins and whether or not foetus has rights are irrelevant at this point.

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Source: All Africa:

Perspectives on anti-choice lobbying in Europe

Perspectives on anti-choice lobbying in Europe
Study for policy makers on opposition to sexual and reproductive health and rights in Europe
Jan 2017
by Elena Zacharenko
This study has been commissioned by Heidi Hautala, Member of the European Parliament.

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Source, European Parliament:

UK: High-profile pills prosecutions in Northern Ireland may deter women from seeking medical care after illegal abortions, charity warns

Bpas campaign for N.Ireland

High-profile pills prosecutions in Northern Ireland may deter women from seeking medical care after illegal abortions, charity warns

31 January 2017

  • The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, is today warning that prosecutions for purchasing and using online abortion pills will deter women from seeking medical care if needed
  • BPAS has today launched an information campaign in Northern Ireland – including  a billboard in Belfast – to inform women of a 24 hour helpline in case they need confidential medical advice after taking online abortion pills
  • No healthcare professional is obliged to report women - but some may fear repercussions if they do not
  • Mother who purchased abortion pills online and who was granted a Judicial Review of her case last week was reported to police by a clinician

The increasing number of high-profile prosecutions of women who have purchased or used online abortion medication may deter women in need of medical advice from seeking care, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, has today warned. Last week, a judicial review was granted to a mother facing criminal prosecution after being reported to the police by a doctor for buying abortion medication for her young daughter. The charity is concerned that growing awareness of cases such as this will deter women from seeking follow-up care when needed for fear that they too will face criminal sanction.

No healthcare professional is obliged to report a woman who has undergone an unlawful abortion to the police. Professional guidance issued in 2016 by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety makes clear that the needs of patients come before a duty to report, and that maintaining patient confidentiality would be acceptable defence for not referring a woman to the police. However, the recent spate of prosecutions may have left some medical professionals concerned that if they do not report a woman who has used abortion pills, they themselves may face criminal sanction.

Abortion medication is very safe, but around one in six women who undergo abortion treatment at BPAS clinics in Great Britain will seek follow-up advice, largely for reassurance that their symptoms are normal. However, the rising numbers of prosecutions and growing awareness that medical professionals are reporting women to the police will leave some women afraid to seek care in Northern Ireland. Consequently, BPAS is launching an information campaign to highlight the helpline to women in Northern Ireland, including a billboard in central Belfast and via social media. The helpline can provide advice to women about their symptoms, and when further medical advice should be sought. The free service is available to women who have purchased pills from the not-for-profit online organisations Women On Web and Women Help Women, as these services provide exactly the same medications as a woman would receive at BPAS.

Ann Furedi, bpas Chief Executive, said:

“We have launched this information campaign today not to encourage women to break the law, but in recognition that this is happening. Northern Ireland’s strict abortion law means women determined to end a pregnancy but who cannot travel must turn to online pills. These women are no less deserving of follow-up care and support than the women we see in our clinics.

“Recent court proceedings have sent out a deeply worrying message - that women are not able to speak openly and honestly with their clinicians. Those who are driving the prosecutions have created a damaging climate of fear for women and those caring for them.

“This helpline is not a panacea, and it can in no way compensate for the lack of abortion provision in Northern Ireland. But we know that there are women who are in need of care but afraid to access help. So today we want to send a clear message: if you have taken abortion pills and need advice, we are here for you, 24 hours a day, every day."


For more information please contact the bpas press office on 0207 061 3377, 07788 725185 or

Notes to Editors:

About bpas

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, bpas, is a charity which sees more than 70,000 women a year and provides reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception, at clinics across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. More information can be found at


Source: Bpas:

UN rights experts urge legislators to back Dominican Republic’s stand on abortion

UN rights experts urge legislators to back Dominican Republic’s stand on abortion
by Safe Abortion, Jan 31, 2017

GENEVA (25 January 2017) – A group of United Nations human rights experts* today urged all Dominican Republic legislators to protect women and girls’ rights to sexual and reproductive health in the country by supporting President Danilo Medina’s position against regressive amendments of the Penal Code regarding abortion.

Since the beginning of the debate on amendments to the Penal Code in 2014, the experts’ group have communicated their concerns to the Government on several occasions.

The experts’ latest call comes as the Commission appointed to examine the presidential observations to the amendments proposed by Congress prepares to issue its report, which the Senate will subsequently vote on. On 19 December 2016, President Danilo Medina vetoed the new version of the Criminal Code representing a grave regression for women’s right to health.

“We sincerely hope that the Dominican Congress will finally seize this historical moment to mark its commitment towards eliminating gender discrimination in its legislation and to advance women’s and adolescents’ sexual and reproductive rights, in accordance with their international human rights obligations,” they stated.

