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

Mar 03 2017

On March 2nd the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia reaffirmed the constitutionality of access to abortion.

The Constitutional Court decision rejected claims made by conservative groups and individuals that allowing women access to abortion on request was unconstitutional. In its decision, the court reaffirmed that women’s access to abortion is protected within their constitutional rights to liberty, personality, and privacy.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and the Center for Education, Counselling and Research submitted amicus briefs to the Constitutional Court that explain how international human rights law, comparative European law and international public health and clinical standards support women’s right to access safe and legal abortion.

“We welcome the Constitutional Court’s reaffirmation of Croatian women’s rights to access abortion services,” said Leah Hoctor, regional director for Europe at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Today’s ruling thwarts an attempt to rollback constitutional recognition of these rights. It is now essential that Croatian authorities ensure that future legislation also guarantees and respects these rights.”

“We are pleased that the Croatian Constitutional Court confirmed the constitutionality of women’s right to safe and legal abortion,” said Sanja Cesar, Program Manager at the Center for Education, Counselling and Research. “It is expected that under this Government ultraconservative forces will attempt to severely limit, if not outright prohibit, access to safe abortion. The Croatian authorities must not deviate from universal and regional human rights principles and standards that protect the sexual and reproductive rights of women.”

Croatian legislation, adopted in 1978, allows abortion on request within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy and thereafter when a pregnancy is a result of a crime, if there is a risk to a woman’s health or life, and in cases of severe fetal impairments. The Court ruled that by allowing women’s access to abortion in these circumstances, the law gives effect to women’s constitutional rights to privacy, liberty, and personality and complied with international human rights law and comparative European law. As the 1978 law predated the current Croatian Constitution, the Court requested that the Croatian Parliament adopt new legislation within two years. 

Source: Center for Reproductive Rights

Mar 01 2017

On February 27, the Council of the EU adopted Conclusions on ‘EU Priorities at UN Human Rights Fora in 2017’. In these Conclusions, the Council says: “Recalling its Conclusions on Gender in Development of 26 May 2015, the Council 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 ICPD and the outcomes of their review conferences and remains committed to sexual and reproductive health and rights, in this context’.

This text will inform the EU’s position ahead of the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council, which will run until March 24.

To access full text of Council conclusions click here.

Feb 28 2017

The new priorities of the Croatia’s foreign policy as it pertains to human rights are based on the protection of the rights of religious persons, the right to religious belief and the protection of the family. Croatia will devote special attention to the promotion and protection of the traditional family, based on the marriage between a woman and a man, as the “natural and fundamental unit of human society”. The notion of sexual and reproductive health and rights has no consensual definition at the international level, or even at the EU level. “Taking this into consideration, Croatia opts to interpret this notion as excluding the right to abortion”. Croatia maintains the right to promoted the above positions in all multilateral for a that it is a member to. These are statements taken from the Croatian comments to the Draft Council Conclusions on EU Priorities at UN Human Rights Fora in 2017. The contents of the document were published in print by Novi list on February 24.

The above are parts of a document dated February 22 2017; interestingly, the only comments to the Draft Council Conclusions came from Croatia, Hungary and Poland. Croatia’s position has had
a particular impact, since Croatia became a member of the UN Human Rights Council in Fall 2016, thanks to a membership campaign endorsing some drastically different values, as is still evidenced by the website of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.

Feb 22 2017

The International Women’s Strike (IWS) is a grassroots movement established by women from different parts of the world as a response to the current social, legal, political, moral and verbal violence experienced by contemporary women at various latitudes.

On 8 March 2017 an International Women’s Strike is going to take place. The idea was initiated by the Polish Women’s Strike coalition - an informal, nonpartisan initiative of feminist organizations and activist groups that was created after the Black Monday protests on 3 October 2016 that happened in over 200 cities in Poland and abroad. The Black Protests resulted in the ruling party withdrawing from the parliamentary proceedings of the draft bill introducing a total ban on abortion.

The Polish Women’s Strike started a series of women’s protests in different countries – soon after women from South Korea and many countries in Latin America took to the streets. 

Women are a powerful force that is capable of stemming the tide of populism and that is flooding the world – after all, we are everywhere. The International Women’s Strike coalition consists of women from over 30 countries and on 8 March 2017 they will engage in various events under the slogan “Solidarity Is Our Weapon.”

Visit the IWS website

Feb 16 2017

Two days ago, on Valentine’s Day, the Polish Government announced that it accepted a project proposing to restrict access to the only emergency contraception pill available over the counter. This project is to be discussed in plenary and voted upon in the next session of the Sejm, possibly already in March.

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) 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

In November 2016 the Polish Minister of Health announced that he is finalising a project which aims to restrict access to UPA ECPs and reinstate the provision of a mandatory doctor’s prescription for emergency contraceptives, citing the ‘misuse of the pill’ by teenage girls in Poland. Today we can see how his words were put into actions.

While there is limited data on the patterns of use of ECP among different age groups, a recent market study by Millward Brown, the biggest age group purchasing UPA ECPs are women between 25 and 30 years of age (45%), followed by those between 30 and 35 (18%). Young women below 18 make up around 2% of all buyers.

The planned restrictions would greatly impede the lives of women and girls and contribute to the sales of this product from unsafe sources and also cause 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.

ASTRA together with ASTRA Youth, as part of coalition of civil society organizations working on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights – You Act, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality and the European Consortium for Emergency Contraception, sent a letter on December 1st, 2016, to the representatives of the European Commission, to voice our concern on the current developments in Poland with regards to women and girls’ reproductive health and rights. That letter was resent today and is available HERE.

Page 8 of 90