ASTRA Central and Eastern European Women’s Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health

Sep 23 2016

Today is a very bad day for women in Poland

Two bills on abortion, both submitted through citizen's petitions, were debated in the Sejm, the Polish parliament, yesterday afternoon and evening. Today, a vote was taken on both of them. The first, entitled the "Stop Abortion" bill, introduced a total ban on all abortions without exceptions and would criminalise women who have an abortion with sentences of up to five years. with no exception. Additionally it proposes criminalization of women who committed abortion illegally up to five years. The bill would stop antenatal screening and sexuality education. It equates women’s right to health with the rights of embryos. Polish women will be forced to give birth even if they are victims of rape, have a serious fetal abnormality and even when their health and lives are at risk. Today, it was passed at first reading and was sent for further consideration to a parliamentary commission, following support from 267 MPs. 154 MPs voted against and 11 abstained.

The second bill, entitled "Save the Women" proposed to liberalise the current, already highly restrictive, law on abortion. It would permit abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy. Additionally, it called for sexuality education, broad access to modern contraception reimbursed by the state, antenatal screening and other elements of reproductive health care. It was defeated by a majority vote on the first reading by 230 MPs, while 173 MPs voted to send the bill to a commission, and 15 abstained.

Last week there was a major national demonstration against the Stop Abortion bill, in which thousands participated. For further background, read this.

In the days leading up to the vote, on social media people in Poland sent photos of themselves dressed in black, as a statement of protest. See a sample of photos here.

Krystyna Kacpura, Executive Director, Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning, said today: "The discussion in Parliament regarding these bills was outrageous. Certain members of Parliament claimed that Poland will be the beginning of a new pro-life civilization. They expect that other countries will follow. Women’s rights have been completely rejected and held in contempt by them."

Additionally, the Sejm also sent to further proceedings draft legislation practically eliminating in vitro procedure.

Sep 22 2016

The Polish Parliament will today debate two bills concerning access to legal and safe abortion one aiming to implement a total ban on abortion and the other one introducing a liberalization of the current law. ASTRA, ASTRA Youth and CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality have prepared this statement to draw attention on the stand of Polish government complying with its human rights obligations towards the women of Poland.

This statement was presented to Members of the Polish Parliament on September 22nd 2016.

This Joint Statement and Call for Action for the Polish Parliament to Examine the Right to Access to Safe and Legal Abortion urges the government in Poland to dismiss the “Stop Abortion” draft bill and to takes immediate steps towards the realization of:

1.       Women’s reproductive rights by ensuring the fulfillment of access to safe and legal abortion services nation-wide for all women in Poland without stigmatization, discrimination, intimidation or victimization of women requiring these services;

2.       Relevant monitoring of number and conditions of illegal abortions;

3.       Ensuring access to sexuality education and broad access to modern contraception in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Access the statement HERE.

Sep 21 2016

Recent developments in Europe, in particular in Poland, have put the reproductive rights of women and girls under severe pressure. Together with partners - ASTRA Youth, You Act and CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, we have developed this factsheet that aims to raise awareness about women’s and girl’s rights to safe and legal abortion and to encourage the reader to engage in ongoing discussions about reproductive rights.

Click here to access the factsheet

Sep 20 2016

On September 22nd the Polish Parliament will vote on 2 draft bills regarding abortion.

The “Stop Abortion” bill proposes to ban abortion in all cases, aiming to punish women and medical personnel for illegal procedures. Prepared by groups which deny women their basic right to health and wellbeing, this bill will have severe consequences, if put into force.

The „Save the Women” initiative proposes to change the law on abortion in Poland, which is one of the most restrictive in Europe for the past 25 years, by introducing not only access to safe and legal abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy but also a complete package of sexual and reproductive health services, such as comprehensive sexuality education.

On Sunday, September 18th people gathered under the slogan “Save women, not a step further” in front of the Polish Sejm in Warsaw. Smaller protests in other cities in Poland. The changes proposed by anti-choice groups would risk the lives of women and force girls as young as 11 who had been raped or subjected to incest either to give birth or face going to jail.

Krystyna Kacpura, director of the Federation of Women and Family Planning, said many Polish women were already in effect denied access to legal abortions despite a 1993 law that was supposed to allow terminations in cases of rape or incest, where the foetus is severely damaged or ill, or where the mother’s life is at risk.

See the media releases in English here:

Amnesty International, The Guardian, article by ED of the Federation for Women and Family Planning, NewsDeeply

See photos from Warsaw protest here.

Sep 07 2016

13th AWID International Forum is taking place this week, from 8th to 11th September 2016 in Costa do Sauipe - Bahia, Brazil. The theme of the Forum is Feminist Futures: Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice.

The 13th AWID International Forum will bring together approximately 1700 activists, allies and movements from over 140 countries across all regions of the world. There will be over 200 speakers sharing the experiences, creative disruptions, and resistance of their movements in a variety of plenaries, cross-movement, umbrella and participant led sessions, and different arts and culture activities across the program.

ASTRA Youth representatives will attend the 13th AWID International Forum and provide their contributions at Young Feminist Activism Day.

ASTRA Youth will also hold the panel session Healthy signposts on bumpy roads to safe futures: youth SRHR realities in Central and Eastern Europe, organized in cooperation with Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, CESI (Center for education, counseling and research) Croatia, and Society Without Violence, Armenia.

Date & venue: September 9th, 16:30-18:00 at Gran Bahia 3.

The session will address current challenges faced by young people, when exercising their sexual and reproductive rights in Central and Eastern Europe. These realities will be discussed, while underscoring power of youth NGOs, which serve as healthy signposts, providing adolescents with comprehensive information on their health.

See more details on the panel HERE.

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