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

Sep 11 2017

Realizing Rights : Protecting Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in times of Backlash

ASTRA Network Coordinator will have the honor to participate in a side event during the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council that is being held in Geneva. Download the flyer for the event HERE. 

Despite 20 years of significant advancement on women’s rights, sexual and reproductive rights are currently facing an alarming backlash globally. Women and girls’ rights to life, health, privacy and bodily autonomy being threatened by discriminatory laws and policies targeted at sexual and reproductive health. The full enjoyment of sexual and reproductive health and rights remains a distant goal for millions of women and girls throughout the world. This side event will look at the effects of this recent backlash on the lives of women and girls, present initiatives aimed at mitigating these impacts and explore how the Human Rights Council can help support and sustain these good practices.

September 14th 2017
Palais des Nations, Geneva
13:30 -15:00


  • Keynote Speaker: Ms. Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights
  • Moderator: Ms. Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR (TBC)
  • H.E Mr. Hans Brattskar, Ambassador to the Permanent Mission of Norway in Geneva
  • Mr. Moses Mulumba, Executive Director, Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), Uganda
  • Ms. Marta Szostak, ASTRA Network Coordinator, Poland
Sep 08 2017

From July 23rd emergency contraception is no longer available over the counter in Poland as a result of a bill proposed by the Polish Minister of Health that had been pushed through the lower house of the Parliament in May.

In May the mission of the EU Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality visited Warsaw in order to observe the situation of women’s rights in Poland; ASTRA and Federation for Women and Family Planning actively participated in the meeting with the MEPs. One of the issues discussed was access to contraception, especially emergency contraception that was made available in Polish pharmacies without prescription from April 2015 as a result of the C(2015)51 ruling from the European Commission, and on recommendation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

In July three MEPs, Terry Reintke (Verts/ALE), Malin Björk (GUE/NGL) and Maria Arena (S&D) submitted parliamentary questions to the European Commission on the restrictions in the availability of emergency contraception in Poland:

1. Does the Polish Government’s categorization of the pill uphold the criteria laid down in Articles 70-71 of Directive 2001/83/EC?

2. Does the Polish Government’s bill introduce possible discrepancies in drug approval procedure and categorization, in violation of Directive 2001/83/EC?

On August 28th Commissioner Mr. Andriukaitis provided a reply on behalf of the European Commission stating, that the restrictions imposed by Poland are in fact in accordance with the EU legislation:  

The EU pharmaceutical legislation includes derogatory provisions when it comes to contraceptives and abortifacients, namely Article 4(4) of Directive 2001/83/EC(1). Under those derogations, Member States may prohibit or restrict the use of such products in their territory. In accordance with Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) 726/2004(2) this derogation can also be invoked for products, which have been authorised by the Commission on the basis of a scientific opinion of the European Medicines Agency.

Sep 06 2017

Poland remains to be at forefront of battle over women’s rights and women’s right to a safe and legal abortion. In recent months, despite the success of the “Black Protest” from last year we are witnessing attempts to further restrict the current, already very strict, legislation. However, this time the anti-choice groups, with clear and vocal support from the Catholic Church, are not aiming for a total ban of abortion or criminalizing women for the procedures. They are targeting one of the three legal instances which allow for a lawful termination of pregnancy - that is the situation in which women experience a pregnancy with fetal damage. In year 2016 there had been 1042 abortions that fall into this category out of a total of 1098 legal abortions in the entire country. 55 abortions were performed due to threat to woman’s life and 1 as a result of criminal act.

At this moment there are three legal initiatives aimed to ban abortion due to fetal malformation: civic initiative undertaken by radical anti-abortion organization “Life and Family” in cooperation with Citizen Go; draft legislation submitted by a group of 100 right wing MPs and the Constitutional complaint regarding whether abortion due to fetal impairment is constitutional.

Sep 04 2017

Nearly one-in-ten births in both countries was to a teenager or girl even younger in 2015, the latest year for which data is available - that is more than three times the EU average. The data, from Eurostat, also uncovered hundreds of girls in the 10-14 age group from France, Germany, Bulgaria and Romania become mothers each year.

Experts say a repressive sexist culture and a lack of respect for women in some countries is fueling the problem. Nearly 1,000 births in Bulgaria and Romania in 2015 were to girls between the ages of 10 and 14. Bulgaria had nearly 300 of the young mothers – representing nearly five percent of all the country’s teenage births.

Aug 29 2017

Conscience-based refusal in reproductive medicine paper by CESI includes analysis of legislation, politics and practice regarding refusal of health care services provision on conscientious grounds in the Republic of Croatia, and indicating the problems in legislation and practice which enables malpractice thus violating the right of patient to access lawful medical care in a timely manner.  The publication also contain recommendations and guidelines for regulating conscience-based refusal in a way that it does not hinder the availability of legal health care. It is necessary to adopt and implement standards that would clearly articulate the state’s obligation which guarantees that conscience-based refusal in practice does not obstruct access and availability of lawful medical care in a timely manner, to ensure supervision and monitoring of practice as well as to seek responsibility of those who do not respect the standards.

Available in English

Source: CESI  

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