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

May 26 2017

On May 25th the Polish Government voted in favour of limiting access to emergency contraception violating women’s reproductive rights few months after the “Black Protest”.

The draft proposal was put forward by the ruling Law and Justice party and accepted for further works in February this year. Besides issues focusing on patient’s access to medicines it also aimed to make all contraception, including emergency contraception, available only on prescription from doctor.

242 Members of Parliament voted in favour of this ruling, including all representatives from the Law and Justice party who have a majority in the Parliament, 188 against and 9 abstained from voting. 21 did not attend the session.

As result of the C(2015)51 ruling from the European Commission, and upon recommendation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), in January 2015 emergency contraceptive with ulipristal acetate, registered in Poland under the brand name ellaOne, received the authorization to be sold without prescription across the European Union (EU). The ulipristal acetate emergency contraceptive pill (UPA ECP) – ellaOne - became available in Polish pharmacies without prescription from April 2015 contributing to rising the standard of reproductive health services and supplies for Polish women and girls, and expanding the postcoital contraceptive choices of women.

Mr. Konstanty Radziwił, the Polish Minister of Health announced that he, as a doctor, would never prescrive emergency contacetion to a raped woman. One of the arguments for reinstating the provision of a mandatory doctor’s prescription for emergency contraceptives is the apparent (yet not proven) ‘misuse of the pill’ by teenage girls in Poland and its detrimental effects on women’s health.

The planned restrictions will greatly impede the lives of women and girls and contribute to the sales of this product from unsafe sources. The economical aspect of this decision is crucial to note as only women who can afford to visit a doctor at a private facility (gynecologists at public facilities have an average waiting time adding up to app. 18 days) will be able to do so. This ruling, besides weakening women’s reproductive health and rights, will contribute to a rise in the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions in a country where access to a safe and legal abortion is already incredibly difficult.

Poland becomes one of the very few European countries where such an obstacle in accesing emergency contraception will excist. Such a requirement is also present in Hungary, Albania and Russian Federation.

May 24 2017

MEPs of the EP Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality visited Poland from 22 - 24 May.

MEPs observed the situation of women’s rights in the country with a special focus on the implementation of the Istanbul convention and victims of violence, sexual and reproductive rights and women’s economic empowerment.

The delegation composed of Maria ARENA (S&D, Belgium), Malin BJÖRK (GUE/NGL, Sweden), Terry REINTKE (Greens, Germany) and Daniela AIUTO (EFDD, Italy) met with representatives of the civil socjety, among these was ASTRA Network and the Federation for Women and Family Planning, Polish authorities, Deputies and Senators, academics, human rights professionals and service providers in order to gain an in-depth understanding of the situation on women's rights in Poland.

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May 22 2017

The mission of the EU Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality will visit Warsaw in order to observe the situation of women’s rights in Poland. It will focus on the application of the Istanbul convention, the state of victims of violence, sexual and reproductive rights and women’s economic empowerment in Poland. Composed by Ms Maria Arena (S&D, Belgium) (Head of Mission), Ms Malin Björk (GUE/NGL, Sweden), Ms Terry Reintke (Greens/EFA, Germany), Ms Daniela Aiuto (EFDD, Italy) and Ms Jadwiga Wiśniewska (ECR, Poland), the delegation is planning to meet government representatives, civil society, among them ASTRA Network Coordinator and Federation for Women and Family Planning Excecutive Director and other independent equality experts.

The mission will visit Poland from May 22nd to 24th.

Source: FEMM Nesletter

May 21 2017

Croatian’s Platform for women’s reproductive rights organized a series of actions in order to highlight the real intension of the so-called “March for life”

Zagreb, Croatia: Platform for women's reproductive rights warns that the so-called "March for life" is a political gathering that has nothing to do with the preservation of life but has an agenda to restrict abortion accessibility and to make it illegal. In other words, to take away a women's right to decide if she wants to, when and with whom to have children. 

Activists that are defending women's right to abortion have organised a series of actions along the route of the so-called "March for life" in the capital of Croatia, Zagreb, as well on the buildings on the main square in which the "March for life" took place. All actions were organised in order to highlight the real intentions of the gatherings and warned that this is a walk on women and their rights.

With a transparent that said "March for life is attacking women" that was being carried in front of the "March for life", non-violent sit-in action of women in front of the "March" that got them arrested, transparent "Church and the state in a war against women" and "March for life is attacking women" on two buildings that are facing the main square, the activists have sent out a message that they will not let women's rights be eliminated. 

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May 16 2017

The 27th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was held at the UN Human Rights Council, in Geneva, from 1-12 May 2017. Eleven countries were reviewed during UPR27, among them Poland. The Federation for Women and Family in collaboration with the Sexual Rights Initiative submitted a report (read it here) to the Human Rights Council on the UPR focusing on violations of women’s sexual and reproductive rights in Poland including restricted access to abortion and contraception, biased and poor quality comprehensive sexuality education, poor ante-natal care and lack of access to medically assisted reproduction. The escalating violations of Polish women’s sexual and reproductive rights place their lives and health at risk and undermine their rights to bodily autonomy and integrity, privacy, to be free from torture, to education and to self-determination.

The UPR outcome for each State reviewed during UPR27 will be adopted at the 35th session of the HRC (June 2017). The outcome report indicates which recommendations the State agrees to implement, and its responses to other recommendations. This is the only opportunity for civil society to make an oral statement during the official UPR process. The Federation for Women and Family in collaboration with Sexual Rights Initiative will work to ensure that sexual and reproductive rights are visible during this segment of the UPR process.

The intervening period is an opportunity to engage in dialogue with States on accepting relevant recommendations – and, at the same time, not accepting those recommendations that are inconsistent with human rights norms and standards. It is also a means for gaining the support of media and the general public.

Deferred Recommendations during the 27th UPR session:

  • Amend the Act on Equal Treatment in order to prohibit discrimination, in a comprehensive manner, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, in all areas and sectors, in particular, taking into account access to education, health, social protection and housing (Mexico)
  • Expand the scope of the compulsory course on family life education, to provide a comprehensive and age-appropriate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights and to ensure unimpeded access to sexual and reproductive health services, including to safe and legal abortions (Slovenia)
  • Strengthen the elimination of all forms of violence against women by criminalizing domestic violence and marital rape (Belgium)
  • Ensure that women are provided the necessary medical and professional service to exercise their legal right to termination of pregnancy, and ascertain that women have the right to decide over their own bodies (Sweden)

Click here for the full list of recommendations made related to sexual rights, including State responses during the 27th UPR session.

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