Keeping women’s health essential despite Covid-19 shortages

Keeping women's health essential despite Covid-19 shortages

Opinion by Anu Kumar
Thu May 7, 2020
(Video: Fear, panic as women navigate pregnancy during a pandemic, 02:59)

(CNN)The world is changing daily as a result of Covid-19. Like millions of people, I now have a virtual workday. I am fortunate -- I'm safe and comfortable at home with my family in North Carolina.

Although living socially distanced and not knowing when life will return to normal is a struggle, I am comforted by the knowledge of the frontline workers I work with around the world working to alleviate some of the harm being inflicted on those living in dense and underserved communities.


Latin America lagging behind on women’s rights

Latin America lagging behind on women’s rights

By Hugo Sánchez and Julia R. Arévalo | translated by Freya Kirk
Feb 19, 2018

Imprisoned for having an abortion, forced to keep a child born out of rape, pushed to commit suicide: women still pay a heavy price in Latin America, where several countries’ legislation greatly restricts abortion. EURACTIV’s partner Euroefe reports.

Women’s rights in South America were the main issue during a conference before the 10th Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly (EUROLAT), held last September in El Salvador. El Salvador is now ranked as the most violent country in the world, mainly due to gang activities.


Meet Bolivia’s champions for abortion rights Their grassroots movement broke the silence on the need for safe, legal abortion

Meet Bolivia’s champions for abortion rights Their grassroots movement broke the silence on the need for safe, legal abortion
By Ipas
December 18th, 2017

On Dec. 15, Bolivia made history by expanding provisions for legal abortion. Under the newly revised penal code, women and girls can now legally access safe abortion in the first eight weeks of pregnancy under a broad range of circumstances.

Historic law change like this doesn’t happen overnight. In Bolivia, a grassroots movement for safe abortion has been building for many years, harnessing the power of leaders from across the country’s diverse population—which has more than 30 indigenous groups. As momentum grew for law reform, leaders formed the Pact for the Decriminalization of Abortion—a grassroots coalition of more than 50 organizations, including Ipas Bolivia.

Continued at source:

Legal abortion access greatly expanded in Bolivia

Legal abortion access greatly expanded in Bolivia
A national grassroots movement to save women’s lives celebrates success

Friday, December 15, 2017

In a major step forward for reproductive rights in Bolivia, women and girls can now access safe, legal abortion in the first eight weeks of pregnancy under a broad range of circumstances. This historic law change—enacted today when Acting President Alvaro Garcia Linera signed the nation’s newly revised penal code, which contains specific provisions for legal abortion—comes after years of advocacy by a grassroots movement representing Bolivia’s diverse population.

Continued at source:

Bolivia lawmakers vote to ease abortion limits

Bolivia lawmakers vote to ease abortion limits

The Associated Press
December 6, 2017

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Bolivian lawmakers voted on Wednesday to ease the country’s tight restrictions on abortions, shrugging aside opposition from religious groups.

The Legislative Assembly vote will allow “students, adolescents or girls” to have abortions up to the eighth week of pregnancy. The measure doesn’t specify ages, but it appears to apply to girls up to and including 17 years old and older students who still depend on their parents or guardians.

Continued at source:

Bolivia Approves Arguments to Legalize Abortion

Bolivia Approves Arguments to Legalize Abortion
La Paz, Oct 1 (Prensa Latina)

The Bolivian Health Minister, Ariana Campero, has highlighted the approval of Article-153 of the Penal System Code that allows women to have an abortion until eight weeks, with no penalty.

'The new article is an important advance in the historic claim of many women who have striven for avoiding death by illegal abortions,' she said.

Campero reiterated that abortion is Bolivia's third cause of death, most of them carried out amid unhealthy conditions.

Continued at source:

BOLIVIA – Seven women arrested for abortion this month; doctors plead compliance with the law

BOLIVIA – Seven women arrested for abortion this month; doctors plead compliance with the law

by International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion
Sep 1, 2017

In August seven women accused of abortion in five cities were arrested, compared to two cases in the past seven months. Five other people were also arrested as accomplices. Doctors, who filed the complaints in the majority of cases said they were complying with the law in order to avoid being seen as accomplices. But they are also failing to respect the confidentiality of their patients and stop women with abortion complications seeking care, said Guadelupe Pérez on behalf of the Pacto de Despenalización del Aborto.

The Bolivian Criminal Code punishes abortion with up to six years in prison, except in cases of rape, incest or where the woman’s life is in danger. The draft bill to amend the Code, still under discussion, extends the grounds of legal abortion during the first eight weeks if the woman is in extreme poverty, does not have the resources to support her family, or is a student. Since it was tabled, the anti-abortion movement has called several large protests throughout the country, which may have sparked more women to be denounced.