Under the Congress proposed amendment, terminating a pregnancy would only be available in one case: when there is a risk for the life of the pregnant woman or girl. However, the 2014 version of the text partially decriminalized the access to abortion services under three circumstances, including when the life of a pregnant woman or girl was at risk, when the fetus could not survive outside the womb and when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.

“Denying women and girls’ access to safe abortion services in cases of health reasons, serious foetal impairment and pregnancy resulting from rape and incest, will certainly cause excessive and long-lasting physical and psychological suffering to many women,” the experts stressed.

“Reducing access to such health services violates women’s and girls’ right to be protected against gender-based discrimination and may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” they said.

The UN experts also warned that restrictive abortion laws exacerbate the risks to the health and safety of the affected women, driving them to undergo sometimes desperate life-threating solutions. “It has been demonstrated that countries with easy access to information and to modern methods of contraception and where abortion is legal, have the lowest rates of abortion,” they noted.

The human rights experts pointed out that this is the last chance, under the current Government, for the situation of women’s sexual and reproductive rights to be improved since President Medina had rejected a similar reform proposed in 2014.

“Should President Medina’s observations not be adopted, this would be a tragedy for women in the Dominican Republic and a deplorable example for the region”, the experts concluded.

The President’s veto and proposed amendments could only be circumvented if both chambers of the Congress (Chamber of Deputies and Senate) adopt the initial amendments proposed with a majority of two-thirds of the members.

*SIGNATORIES TO THE STATEMENT: Alda Facio, President of the Working Group on the issue of discrimintion against women in law and practice; Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health; Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women; and Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.




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

A threat to abortion pill access in Malaysia

A threat to abortion pill access in Malaysia
by Safe Abortion, Jan 31, 2017

A statement by the Minister of Health of Malaysia, in which he threatened investigation and prosecution of anyone selling or purchasing medical abortion pills online, was widely reported in the press.

In response, the Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia’s said: “We recognise the proliferation of many unethical sellers of medical abortion pills, but the proposed action by the Minister may also end up threatening the provision of genuine non-profit suppliers such as Women on Web, Women Help Women and Safe2Choose.

“Mifepristone has not been approved in Malaysia. But off-label use of misoprostol for medical abortion and for softening the cervix before manual vacuum aspiration abortion is common.

“Six months ago, the Ministry pressured Pfizer to stop supplying misoprostol in Malaysia, thus preventing abortion providers from using it. We are uncertain how effective  the Customs department will be, but we expect most of the supplies will still get through. But if a prosecution takes place, it will be a real threat to continuing access.”

The newspaper article, published on 16 January, was entitled: “Health Minister concerned over abortion pills”. The Minister, Datuk Seri S Subramaniam, is reported as saying that in Malaysia, these pills require a doctor’s prescription, and are for “specific purposes”. For internet sales domestically, he believed they could be detected and action taken against offenders. However, he is also quoted as saying that it is difficult to detect when orders are placed online for purchases from abroad. He said the Health Ministry was working with the Customs Department and police to detect packages containing such pills and also to establish whether the pills were being sold locally.

The article also states that misoprostol is easily available online and a common discussion topic in certain chatrooms, especially those related to “how to get a safe abortion”.

The Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia’s says: “The only logical and effective step to cut out the demand for online abortion pills… is to fast-track the approval and supply of both these medications to doctors so that they can be legally prescribed to clients after a proper assessment, as proposed by the Minister.”

SOURCES: E-mail, Dr SP Choong, Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia (RRAAM),

23 January 2017 ; Malaymailonline, by Murali Arumugam, 16 January 2017
Source, International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion:

UK: From relief to regret: Readers’ experiences of abortion

From relief to regret: Readers' experiences of abortion

30 January 2017

On Thursday we published the story of Diane Munday, who had an abortion before the change in the law - 50 years ago - which made it legal in Britain.

In response to her story, many women sent emails with their own experiences of abortion over the last half century and more. Here are a selection.

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Abortion in Pakistan: struggling to support a woman’s right to choose

Abortion in Pakistan: struggling to support a woman's right to choose

Lack of legal clarity forces thousands of women to endure backstreet abortions in Pakistan. A helpline is providing information and support, but fears losing funding after Trump reinstated the global gag rule

by Sana Saleem
Monday 30 January 2017

Sonia woke up in a dingy room with searing pain in her stomach. All she remembered was being accompanied by her husband to a clinic for an ultrasound. She’d recently found out she was pregnant; her husband had often been abusive and didn’t react well to the news. Today was supposed to be different: he insisted on going to the clinic so he could see the scan and Sonia hoped that reflected a change of heart.

However, slowly Sonia realised she had been drugged and given an abortion without her consent at a private clinic. It took years for her to come to terms with the violence she suffered.

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Source, The Guardian: