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

Jul 28 2015

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) has called on the Croatian government to take concrete steps to improve the quality of care provided to pregnant women during child birth. It also called on Croatia to ensure women can access reproductive health services in practice, including legal abortion, regardless of health professionals’ personal objections.

In its concluding observations, the CEDAW Committee urged Croatia to guarantee that women’s rights and autonomy and informed consent requirements are upheld during childbirth. It further recommended that Croatia ensure that health professionals’ refusals to provide services on grounds of  conscience not be allowed to impede women’s effective access to reproductive health care services, especially abortion.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the Center for Education, Counselling and Research (CESI) and Parents in Action (RODA), made a joint submission to the CEDAW Committee regarding the failure of the Croatian government to ensure women have access to quality reproductive health services, including abortion services and modern contraceptives. The submission also addressed serious concerns about the treatment of pregnant women during childbirth in Croatian hospitals including deficits in ensuring full and informed consent to medical interventions during childbirth as well as frequent disrespectful and abusive treatment of women by medical professionals.

“Croatian women have a right to receive quality reproductive health services, but instead they face abuse, disrespectful care, and a range of obstacles to critical services, said Leah Hoctor, regional director for Europe at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The government of Croatia must take effective steps to ensure pregnant women giving birth receive medical care that respects their needs and wishes.”

Abortion in Croatia is legal within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy and thereafter under limited circumstances, including when the pregnancy is a result of a crime, if the pregnancy put a woman’s health or life at risk and in cases of severe fetal impairments. However, women are facing increasing difficulties in accessing legal abortion services in practice. According to 2014 research by the Gender Equality Ombudsperson, more than half of gynecologists in Croatia do not provide legal abortion services due to their personal objections.

The joint submission to the CEDAW Committee also included findings from RODA’s 2015 Survey on Experiences in Maternity Services that reported a large number of pregnant women being subjected to procedures that can be harmful to their physical and mental health, including 54 percent of women alleging that health professionals applied heavy pressure to their abdomens to speed up the delivery, a procedure not supported by medical evidence.

Source: Center for Reproductive Rights

Jul 15 2015


More than 50 NGOs are calling upon the U.N. Human Rights Committee (U.N. HRC) to reinforce and elaborate on the measures states must take to guarantee women’s right to life on the basis of equality and nondiscrimination, including by eradicating preventable maternal mortalities and morbidities and guaranteeing access to safe and legal abortion.

A broad coalition of human rights organizations, spearheaded by the Center for Reproductive Rights, submitted a joint statement during the U.N. HRC’s consultation on the right to life urging the committee to continue to protect women’s health and lives by calling on states to eradicate preventable maternal deaths, ensure access to modern contraceptives and expand access to safe and legal abortion.   

During the consultation, groups seeking to undermine women’s reproductive rights urged the U.N. HRC to contradict well-established international human rights law recognizing that the right to life begins at birth and expand the scope of when life begins. This could compel women to carry to term pregnancies that jeopardize their health and lives, and undermine women’s reproductive autonomy and equality.

Said Rebecca Brown, director of Global Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights: “Close to 300,000 women around the world needlessly die each year because of governments’ failure to provide quality, comprehensive reproductive health care.

“Efforts to undermine women’s rights and access to essential services are an outright attack on their lives.

“The U.N. Human Rights Committee is a champion for women’s fundamental human rights, and we are confident the committee will do everything in its power to protect the well-being of women worldwide by rejecting efforts to deny access to critical health services.”

In the joint statement to the U.N. HRC, the Center and coalition partners address the ways that women’s health and lives continue to be jeopardized as a result of persistent discrimination which manifests in preventable maternal mortalities and morbidities, lack of reproductive health information, inadequate access to modern contraception and restrictive abortion laws. Specifically, the statement calls on the committee to reaffirm that the right to life provision in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights begins at birth and must not be invoked to jeopardize women’s fundamental human rights. 