Until last year, although there were some 775 arrests, according to Ipas Bolivia, only two women went to prison for having abortions. One, who was 23 weeks pregnant when she caused an abortion, spent eight months in prison in 2012 and the other one, only three days in 2016.

On 2 August, “Lizbeth B” was hospitalised for complications of abortion with pills that caused her to haemorrhage. She is 28 years old and a mother of two children, ages 1 and 2 years. She was treated while in police custody. Her husband admitted that he had pressured her to have an abortion for economic reasons. He was also arrested, accused of complicity.

On 4 August, “Reyna C”, aged 20 years, was arrested along with her boyfriend, accused of having an abortion with pills in a motel room. On 16 August, in a third city, a young woman aged 21 years was apprehended in a clinic that provided abortions. According to the doctors who denounced her, there was abortion medication in her system.

On 20 August, a woman was denounced by doctors for an abortion at five months of pregnancy. She required an emergency curettage and was then taken into police custody and arrested, along with her husband. On the 21 August, the police apprehended a teenager aged 16 years, who was denounced by staff of La Paz Hospital, where she went with serious haemorrhage and said the decision was because her parents rejected her pregnancy. She was accused for causing a risk to her own life by using abortion pills.

These cases were made public through the media, but the Pacto de Despenalización del Aborto knows of two other arrests in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, one of whom was handcuffed to her hospital bed.

Abortion is the third leading cause of maternal mortality in Bolivia. The most recent death was a woman who was 33 years old, who died at home as a result of an abortion with pills purchased in a pharmacy and herbs purchased elsewhere. She left three children aged 4, 12 and 15 years. She was about four months pregnant.

SOURCE: Página Siete, by Liliana Carrillo V, 28 August 2017.


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

Bolivia women’s rights groups hope revised law is step toward legal abortion

Bolivia women's rights groups hope revised law is step toward legal abortion

Procedure is currently illegal save for cases of rape, incest and health crises, a policy that activists say has encouraged dangerous clandestine abortions

Myles McCormick in La Paz
Friday 7 July 2017

Women’s rights groups in Bolivia hope that an overhaul of the country’s penal code could lead to a relaxation of the country’s restrictive abortion rules – and may even mark a stepping stone towards eventual decriminalisation.

In the coming weeks, the lower house of congress is expected to debate an article in the code that would broaden the conditions under which an abortion could be performed.

Continued at source: The Guardian:

National Pact for the Decriminalization of Abortion addresses Constitution Committee in Bolivia

National Pact for the Decriminalization of Abortion addresses Constitution Committee in Bolivia
by International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion

April 14, 2017

“Give women 22 weeks to decide”, “Not just one legal abortion per woman…” were among the demands presented by advocates from the National Pact for the Decriminalisation of Abortion in Bolivia, a group of 50 organisations from all over the country to a hearing on 11 April, in front of the Constitution Committee of the Chamber of Deputies. The hearing was to discuss amendments that the Committee had tabled to Article 157 of the draft Criminal Code. Instead of the tabled amendments, the Pact called for the Committee to allow legal abortion on broad grounds, including extending the time limit for abortion on request from the proposed eight weeks to 22 weeks, not limiting women to only one legal abortion in their lifetimes, and not making abortion legal only for the poorest women.

The Minister of Health, Ariana Campero, had recently reported that in Bolivia, 13% of maternal mortality is due to unsafe abortions. Responding to this, the Pact’s spokesperson said: “We believe the decision to define abortion as a criminal act is not an answer. The consequences, such as maternal deaths, are a public health problem and disproportionate, and require solutions. The figure of 13% is frightening. There should not be deaths from abortion nor from haemorrhage.”

In a press release dated 11 April, the Pact describe the Committee’s proposed amendments as violating women’s rights and contradicting international commitments made by the State. They argue that these restrictions will not diminish the number of abortions but will continue to have grave consequences for women’s lives and health. They show that the proposed amendments compare unfavourably to the laws on abortion in many other countries and quote the concerns of CEDAW in 2015 about the negative effects of criminalisation of abortion. They close with the slogan:

“Educación sexual para decidir, anticonceptivos para no abortar, y aborto seguro para no morir.”

(Sexual education to be able to decide, contraception to prevent the need for abortion, and safe abortion so as not to die.)

SOURCES: Página Siete, by Verónica Zapana S, 12 April 2017 (inc. photo) ; AbortoSeguroBol


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

Abortion law reform debate in the public domain in Bolivia

Abortion law reform debate in the public domain in Bolivia
by Safe Abortion
March 28, 2017

A proposal for reforming the law on abortion is making “a lot of noise” in Bolivia, according to one media source.

