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Poland to consider a total ban of abortion

Two bills on abortion, both submitted through citizen's petitions, were debated in the Sejm, the Polish parliament, yesterday afternoon and evening. Today, a vote was taken on both of them. The first, entitled the "Stop Abortion" bill, introduced a total ban on all abortions without exceptions and would criminalise women who have an abortion with sentences of up to five years. with no exception. Additionally it proposes criminalization of women who committed abortion illegally up to five years. The bill would stop antenatal screening and sexuality education. It equates women’s right to health with the rights of embryos. Polish women will be forced to give birth even if they are victims of rape, have a serious fetal abnormality and even when their health and lives are at risk. Today, it was passed at first reading and was sent for further consideration to a parliamentary commission, following support from 267 MPs. 154 MPs voted against and 11 abstained.

The second bill, entitled "Save the Women" proposed to liberalise the current, already highly restrictive, law on abortion. It would permit abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy. Additionally, it called for sexuality education, broad access to modern contraception reimbursed by the state, antenatal screening and other elements of reproductive health care. It was defeated by a majority vote on the first reading by 230 MPs, while 173 MPs voted to send the bill to a commission, and 15 abstained.

Last week there was a major national demonstration against the Stop Abortion bill, in which thousands participated. For further background, read this.

In the days leading up to the vote, on social media people in Poland sent photos of themselves dressed in black, as a statement of protest. See a sample of photos here.

Krystyna Kacpura, Executive Director, Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning, said today: "The discussion in Parliament regarding these bills was outrageous. Certain members of Parliament claimed that Poland will be the beginning of a new pro-life civilization. They expect that other countries will follow. Women’s rights have been completely rejected and held in contempt by them."

Additionally, the Sejm also sent to further proceedings draft legislation practically eliminating in vitro procedure.

The text was edited with the help of International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion

New factsheet on abortion in Europe

Recent developments in Europe, in particular in Poland, have put the reproductive rights of women and girls under severe pressure. Together with partners - ASTRA Youth, You Act and CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, we have developed this factsheet that aims to raise awareness about women’s and girl’s rights to safe and legal abortion and to encourage the reader to engage in ongoing discussions about reproductive rights.

Click here to access the factsheet

Abortion once again subject to political debate in Poland

On September 22nd the Polish Parliament will vote on 2 draft bills regarding abortion.

The “Stop Abortion” bill proposes to ban abortion in all cases, aiming to punish women and medical personnel for illegal procedures. Prepared by groups which deny women their basic right to health and wellbeing, this bill will have severe consequences, if put into force.

The „Save the Women” initiative proposes to change the law on abortion in Poland, which is one of the most restrictive in Europe for the past 25 years, by introducing not only access to safe and legal abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy but also a complete package of sexual and reproductive health services, such as comprehensive sexuality education.

On Sunday, September 18th people gathered under the slogan “Save women, not a step further” in front of the Polish Sejm in Warsaw. Smaller protests in other cities in Poland. The changes proposed by anti-choice groups would risk the lives of women and force girls as young as 11 who had been raped or subjected to incest either to give birth or face going to jail.

Krystyna Kacpura, director of the Federation of Women and Family Planning, said many Polish women were already in effect denied access to legal abortions despite a 1993 law that was supposed to allow terminations in cases of rape or incest, where the foetus is severely damaged or ill, or where the mother’s life is at risk.

See the media releases in English here:

Amnesty InternationalThe Guardianarticle by ED of the Federation for Women and Family PlanningNewsDeeply

See photos from Warsaw protest here.

ASTRA Youth at 13th AWID International Forum

ASTRA Youth attended 13th AWID International Forum, organized under the theme Feminist Futures: Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice.

ASTRA Youth representatives from Poland and Croatia actively participated in the pre-conference Young Feminist Activism Day. Also, ASTRA Youth held the panel discussion Healthy signposts on bumpy roads to safe futures: youth SRHR realities in Central and Eastern Europe, organized in cooperation with Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, CESI (Center for education, counseling, and research) Croatia, and Society Without Violence, Armenia.