International human rights law has long-established that the right to life begins at birth, and any other approach would be in direct contradiction and violation of reproductive rights. However, states continue to violate their human rights obligations and put women’s lives and health in grave danger in the name of protecting a fetusEl Salvador denied a 22-year-old pregnant woman from accessing abortion services even though she was pregnant with a non-viable fetus and suffering from complications related to lupus and kidney disease.

The Center has led some of the most important advances in reproductive rights worldwide. In 2008, the U.N. HRC ruled in the Center’s case of KL v. Peru that the denial of abortion services to an adolescent carrying a non-viable fetus constituted a violation of her rights to privacy and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, among other rights. At the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Center secured a historic victory stemming from the preventable maternal death of a young Brazilian woman who was denied quality maternal health services—the first time an international human rights decision named a maternal death a human rights violation.

Jul 09 2015

The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted three resolutions at its 29th session that advance gender equality, empowerment and the human rights of women and girls. These resolutions are entitled:

  • Accelerating Efforts to Eliminate all Forms of Violence Against Women: Eliminating Domestic Violence
  • Strengthening efforts to prevent and eliminate child, early and forced marriage
  • Elimination of discrimination against women
Jul 01 2015

The sixth session of the intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda was held from 22-25 June. This session focused on the zero draft of the outcome document. The interventions from UN Member States were predominantly focused on the introductory part of the outcome document and on the  declaration. They also provide information as to the positions and priorities of the various countries, which could be useful for the negotiations moving forward. For a summary of Member States interventions click HERE.  

The co-facilitators convened a meeting with the Major Groups and other Stakeholders on Wednesday, 24 June. Several civil society representatives had an opportunity to deliver a statement, among them many focused on SRHR and gender equality. For a list of CSO statements click HERE.

The next two and last sessions before the UN Summit for Adoption of the Post 2015 Development Agenda in September will be held in the end of July, from 20th to 24th and from 27th to the 31st.

Source: NGOsBeyond2014  

Jun 30 2015

On 19 June the Ministry of Health and the Russian Orthodox Church signed a cooperation agreement. The agreement signed by Minister Veronika Skvortsova and Patriarch Kirill was published on the website of the Synodal Department for ROC Church Charity and Social Service. The agreement consists of 21 articles. Article 9 is devoted to abortions prevention and article 5 on the role religious representatives in medial institutions.

Article 9:

1. The Parties shall cooperate on the protection of maternal and child health, including reproductive health, promotion of family values and prevention of abortion.

2. The Parties shall promote cooperation of medical institutions with representatives of religious organizations of the Russian Orthodox Church in the prevention of abortion by:
- creation of the crisis pregnancy centers at the hospitals with the participation of psychologists and representatives of religious organizations of the Russian Orthodox Church;
- the participation of representatives of religious organizations of the Russian Orthodox Church in advising women who are planning to terminate the pregnancy, in medical institutions;
- providing places for posting information of religious organizations of the Russian Orthodox Church on the stands in medical institutions.

3. The Parties shall take part in joint efforts to provide assistance and support to pregnant women whose prenatal diagnosis indicate to the malformation of the fetus, as well as mothers who give birth to a child with developmental disabilities.

Article 5

1. The Parties shall cooperate on the preparation of professionals in the health sector.

2. This cooperation is carried out by the Parties by: conducting seminars, courses, training programs and other activities in the institutions of higher, secondary and post-graduate medical education, aimed at the formation of the spiritual foundations of professional medical activities, including on the interaction of medical organizations with religious organizations of the Russian Orthodox Church;

As a response the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe tabled Written Declaration 594 entitledWomen's right to access appropriate reproductive health services in the Russian Federation”. The undersigned members criticised the 3 draft laws that are currently submitted to the Russian State Duma aiming to strongly restrict access to abortion. They called on their fellow parliamentarians in the Duma to reject the draft laws: “We the undersigned members of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly are strongly concerned about the three draft laws submitted to the State Duma of the Russian Federation aiming to severely restrict access of women to abortion. They aim: to require women to visualise and listen to the heartbeats of the foetus before being given permission to access a legal abortion; exclude coverage of abortion from the Obligatory Medical Insurance and to to prohibit the sale of safe medication that terminate pregnancies.”

Source: European Parliamentary Forum

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