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

Dec 05 2017

The Polish Bureau of Research (BAS) has positively evaluated a draft law that would introduce conscience clause for pharmacists and owners of drug stores. According to the law elaborated and delivered by the Federation of Polish Catholic Pharmacists they will have rights  1) to refuse to sell drugs should they be incompatible with their conscience and 2) not to order such drugs. In practice, only procreation-related medicines are in contradiction to conscience clause. Therefore, the law is supposed to restrict the access to contraception, thus breaching women’s reproductive rights.

It is worth mentioning that currently pharmacists do break the law and decline to sell contraception, despite the fact that only doctors, nurses and midwives are entitled to the conscience clause. 

The draft law provides one exception – medicaments must be given out when customer’s life or health is threatened.  Independent experts, however, argue that the draft law is a legal nonsense and that it does not guarantee that this exception will be followed, e.g. when a medicine is not in stock. There are no provisions that specify whom the customer can turn to make up their prescriptions. In small towns/villages or in conservative regions, where invoking the conscience clause is already common, women willing to obtain contraceptive pills or emergency contraception will be helpless, whereas their health and lives endangered. Moreover, this law hits less well-off persons who will face additional obstacles when searching for available pharmacists.

The Bureau of Research has decided to send a desideratum to the Ministry of Health. However, the Minister has already publicly supported introduction of the conscience clause for pharmacists. Respective interventions undertaken by the Commissioner for Human Rights to protect patient’s rights were also unsuccessful, since his arguments for limiting the conscience clause in pharmacies were rejected by the Ministry. It is a matter of time when the proposal of the Federation of Polish Catholic Pharmacists will come into force.

Source: Federation for Women and Family Planning

Dec 04 2017

Article by Leah Hoctor and Adriana Lamačková of the Centre for Reproductive Rights has been published in the Ethical and Legal Issues section of the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.  The article addresses the recent retrogressive introduction of mandatory waiting periods and biased counseling and information requirements prior to abortion in Central and Eastern Europe.

A number of Central and Eastern European countries have recently enacted retrogressive laws and policies introducing new pre-conditions that women must fulfill before they can obtain legal abortion services. Mandatory waiting periods and biased counseling and information requirements are particularly common examples of these new prerequisites. This article considers these requirements in light of international human rights standards and public health guidelines, and outlines the manner in which, by imposing regressive barriers on women’s access to legal abortion services, these new laws and policies undermine women’s health and well-being, fail to respect women’s human rights, and reinforce harmful gender stereotypes and abortion stigma.

The published article is online in PDF at Wiley Library.
Full text, as submitted is online at SSRN.

Dec 01 2017

The VNRs were held during the High Level Political Forum in mid 2017, several countries of ASTRA participated in the Voluntary National Reviews on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Synthesis Report of the country reviews is available at Among the countries under review were: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Tajikistan.


Nov 20 2017

New publication from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Budapest and Eszter Kovats: The Future of the European Union - Feminist Perspectives from East-Central Europe is an interesting compilation of Central and Eastern European voices on the most pressing issues today in relation to gender, EU, reproductive rights, economy and most at risk groups. The selections of articles include:

  • Aniko Gregor: Who is for sale? Challenging the commodification of gender equality in the European Union
  • Andrea Peto: From women through gender to unconscious bias: changing terminology about gender equality in the EU 
  • Elena Zacharenko: Reproductive rights as a social justice issue in the EU 
  • Edit Szenassy: Finding space for Romani women within the EU
  • György Mészáros: Reconsidering the identity approach of the EU LGBT+ architecture from a feminist perspective
  • Csilla Malomvölgyi: The dream of a common European asylum and migration policy from the perspective of women’s rights in East-Central Europe
  • Emília Barna, Gergely Csányi, Agi Gagyi and Gerőcs Tamás: East-Central European feminist activism in the context of uneven development in the EU, and ways to move forward
  • Zuzana Uhde: Global structural inequalities and responsibility for global justice: a feminist contribution
  • Zofia Łapniewska: The future of the European Union’s economy - Inspirations and challenges 
  • Kata Tutto: Epilogue: Something not even the fence can stop

Access the publication in pdf here

Nov 16 2017

The European Parliament is calling on Poland to address the current restrictions to the independence of the judiciary, freedom of assembly, sexual and reproductive rights, and denial of asylum-seekers’ access to the Polish territory.

The Parliament adopted a resolution that highlights the further deterioration of the situation in Poland since the previous European Parliament resolution on these issues in September last year.

The resolution, which was proposed by GUE/NGL and other parliamentary groups (EPP, S&D, ALDE and the Greens/EFA), passed with the support of a large majority of MEPs.

Many of GUE/NGL’s amendments on the key issue of further restrictions to sexual and reproductive rights were also adopted as part of the resolution.

GUE/NGL Shadow for the resolution, Barbara Spinelli, explains: "The reason why we are adopting a fourth resolution on Poland is not to punish a member state, but to remind us all of the bond that keeps us together, i.e. the legal basis which all the member states have endorsed. I refer to the rule of law in its full extent as a notion encompassing human rights, judicial independence and jurisdictional guarantees, freedom of expression and separation of powers."

"Once elected in this House, we have the obligation to represent all the citizens of the Union without any distinctions based on nationality or constituency, and the primary duty to assure that the bedrocks of citizenship – i.e. human rights and fundamental freedoms – are fully guaranteed.

"By instructing the European Parliament to draft a report that could lead to the triggering of article 7(1), we are asking ourselves to ensure that we live up to our responsibility to the citizens and to commit to continuing the ongoing dialogue with a member state. After all, as the European Parliament, the Treaty has equipped us with this sole tool," clarifies the Italian MEP.

Swedish MEP, Malin Björk, adds: “Today this house is sending a strong message to the Polish government: every time they try to reduce or restrict women's and girls' rights, we are here, standing up to stop them. We are here to echo the voices of the Polish defenders of women's rights and reproductive rights because fundamental rights and democracy are universal human rights."

"Restricting women's right to access the morning-after contraceptive pill or preparing campaigns against women's right to control their own bodies or their right to access safe and legal abortion will be met with huge resistance from the feminists of the European Parliament. We are standing side by side with our Polish sisters!"

Source: GUE/NGL

Official press release by the European Parliament

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