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

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.

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): http://lekarzekobietom.pl

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

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.

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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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HRC36: General Debate Item 8
25 September 2017
 

Joint statement on behalf of Action Canada for Population and Development; Federation for Women and Family Planning; Center for Reproductive Rights; Ipas; ActionAid; Advocates for Youth; ARC International (Allied Rainbow Communities International); Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW); Asociación Pro-Bienestar de la Familia Colombiana “Profamilia”; Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID); Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network; Catholics for Choice; Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL); Centre for Health and Social Justice; Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS); Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN); Ekta Resource Centre for Women; EngenderHealth; European Humanist Federation; European Women’s Lobby; European Youth Forum; Federatie van Nederlandse Verenigingen tot Integratie van Homoseksualiteit – COC Nederland; FOKUS – Forum for Women and Development Norway; Fundacion para Estudio e Investigacion de la Mujer (FEIM); Generation Initiative for Women and Youth Network (GIWYN); Girls To Mothers’ Initiative; Global Fund for Women; Global Justice Center; International Commission of Jurists; International Federation for Human Right Leagues (FIDH); The International HIV/AIDS Alliance; International Humanist and Ethical Union; International Lesbian and Gay Association; International Planned Parenthood Federation; International Planned Parenthood Federation South Asia Region Office; International Service for Human Rights; International Women’s Health Coalition; Italian Association for Women in Development (AIDOS); Manusher Jonno Foundation; Marie Stopes International; Médecins du Monde –  France; MenEngage Alliance; Oxfam; Pathfinder International; The Population Council; PROMSEX, Centro de Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos; Rutgers; Shalupe Foundation; Simavi; Social Charitable Center Women and Modern World; Sonke Gender Justice; Sukaar Welfare Organization Pakistan; Union Women Center; Womankind Worldwide; Women Enabled International; Women for Women’s Human Rights – New Ways; Women International Democratic Federation; Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights; Women’s Rights Center NGO Armenia; World YWCA; and Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights.[i]

Mr. President,

It is my honour to deliver this statement on behalf of 285 organisations from around the world.

Through the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, States explicitly agreed to prioritize the human rights of women, including the eradication of gender-based discrimination and violence. However, many States have not yet made the important decision that women’s human rights deserve to be upheld and their lives are worth saving. The continued criminalization of abortion and restrictions on access to and provision of abortion and post-abortion care in many jurisdictions is stark evidence of this.

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The 36th Human Rights Council adopted the Universal Periodic Review of Poland and its outcome report on human rights, including the realization (or rather non-realization) of sexual and reproductive rights. Poland received a total of 185 recommendations, of which supported 144 recommendations and noted 31. Additional clarifications were provided on 10 partially supported recommendations. 

The human rights record of Poland was examined by the 3rd time by the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review on 9th May 2017.

Read the NGO statements by the Sexual Rights Initiative and by the Federation for Women and Family Planning

European Union Pledges 500 Million Euros Towards Gender Equality Fund

This week the European Union and the United Nations kicked off a new, global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls – The Spotlight Initiative.

The Spotlight Initiative was announced at a high-level event at the United Nations, led by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, and the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica.

The Initiative aims to place the elimination of violence against women at the center of efforts to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The European Union is committing 500 million EUR in funding to the Spotlight Initiative.

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Anti-rights activists in Russia gathered more than 900,000 signatures to petition President Vladimir Putin to pass a law criminalizing all abortions. The activists received support from the powerful head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. In Moscow, for the eighth year in a row, the campaign “For Life” hosted the “International Festival for Social Techniques to Protect Family Values,” which included anti-abortion groups from Spain, Serbia, Italy and Russia.   

Lastly, Human Rights Watch reports that Russian feminist activists were harassed by the police and Cossacks. Several activists travelling to a feminist gathering in the Black Sea region were intercepted by the police and arbitrarily detained. Several hours later they were released without charges, but asked to sign a document acknowledging that they were carrying out “extremist activity.” According to HRW, “Cossacks, who identify themselves as a separate ethnic group in Russia, are known to maintain militia groups.” They often harass activists from socially progressive organizations.

Source: Ipas 

In support of the September 28 Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, Sexual Rights Initiative, Center for Reproductive Rights and Ipas have developed a joint statement on abortion rights for delivery at the upcoming 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The session runs from Sept. 11-29, and the most suitable Council agenda item for the statement would appear to be the general debate on the implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, scheduled for Monday, Sept. 25.

Being the first such joint statement at the Council, the focus is generally on human rights standards with regard to abortion. Future initiatives could go further, and develop different aspects of abortion rights. A couple of requirements that needed to be fulfilled include connecting the statement with the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, and observing the 2-minute limit for the delivery of the statement.

We invite groups and organisations to sign on to the statement by Sept. 20:

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