ASTRA Youth coordinator provided a brief introduction to the panel, discussing the general sexual and reproductive health and rights’ situation in Central and Eastern Europe. She highlighted, that the region is unrecognized at the global arena and mistakenly perceived as having the same realities as Western Europe. Then, the panelists from Croatia, Armenia and Russia presented background SRHR situation in their specific contexts, providing local stories related to lack of realization of young people’s rights. Activists touched upon burning SRHR issues, such as lack of access to SRH services in Croatia; sex-selective abortions and lack of CSE in Armenia; and HIV epidemics and violence against LGBTQ persons in Russia. They also addressed the emergence of anti-SRHR initiatives and their influence on laws and policies. Challenges faced by civil society and examples of successful campaigns were also presented. After the panel, the audience had an opportunity to reflect on the issues discussed by panelists and provide their remarks on youth SRHR.


13th AWID International Forum: ASTRA Youth panel

13th AWID International Forum is taking place this week, from 8th to 11th September 2016 in Costa do Sauipe - Bahia, Brazil. The theme of the Forum is Feminist Futures: Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice.

The 13th AWID International Forum will bring together approximately 1700 activists, allies and movements from over 140 countries across all regions of the world. There will be over 200 speakers sharing the experiences, creative disruptions, and resistance of their movements in a variety of plenaries, cross-movement, umbrella and participant led sessions, and different arts and culture activities across the program.

ASTRA Youth representatives will attend the 13th AWID International Forum and provide their contributions at Young Feminist Activism Day.

ASTRA Youth will also hold the panel session Healthy signposts on bumpy roads to safe futures: youth SRHR realities in Central and Eastern Europe, organized in cooperation with Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, CESI (Center for education, counseling and research) Croatia, and Society Without Violence, Armenia.

Date&place: 9th September, 16:30-18:00 at Gran Bahia 3.

The session will address current challenges faced by young people, when exercising their sexual and reproductive rights in Central and Eastern Europe. These realities will be discussed, while underscoring power of youth NGOs, which serve as healthy signposts, providing adolescents with comprehensive information on their health.

The session will acquaint the audience with current SRHR realities of young people in Central and Eastern Europe and challenges they face when exercising their rights. Youth development is envisioned as a road which safety depends on the realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights. For young people in the region this road is bumpy because of barriers they meet in the access to sexual and reproductive health services and sexuality education; therefore, their safety, health and freedom to make autonomous, responsible decisions are threatened. These challenges will be presented by youth SRHR activists from Armenia, Croatia and Russia. They will address most burning issues on youth SRHR in their local context: lack of comprehensive sexuality education and gender stereotypes in Armenia; hampered access to sexual and reproductive health services in Croatia and HIV epidemics in Russia, which rates remain one of the highest in the region.

These accounts will be discussed in a broader context of political, economic and social crises, in which youth advocates act for realization of SRHR and gender equality. Also, the increase of anti-choice movements across the region will be addressed, as they hamper implementation of progressive laws and strengthen patriarchal, homophobic approaches among the society through spreading misinformation on sexuality and claiming sexuality education to hypersexualize adolescents. Anti-SRHR initiatives also gain more power as entering political realm by submitting law proposals aiming to limit youth access to SRH services, including access to safe abortion and contraceptives; ban implementation of CSE curricula at schools and limit rights of LGBTQI citizens.

Challenging political situation and anti-choice movements’ influence demand new strategies from youth SRHR advocates. This session will underscore the need to embrace proactive, not only reactive approach to emerging threats and addressing youth SRHR as integrated in the universal health coverage and human rights framework. During the session youth advocates will provide examples of good practices they use when counteracting opposition and successful advocacy activities undertaken to enable young people to make autonomous choices regarding their sexual and reproductive health. They will also address ways in which NGOs’ collective power is built: by strengthening youth movement, crossing hurdles of anti-choice approaches and shaping positive attitudes to youth sexuality in their local communities.

We hope to raise awareness of the audience – SRHR activists, stakeholders, on the SRHR of young people in Central and Eastern Europe, a region which specificity remains unrecognized at the global arena. We also aim to exchange good practices and strategies which are embraced by youth organizations to manage multiple challenges on recognition and implementation of laws related to youth sexual and reproductive health and rights. 

Join us!




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