The President of the Bolivian Senate, José Alberto González, confirmed to the media on 10 March that the proposals are part of broader reforms to the country’s Penal Code, which are being considered by the Justice Commission of the Chamber of Deputies. While he recognised, he said, that there are views on both sides of the issue, the “scandalously high” number of maternal deaths from clandestine abortions had to be taken into account. The President of the Chamber of Deputies, Gabriela Montaño, pointed out that those from the middle and upper class are able to obtain abortions safely in the best of conditions while those who are poor face the risk of death.

Article 157 in the proposed amendments states that the practice of abortion will not constitute a criminal offence when requested by the woman and in compliance with certain conditions – that abortion can be practised within the first 8 weeks of pregnancy, but once per woman only, and only if the woman is in a situation of extreme poverty and does not have sufficient resources to maintain herself and her family, or if she has three or more children, or if she is a student.

The amendments also state that abortion can take place at any stage of pregnancy if there is a risk to the health or the life of the pregnant woman, or a fetal anomaly incompatible with life is detected. And lastly, abortion of a pregnancy that is the consequence of rape or incest may take place, or if the pregnancy is in a child or an adolescent.

However, any abortion outside these conditions would subject the woman to a prison term of 1-3 years and anyone who forces a woman to have an abortion to a prison term of 3-10 years.

Since 2014, abortion has theoretically been possible in Bolivia but is severely restricted to danger to the woman’s health or life that cannot be resolved other than by abortion, or in cases of incest or rape, which have to be reported to the police. Currently, a woman can be imprisoned for up to three years and the provider up to six years.

Feminist groups point to the balance sheet under the current legislation: According to Ipas Bolivia, fewer than 100 legal abortions have been recorded since 2014, against an estimated 185 illegal abortions per day. Others, such as Somos Sur in Cochabamba, note that 67,000 women are treated in hospital each year for complications of unsafe abortion, and as many as 500-600 die, making unsafe abortion the third leading cause of maternal death in Bolivia.

The debate in Parliament has not yet begun but the debate in public is going strong. Tania Nava, an activist from the group Pacto por la Depenalización del Aborto, is reported in Diario de Salud as saying these proposals are certainly an advance over the current situation, but they do not go far enough. Abortion needs to be removed from the criminal law altogether and become a matter of public health. She also describes the time limit of 8 weeks of pregnancy for abortion on request as far too low, and asks why a woman should be allowed one abortion only. Also, she asks, how is anyone to know if someone has previously had an abortion? These proposals do not acknowledge women’s autonomy.

In a press conference on 22 March, Campaña 28 de Septiembre called for the total decriminalisation of abortion:

Helen Alvarez, in a radio programme on “Femicide as a patriarchal state crime”, has described deaths by clandestine abortion as a form of mass murder of women, which the State is directly responsible for.

The College of Physicians of Bolivia is against the reforms. Its president says they will claim conscientious objection so as not to have to provide abortions if the reforms are passed. The Episcopal Conference of Bolivia mentioned the Pope’s forgiveness of women who have abortions.

Although Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, claimed that “any abortion is a crime” in 2013, he also acknowledged that he was not an expert on the topic and expressed his willingness to discuss the subject with female ministers. Now, his own party, Movement for Socialism, is putting the bill forward. Mr. Morales has apparently tried to detach himself from the controversy by saying that he was not involved in drafting the bill, but feminist collective Mujeres Creando have criticised his lack of empathy and commitment to Bolivian women: “He never says a word about the men who practise abortion by abandon the woman they made pregnant”.

Other disagreements with the proposed law by abortion rights groups have been expressed: “They should promote vasectomies but only for poor and irresponsible men” Mujeres Creando told The World Weekly. They call on the Bolivian government to legalise abortion without any restrictions within the eight-week timeframe.

The Bolivian Ombudsman, David Tezanos Pinto, considers this debate necessary for Bolivian society. “As a human rights body,” he said in a statement, “we must stress that economic status should never be a basis for the observance of human rights. The universality of human rights means it is not only poor women but also those who are not poor who should be permitted abortions, thereby recognising the right to reproductive self-determination of all women.”

SOURCES: @AbortoSeguroBol ; The World Weekly, 23 March 2017 ; Opinió, 22 de marzo de 2017 ;, le 22 mars 2017 ; Diario Página Siete, 17 de marzo de 2017 ;  Diario de Salud, 10 de marzo de 2017 ; PHOTO (top) ; PHOTO (middle)
Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion: v