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

Oct 16 2017

Lithuanian Parliament will, in the coming weeks, discuss a draft law that would strongly restrict women’s access to legal abortion leaving only two options for accessing the procedure: when women's life and health are in danger and in cases of rape. If adopted, this law would put Lithuania among countries with the strictest laws on abortion in Europe. The draft law had been proposed by the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania who Since 2005 unsuccessfully tried to submit bills to penalize abortion.

ASTRA sent letters to Lithuanian PresidentPrime Minister and Speaker of the Seimas calling for rejection of this draft law.

Other institutions addressing this legislative debate in Lithuania include 53 Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe who signed Written Declaration No. 645 on Draft law to restrict access to abortion in Lithuania (link to the document).  

The pro-choice coalition All of Us of the European Parliament also addressed the Lithuanian lawmakers through a letter undersigned by over 90 MEPs expressing concern about the legislative debates in Lithuania.

Oct 09 2017

Doctors for Women (Lekarze Kobietom) is an informal initiative that unites doctors from all across Poland who want to help women access emergency contraception.

Created as a response to Ministry of Health decision to reinstate the requirement for doctor’s prescription for emergency contraception the initiative aims to fill the wide gap of reproductive health needs. Emergency contraception was available over the counter for two years – since April 2015, as result of the C(2015)51 ruling from the European Commission, and upon recommendation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).  

Not only doctors are members of the Doctors for Women initiative. Other specialists, young doctors, interns and students also help with various tasks. The idea is simple. After receiving a message from a patient in need, she is askd her to visit her General Practitioner, gynecologist or, if it's a weekend or late evening, to visit the Emergency Department at local hospital. In many cases that's enough - according to Polish law, every doctor with a full work permit can issue a prescription for the emergency contraceptive pill (levonorgestrel 1,5mg or ulipristal acetate 30mg). Unfortunately, there are situations when a doctor refuses to write a prescription referring to the conscientious objection. Only in cases when such circumstances occur women are asked to contact Doctors for Women, she is then referred to one of doctors who is part of the initiative. Doctors for Women work as volunteers or charge patients symbolically "1zł" for an appointment. To make the whole process as quick and simple as possible, Doctors for Women created an online form called Emergency Visit Card that serves as medical documentation for the in person visit.

Since the launch of the initiative in September 2017 more than 1000 women were supported by Doctors for Women. At the same time more than 100 were denied a prescription by their physicians. The initiative has limited capacity and often is not able to support all women; there have also been cases of women who have reached out for help too late or when there is simply no doctors available in a particular city or region. The initiative is  therefore working on its outreach to new potential members (every physician can join Doctors for Women) to be able to continue its activities.

Follow Doctors for Women on social media (Facebook, Twitter) and online (Polish only):

Oct 02 2017

We are happy to present a brand new publication about the Black Protest in Poland – a set of essays written by participants of the movement that happened one year ago. The essays are personal, intimate and honest stories that can bring you closer to the reality of Poland and women’s struggle for reproductive rights in all their aspects.

Access the publication here and learn more by cicking here

Sep 28 2017

Speaking ahead of International Safe Abortion Day, a group of United Nations human rights experts has called on States across the world to repeal laws that criminalize and unduly restrict abortion and policies based on outdated stereotypes, to release all women in prison on abortion charges and to counter all stigma against abortion. The experts also called for 28 September to become an official UN day for safe abortion worldwide, to help encourage Governments to decriminalize abortion and provide reproductive health services in a legal, safe and affordable manner. Their full statement is as follows:

“Women’s ability to make free choices for themselves and their families should not be privileges reserved for the rich, but should be the right of every woman and girl around the world. The same is true of the right to health and to freedom from discrimination. Too many women around the world still continue to suffer from discriminatory laws that restrict their access to adequate health care and limit their abilities to make the best choices for themselves and their families.

To mark this year’s International Safe Abortion Day, we urge all States to end the criminalization of abortion and to ensure that all women are able to access all necessary health services, including sexual and reproductive health care, in a manner that is safe, affordable and consistent with their human rights.

Sep 27 2017

September 28 – International Safe Abortion Day

September 28 has been a regional campaign for decriminalization of abortion in Latin America and Caribbean for nearly twenty years before being taken on by SRHR activists all over the world as a Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion in 2011.

Ensuring universal access to safe abortion is a fundamental human right, we cannot view it as only a “women’s issue.” It is a fundamental human right, which intersects with and is integral to realizing social, economic and reproductive justice. When individuals are able to access safe abortion, along with comprehensive sexuality education and a range of contraceptives, the social good outcomes are numerous – including plummeting maternal mortality and morbidity, and significantly reduced rates of STIs and teenage pregnancy. Other positive ripple effects include an increase in women and girls’ ability to continue education; increased gender equity and women’s empowerment; and reduced intergenerational transfers of poverty, among many other integral benefits.


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