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

Jun 27 2017

On June 23rd the Polish President Andrzej Duda approved legislation that will end prescription-free access to emergency contraception. The new law comes into effect next month and will requite women wishing to obtain a prescription for the morning after pill to visit a doctor, either at a public or private facility.

On May 25th the Polish Government voted in favour of limiting access to emergency contraception as a result of the proposal put forward by the ruling Law and Justice party in February this year. According to the Health Minister, Mr. Konstanty Radziwill, hormonal means of emergency contraception were being abused, especially by teenage girls, and had harmful health effects. By being forced to see a doctor, he said women will now “get advice on whether these substances negatively affect their health”. Despite numerous scientific facts and opinions from the medial professionals he has also suggested the pill induces an early abortion.

The Dutch MEP, Sophie in ’t Veld, said to the Guardian that the legislation was a violation of shared European values. “The current populist national-conservative Polish government is enforcing a sexual counter-revolution, against the health interests and wishes of Polish women and girls,” she said. “Restricting access to the morning-after pill, combined with the right of doctors to refuse treatment based on religious grounds, will have far reaching consequences”.

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. 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.

Additional links: New Europe, MIC, The Guardian, Federation for Women and Family Planning

Jun 26 2017

WHO and the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs have launched a new, open-access database of laws, policies and health standards on abortion in countries worldwide. The database aims to promote greater transparency of abortion laws and policies, as well as to improve countries’ accountability for the protection of women and girls’ health and human rights.

The database is being launched on two platforms:

The database allows comparative analyses of abortion laws and policies across countries, while at the same time viewing information and recommendations from WHO safe abortion guidance. The global picture for abortion laws and policies is complex. Individual countries’ laws and policies can be protective or punitive, specific or non-specific, and limiting or facilitating for access and service provision. The database can help to unpack the complexities and nuances of these laws and policies. The database does not address how laws and policies are applied in practice, and so database users interested in progressive policy reform to protect women and girls’ health and human rights are encouraged to use the information to generate evidence on how laws and policies are implemented.

By sharing abortion laws and policies from across the world, it is hoped that the database will improve transparency and encourage countries to hold themselves to account for protecting girls’ and women’s human rights to health and well-being.

The database includes information on a broad range of policy areas. These include: legal grounds and related gestational limits, authorization and service-delivery requirements, policies about who can provide abortion and where, when and how abortion services are permitted, and criminal penalties for women, girls, health-care providers and others. In addition to data on specific abortion policies, individual country profiles include sexual and reproductive health indicators, links to ratified human rights treaties, and links to UN Treaty Monitoring Body Concluding Observations and Special Procedure Reports, which address abortion.

Source and additional information: WHO

Jun 15 2017

The Observatory on the Universality of Rights (OURs) is a collaborative, multi-organizational initiative that works to monitor, analyze, and share information on initiatives that undermine the universality of human rights. Currently it is being coordinated by AWID.

On May 25, coinciding with the World Congress of Families (the biggest annual global meeting of the far right) OURs released a new report. The report is the first of a series on human rights trends produced by the OURs. This comprehensive research documents and analyzes key trends and developments mapped over 2015 to late 2016 in order to inform and support our collective advocacy.

Read the OURs Trends Report

Relevant read: The World Congress of Families: A prime example of today’s anti-rights lobby

Jun 13 2017

The Hungarian Parliament’s decision to pass a law targeting the funding of independent civil society groups is a serious attack on Hungarian democracy, unprecedented elsewhere in Europe, the Open Society Foundations said today.

“Cosmetic changes to the law in response to the Venice Commission have not altered the law’s true intent; it seeks to suppress democratic voices in Hungary just when the country needs them most. It attacks Hungarians who help fellow citizens challenge corruption and arbitrary power, and who stand up for free and independent media and for open debate,” said Goran Buldioski, director of the Open Society Foundations’ work in Europe.

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Jun 06 2017

On the 19th of May, the Council of the European Union adopted the revised European Consensus on Development, which identifies a new framework for development cooperation and for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda by the European Union and the 28 member countries. The consensus was endorsed on the 31st of May by the European Parliament and it will be officially launched at the European Development Days in June.

The adoption of the consensus was preceded by the interinstitutional negotiations and public consultations lasting several months, during which EuroNGOs together with IPPF EN submitted recommendations highlighting women’s rights-related issues and SRHR in particular. 

Why is it so important?

The revised European Consensus on Development (the previous one was adopted in 2006) is a crucial document to navigate the EU development policy in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for the next 15 years. It sets out the necessary core elements of cooperation between the EU and its member states and “developing” countries; the strategic approach for accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals; and details how the funds for development cooperation will be used. 

What does the consensus say about SRHR?

“The EU remains committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the outcomes of their review conferences and remains committed to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), in this context. Having that in mind, the EU reaffirms its commitment to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the right of every individual to have full control over, and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality and sexual and reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion and violence. The EU further stresses the need for universal access to quality and affordable comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information, education, including comprehensive sexuality education, and health-care services.” 

You can read the full version of the revised European Consensus on Development here

What does civil society say?

Concord: New European Consensus on Development: Double Standards for Sustainable Development

Oxfam: New EU development framework: self-interest trumps solidarity

Platforma: Is ‘less’ really ‘more’ in the new European Consensus on Development?

Source: EuroNGOs

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